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November 21, 2007
Dynamic Web Apps Are a Snap With ColdFusion

ColdFusion defined a new market space when it was released in 1995. Today, the web application server holds an important place in Adobe's developer product portfolio.

The following is an "Inside Adobe" article published today on the Adobe employee intranet, replusblished here with permission. This was written up for the Adobe Intranet as part of a series highlighting the company’s 25-year history.


Nov 21, 2007

As the world's first commercially available web application server when it shipped in 1995, Allaire's ColdFusion defined a new market space. For web developers, it dramatically simplified the process of dynamically publishing database content on web pages.

In subsequent releases, the functionality of ColdFusion expanded beyond database connectivity to include a broad collection of out-of-the-box services for building all kinds of Internet applications. Today, because it fits into any IT environment, ColdFusion 8 is ideal for everything from small departmental applications to highly scalable, reliable implementations of large, enterprise-wide applications.

Simplicity and Productivity

“ ColdFusion was designed from the very beginning, more than 12 years ago, to be incredibly simple to use and incredibly productive,” explained Ben Forta, director, Platform Evangelism. “It predates all of the other options out there, and even those that have come along much later have not figured out how to make development as productive as we did, with ColdFusion 1.0, in the mid 1990s.”

A key to ColdFusion's strength is that it combines a programming language with an enormous amount of built-in functionality.

“It's much more than a language,” Forta explained. “ColdFusion also provides thousands of lines of pre-written Java code. So if you need to create chart or reports, generate PDF files or generate a Connect presentation, everything you need is all there already, and you can implement it with just a few ColdFusion tags. You'd have to write hundreds of lines of code in Java or any other language to create the same applications that you can build in just a few easy steps with ColdFusion.”

ColdFusion Developers: Diverse, Loyal _ and Persecuted?

ColdFusion's customer base is very broad, covering all industries and creating everything from small departmental applications to very large public web applications that use hundreds of clustered servers.

It is also very loyal. Why? In part, because ColdFusion makes heroes out of web application developers.

“Imagine that you're a ColdFusion developer in a big company. A team of 10 Java developers down the hall is into its sixth month on a project. They're stuck in architecture reviews and writing code; the project never really goes anywhere," explained Tim Buntel, senior product marketing manager. “You can come along and build a great application all by yourself, with ColdFusion, in a matter of days. It makes you a hero in your organization.”

“Of course, it's a double-edged sword,” he added. “Over the years, some people have dismissed ColdFusion because you don't have to have a PhD in computer engineering to use it. They have said, ‘If it's so easy, it can't possibly be a real programming language. Real coders suffer, they drink a lot of caffeine and their hair turns white...’.”

“So that phenomenon has led to the somewhat weird psyche of a ColdFusion customer," Buntel said. "They are incredibly devoted to the technology, but they also have a slight persecution complex.”

An Evolution

“ColdFusion came to be because it was very difficult in 1995 for developers to create web pages that could deal with dynamic content from databases," explained Kristen Schofield, senior product marketing manager. “It gave HTML developers a way to take data from a database and display it on a web page in HTML format, very quickly and easily, with few lines of code.

“Our first few releases focused on that strength and building up the ColdFusion language around it – giving developers more functionality," she continued. "Then, with versions 4.0 and 4.5, Allaire offered features to integrate with other enterprise technologies and started to push for adoption in large enterprises.”

Macromedia acquired Allaire in 2001. While ColdFusion 5 shipped after the Macromedia merger, it was mostly developed under Allaire. ColdFusion MX (6.0) was the first Macromedia release.

“We re-wrote the language (which was originally in C++) in Java," Schofield noted. “We were responding to the industry trend of J2EE standards; it was an important investment to make for our customers.”

If version 6.0 was about architecture, the next release was about rich features.

“ColdFusion's claim to fame is that it's a glue; it works well with other technologies and makes hard things easy,” Schofield explained. “So we went back to that concept in the 7.0 release and focused on features that made reporting, PDF generation, rich forms, SMS integration and other functions even easier.”

That strategy was a tremendous success: the product's revenue grew 30 percent year over year.

Joining the Adobe Family

Most recently, with ColdFusion 8, the team has realized the opportunities that have come with the Adobe acquisition. Because ColdFusion is now an Adobe product, developers can enjoy seamless in tegration with Adobe technologies and use Adobe Flash, Adobe Flex, PDF and LiveCycle Data Services in ways that other languages just can’t.

“B eing able to take advantage of wider Adobe products and technologies by building hooks to them into ColdFusion – and building links back from ColdFusion to them – is incredibly important,” said Forta. “First, it solidifies ColdFusion within the wider Adobe offerings, to make it easier to cross-sell products. But it also helps solve very real problems for our customers.”


· 1995: Allaire releases Cold Fusion, the world's first commercially available web application server

·  1997: For the first time, Cold Fusion includes Cold Fusion Studio, a developer tool (an Integrated Developer Environment, IDE). Allaire acquired a shareware product called HomeSite, which became the basis of the IDE.

· 1998: Allaire changes the product name to ColdFusion

· 2001: Macromedia acquires Allaire and then releases its first version of ColdFusion (5.0). This is also the first release with Macromedia (now Adobe) Dreamweaver integration.

· 2002: Macromedia releases ColdFusion MX, which has been completely rebuilt, based on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform, and designed to integrate well with Flash using Macromedia Flash Remoting

· 2005: Adobe acquires Macromedia

·  2005: ColdFusion integrates with Eclipse (a public project in support of an open-source IDE) for the first time

·  2007: ColdFusion 8 is the first Adobe release

Claims to Fame

·  Well-known customers include Boeing, Logitech, Bank of America , Embraer, Correos ( Brazil ) and the Peace Corps

· ColdFusion also powers the official Pokémon website!

· The e-commerce website with the highest level of financial transactions per day in the world – the United States Mint – is powered by ColdFusion

·  After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the European Commission's relief management agency used ColdFusion to build – in just two days – an application to track where aid workers were being dispatched

Did You Know?

· Whether you know it or not, you're using ColdFusion every day. It powers the Adobe Intranet, Adobe.com, the Adobe employee Knowledge Transfer Network web site (and countless other internal Adobe sites), as well as several new Adobe AIR applications.

· The largest vertical market for ColdFusion is governments (national, state and local). In fact, many public-facing .gov websites, such as the U.S. Senate, the National Park Service and the UK Parliament, have been built with the product.

· The European Commission is the largest ColdFusion customer in Europe; it has 500+ ColdFusion applications, and ColdFusion is one of only two official development languages

· Boeing has 300+ ColdFusion developers in-house and an internal ColdFusion blog. One staff member's sole responsibility is to coordinate all ColdFusion use throughout the company.

·  There are an enormous number (probably thousands) of ColdFusion blogs on the Internet; almost every member of the Adobe ColdFusion team has one

·   In 1996, Microsoft tried to get into this market by buying ColdFusion. Allaire said no, so Microsoft went and bought something else; that product eventually became ASP.

Key Acquisitions in ColdFusion's History

· 2001: Macromedia acquires Allaire. (Brothers JJ and Jeremy Allaire originally developed ColdFusion.)

·  2005: Adobe acquires Macromedia.

What Others Have Said_

“You can program faster than you can think with ColdFusion.”

-Jochem van Dieten, ColdFusion Developer, Prisma IT

“If it were not for your product, our agency would shut down. We’ve got five years of applications to build, and if it weren’t for ColdFusion, there would be no way for us to get ahead of that. Your product makes all that possible.”

-a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration employee, at a recent conference

"We use ColdFusion 8 in the back end for our AIR Adobe Directory application. Venkatesh Yadav, a developer on our team, built a ColdFusion application to broker calls between our AIR application and Microsoft Exchange. We were able to develop a killer feature in our application to show when an employee has meetings. When you look someone up, clicking on the calendar icon shows their availability for any day you choose; and it works for conference rooms, too. This is all made possible by ColdFusion 8. Very, very cool stuff!”

-Ron Nagy, Senior Business Systems Analyst, Adobe IT

“I know it sounds cheesy, but ColdFusion makes coding fun.”

-Brian Rinaldi, Web Developer

“[ColdFusion 8] shows Adobe’s commitment to the product and to enabling ColdFusion developers to build better web-enabled applications faster than is possible with any other available technology.”

-Simon Horwith, Web Developer's & Designer's Journal

How has ColdFusion revolutionized the way the world engages with ideas and information?

“ColdFusion empowers the masses to take advantage of this incredible infrastructure called the Internet along with the vast amounts of information buried there – in Oracle databases, ERP systems and who knows where else. It's simply phenomenal that anyone, from hard-core developers to executive assistants who've never written a line of code in their lives, can install a product and, within an hour, tie to all kinds of information and build really usable applications that solve real problems.

"Encouraging, allowing and empowering people to build applications so efficiently and quickly, no matter what their skill set or background, is probably the most important part of how ColdFusion has encouraged people to engage all around.”

-Ben Forta, director, Platform Evangelism

Cold Fusion 3.1 circa 1997, before Allaire changed the name to ColdFusion (sans space).

More Information

·                            Learn more about ColdFusion on its adobe.com page.

·                            Read and view ColdFusion customer case studies.

·                            Visit the ColdFusion page on the Adobe Developer Connection.


Here's a fun usenet thread from 1995 regarding CF:



I am one of those “Zeros” that makes code like a “Hero” ‘cause of ColdFusion. Leave the Interfaces optional please.


Great post.

John Allen

Fantastic post. I love reading about the history of ColdFusion. Anyway we can see an image gallery of the evolution of the ColdFusion logo and product box starting at version 1? I've only seen the product from version 3.

It would also be interesting to see how the Administrator has evolved over time too. If I remember correctly, version 3 used client side Java applets for the left navigation frame. My 486 had fun loading those every time.