Web Designer is a Web app, built in HTML5, that "lets you design and build HTML5 advertisements and other Web content using an integrated visual and code interface," the Google website says.
As such, it competes with Adobe Edge Animate, part of Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription, and other Web design tools, such as Webflow and Hype. Perhaps more importantly, it's part of a wave of technology designed to help create the kind of rich media that was once the province of Adobe Flash.
Adobe got serious about creating HTML5 tools that could replace its Flash authoring applications in 2010 at the urging of Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple at the time, who disallowed Adobe Flash on iOS devices. In his widely read public letter, "Thoughts on Flash," Jobs wrote, "Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind."
[ Developers don't always have to take the bumpier "road less traveled." Read HTML5 Offers 'Road to Awesome'. ]
If only Jobs had warned Adobe that it would be selling software that Google is giving away for free. At least Adobe has pivoted to focus on enterprise analytics and marketing tools. And none too soon: Flash appears to be on its way out. In a blog post, Google engineer Sean Kranzberg said, "There are already more end-users in HTML5-compatible environments than there are in Flash-compatible environments, and HTML5 ad spend is expected to overtake Flash spend within the next two years."
Apple also offers similar free software, iAds Producer, though its license agreement limits content created with the application to display on Apple's iAds advertising network, its iTunes Store or in iBooks Author Widgets.
Even so, Google clearly expects advertisers will create ads that will run on its own network. The "New file" menu option offers two major categories "Google Ads" and "Blank file." "Google Ads" option lets you create "DoubleClick Studio Rich Media," "AdMob" or "Generic" ads.
The software, offered as a beta release, includes the sort of media creation controls that should be familiar to users of Adobe Photoshop or similar applications: a 3D object rotate tool, a 3D object translate tool, a tag tool, a pen tool, a rectangle tool and a fill tool, among others. There's Design view, for previewing graphics, and a Code view, for looking at the underlying markup and scripts. There's a timeline and panels for controlling colors, properties, events and components.
While Web Designer isn't an immediate danger to more sophisticated, full-featured content authoring applications, it could capture the less demanding segment of the market, thereby pressuring companies like Adobe to add more features to their software in order to justify charging anything at all.