Editor's Note: Marc Canter (above) is answering your questions this week at IT Martini on LinkedIn. 

Marc Canter: Change the World with Software
By Terreece Clarke, January 31st, 2012

Marc Canter is probably best known for creating MacroMind - the company that eventually became Macromedia, the creators of Flash. MacroMind, created in 1984, got its start by developing software for the brand new Apple Macintosh.

Arguably, Canter is the most exuberant father of multimedia.

"We were all video game programmers," he said. "We knew there had to be easy to use tools for the burgeoning multimedia world - as up to that time, one had to be a programmer to do animation, graphics, audio, etc. Remember, that was all pre-video days. So the original concept of the company was to create tools for creating video games."

After launching VideoWorks II in 1988 to great reviews, the company attracted venture capital investment, influence and relocated to San Francisco. While most entrepreneurs believe venture capital funds mean the beginning of big things, Canter found himself pushed out of the Macromedia by the those same money men in 1992.

"Flash code as it exists today is terrible." - Marc Canter

After entrusting others to run Macromedia, the technology was put on coast. "Flash continues to be the same code it was when it was first created and that is its failure," he said. "Flash still provides a lot of value to people, but it's flawed."

Like most developers, Canter applauded the death of Flash Mobile, threw his support behind HTML 5 and accused Android of "keeping the dinosaur alive" by offering Flash on their phones. While a vocal critic of software, he took exception with another famous Flash detractor - Steve Jobs.

"It was hypocritical of Steve [Jobs] to criticize Flash [closed system] when Apple systems are closed," he said. The genius of Steve is, he understood where things were headed and knew [Flash] would slow down processes and drain battery life. Now, could they have built processors to handle that? Sure, and that's what they did for Siri. It's a huge hog, but, you know, when it's an Apple program on Apple devices, then it's okay..."

Open Social Networks

In 2005, Canter founded Broadband Mechanics to build social networks on open platforms. It’s different than Facebook and other platforms that are closed, where they "monetize your information," Canter said. "With an open system everyone participates."

Canter's company built systems for the Sacramento Kings, the Times of India, Mondadori, Bell Canada, RadioOne, NVidia and the U.S. Army ROTC program.

When asked about success with user adoption, Canter candidly replied, "Nope - complete failures. But remember it wasn't supposed to be our job to get user adoption. We build it and you, the white-label customer, are supposed to run the network, get the people to come in and you benefit from all that. I could write a book on all the ways to f*ck up marketing social networks," he said. "Socialworld.com and iTimes.com are the only two left standing."

User adoption also wasn't affected by social media behemoth Facebook, Canter said. His systems are designed to compliment current popular platforms.

"Vertical, niche networks have plenty of room in a horizontally dominated world," he said. "Social media aggregation will become the norm."

Moving to Cleveland

In 2010, Canter moved his family to Cleveland and began working on a new way to change the world - by putting people back to work. He came to Cleveland to research what's going on in the real world and has remained in the region for two and a half years researching ways to stimulate the economy through technology.

Canter founded Digital City Mechanics to set up digital economic ecosystems, where people are trained online to work online. This creates a freelancer environment where companies can hire by project.

"All workers are local and that keeps money local,” he said.

The program is a collaborative effort between the company, the local government and the citizens. Citizen engagement is a consistent missing component in most economic development models Canter said.

"...Government [is] hemorrhaging resources," Canter said. "They are pouring money into programs that don't work and they don't understand. I should point out that it isn't in Cleveland that we'll do our first deployments. It looks like Weirton, West Virginia and the entire country of Jamaica - along with its ex-pat communities worldwide - will probably be our first deployments. Kansas City is close behind.

Changing the World

When it comes to changing the world, Canter scores his multimedia technology work at the top - for now.

"...What we did for the multimedia industry in general - helping to give birth to the concepts of: multimedia authoring, multimedia players and author-once, playback many places. That changed the world. Can't cash that in at the grocery store, but that's what I'm proud of...so far," he said.

It’s his passion for changing the world with technology that helps him drive the work he’s doing now.

"The first principle is to love what you are doing. It's not a job, you have to love what you do because it is your life. It's two times as much time as a 9 to 5 job. I'm able to do what I do because I believe in what I'm doing," he said. "Software is about helping the world. I know the power of software, I know how to change the world."