Instructables Joins Autodesk

Everyones favorite site, Instructables.com, has announced a big move. They have joined Autodesk along with the same team that is doing Autodesk 123D,

Autodesk is a great cultural fit for Instructables. They make tools for creative people: they’re the world leader in 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software. Even if you don’t recognize the name Autodesk, their software has powered the movies you watch, and designed the cars you drive and the buildings you work in. Instructables will be the community arm of the same team that makes 123D, SketchBook, Homestyler, and Pixlr, which will help provide creative tools, inspiration, and services for all types of creative people. Here’s Carl Bass, Autodesk’s CEO, talking more about his vision for the future of DIY.

Sofar the overall reaction on the site thread is tame, but many comments lean to skeptical, though typical with any transition to “The man” as one commenter called them.

Meanwhile MAKE has posted a in depth article “Autodesk Acquires Instructables: What It Means for Makers”  in their usual (long) format.  What’s your thoughts?

55 thoughts on “Instructables Joins Autodesk

  1. I love autodesk, but im not sure if Instructables is going to be a good fit…

    Anyone know any alternatives to Instructables… Like how it was before it became premium a few months ago…

  2. Acquisitions are usually followed by disappearances. Would I lament the disappearance of my best favourite site instructables.com? Hmm… No sir, not at all!

    1. in my article i compared flickr + yahoo to instructables + autodesk. i don’t think instructables will disappear. i hope autodesk really gets the instructables dna circulated around autodesk. yahoo didn’t do much / anything with flickr and i think the best thing about yahoo is flickr at the moment.

      but since you said “Acquisitions are usually followed by disappearances” could you name some specific community sites that are like instructables that were acquired and then disappeared?

      1. I didn’t have any particular “site” in mind, although Deathwatch is an interesting list. I was rather thinking about companies in which I and my friends work, the companies tend to be eaten by other companies, their actively developed products would then be “added to portfolio”, which in businessspeak means milked, jaded and sent to die in dilbertesque limbo. I’m sure same things happen to sites. What yahoo did to flickr was exactly what you have said: nothing. Or rather nothing good: they have added evil regional policies, censorship, things that drove many interesting photographers away. I’m sure all people who were responsible for all good flickr is walked away quickly after the acquisition, it always happens.

        But in my opinion instructables can’t be worse than it already is, so if it doesn’t die, well, who knows, it might become better. As for now and for me, this broken robot is a symbol of extortion and I’m afraid it can’t be helped.

      2. For me Flickr remains the low mark of the destruction of a dynamic and new site when bought out by a large corporation. I used to be there daily and posting many new photographs… but after a few months of stagnation and irritating decisions at Flickr, I simply quit going.

        Instructables however is simply to frustrating to use unless you subscribe. So I simply never go there.

  3. I think people are being unduly harsh. It is too early to see the impact and with the free tools they are working here, I think the site can only benefit from being ‘sponsored’ by a company making the tools you need to make a professional looking post.

  4. time for a new instructables type of site…

    i just dont see how autodesk *wont* run it into the ground…

    the blog tries to be comforting with the section: “the whole team is staying on, our policies haven’t changed, you still hold copyright to your projects, we’ll still run awesome contests, and the Robot isn’t going anywhere”…. just wait until the autodesk lawyers get around to “fixing” the site their way. im sure there will be a quiet change to the site policy where autodesk owns everything

    “Autodesk is a great cultural fit for Instructables.” wrong… what does autodesk know or care about the various altoid tin projects, or steampunk, or even a nyan cat rocket (http://www.instructables.com/id/Nyan-Cat-Rocket/)???

    gg instructables

  5. instructables became unusable to me after every little “feature” got “premium” so that most anonymous users hardly can use any of the guides uploaded there..

    But if autodesk aims for some kind of integration it could benefit both parties (autodesk, community).

  6. If they make the instructables website easier to use then it’ll be a win. I may be the only one but I can barely stand using that website.

    1. I so don’t care about instructables that I didn’t even bother RTFAing, but from what I can gather I share your opinion:
      This is Autodesk’s opportunity to make Instructables stop sucking so hard.

      But I’m not holding my breath.

  7. Autodesk are not known to be the cruellest acquire…r of companies. I think Instructables will be safe. I hope so.

  8. I think this could be a good move, and at the same time see how it might end up being the death of instructables for non-premium users. However the Internet is packed with how-to information, youtube often has good resources, but only time will tell, perhaps someone will see this as an opportunity to start a new and FREE instructables style site.

    1. a “free” version would likely be ad supported (like hack-a-day) how besides ads would you like to see a site support themselves? ifixit sells physical items in addition to providing how-tos. can you think of other ways for a how-to site to sustain itself?

  9. “Everyones favorite site, Instructables.com” : haha. Nobody like this site. The idea is great, the content is most of the time pretty cool, but they made a real mess of this website and it’s unusable.

    “their software has powered the movies you watch” : certainly no.
    “and designed the cars you drive” : I’ve no car, nor even a licence to drive one.
    “the buildings you work in” : maybe… if they were here in the 60s.

  10. I’m more interested in how this will change Autodesk.

    They already offer all their software for FREE to students for 3 years. I’d really like to see them follow up with reasonably priced ‘Home’ versions of their software for makers. I’d be willing to pay $200 for Inventor, but not $1k.

  11. This only ends badly for the users. Since when did a company, known for being sue happy and creating a proprietary and cost prohibitive product end up being a good thing for an open and creative environment of tinkerers? In fact, when’s the last time you remember any big company doing right by the little guy after buying a small company? When profit is a legal requirement, doing the right thing doesn’t happen.

  12. I can’t see it being a good thing. I don’t see what benefit the visitors to the site will get from this.
    If the premium access crap was scrapped, or the poorly designed navigability was improved then that would be good.
    But we all know the only reason any company takes over a site like this is to get all those clicks directed at their products and services.

    1. instructables said they will not be promoting autodesk tools at all, you can watch their 1 hour video chat where they say this specifically, many times. autodesk from what i researched and put in my article has no plans “to get all those clicks directed at their products and services”. until there is evidence of that, i don’t think it’s fair to say it.

      autodesk does not want to change instructables, autodesk wants to change and be more-like-instructables. this was a talent acquisition in my opinon, we’ll see if i was right :)

      on a related note, some may recall when hack-a-day replaced many links with links to mahalo, that didn’t help hack-a-day or mahalo so i don’t think there’s any data showing adding links to a place that normally doesn’t link to something does much in the long run – other than upset the community.

  13. i think that more than anything autodesk are afraid of loosing the 3d scanning/printing revolution.

    if the 3d fabrication revolution happens with open source software autodesk are screwed.
    just like google is screwwing apple with android.(or at least denying them market domination)
    and like how microsoft would have owned the internet if it hadn’t been for netscape.

    expect free beer and vendor lock-in.

    1. Not to mention that the free and open source Blender is rapidly gaining on 3ds Max in both features and usability. I wouldn’t doubt that open source is gaining on their other software titles as well.

      I had to convert some stuff from Max to Blender recently, and it was a total hassle, but mostly because Max uses an obfuscated proprietary format and doesn’t export standards-compliant files very well.

  14. “Everyones *former* favorite site, Instructables.com” became unusable with all the “pro” membership nonsense. As long as Eric and Christy are still involved it will continue to be a total mess. If autodesk can take it back to what it was 2-3 years ago it could be a big success – if enough people are willing to come back after they drove everyone away with pro.

    1. i did a lot of research for my article – there have been more members joining since pro memberships happened, not less.if you read the previous forum posts on instructables adding pro accounts (as well as the video chat from last week) – pro accounts were added to keep the site from going out of business. in late 2008/early 2009 the advertising revenues sank, there was also a financial meltdown in the usa, later world wide (and still to this day) – so instructables added this and it’s one the reasons the site survived.

      i’m not saying it was good or bad, just sharing what i researched for the article. i use an ad blocker for almost all sites and i have a pro membership i paid for work stuff (i mentioned this in the article too, as well as linking to a site that reformats the pages).

      1. I read the article and I don’t disagree with the meat of it, however (and I don’t mean to detract from that point here), the fact that subscription rates have gone up since the change in instructables does not accurately represent the idea you are putting forward.

        On the one hand it does show that people are willing to sign up for the site, sure, but some of those people were already users who before had the luxury of accessing more of the site’s features without the need to register. In that way it just rolled its existing userbase into a new model which saw many of them fall into registration, which by its structure, was designed to do just that. That nitpick aside, I agree that autodesk made an interesting move to engage the community of makers, and I don’t think it is a bad thing for anyone.

        You also mentioned other common gripes with instructables that bear discussion. In particular usability problems, and how access to information is offered and I agree those are much bigger stumbling blocks than premium services or the autodesk acquisition. Is instructables still growing as a community? I think so, and I don’t think any of the recent changes are a substantial hindrance to that. To autodesk the value of instructables is in its community, for most makers it is the content provided by that community, but it takes more than a community and content to keep a site alive. If it can’t make that content available in an easy and useable way, what is it doing for the community at all?

  15. Can’t get worse, can it?
    perhaps the idiots who run, and ruined intructables for a large part, will have less say and less need to continue doing so.

    Watch as I’m proven wrong though, maybe they’ll remove the pdf download (one of the biggest saving graces of intructables for sure).

    Oh well, we have to wait and see.

  16. Anyone who thinks this move is ‘working for the man’ obviously doesn’t know Instructables very well.

    I mean come on, nearly every action on the site leads back to promoting paid membership, adverts etc.

    You want to scroll the page? Please pay for membership
    You want to see pictures!?? OMG Please click advert 1-5

    You get the idea :p

  17. The point of my post above (similar to what someone else said) is basically that they’re already “for the man” since all the changes a year or two ago.

  18. Seems like the death knoll for anything useful coming out of Instructables.

    Autodesk practically invented DRM for their draconian licensed software (way back when AutoCAD was first released).

    They’ve successfully sued and won against first sale doctrine time and time again for people trying to re-sale legitimate licenses of the way over priced AutoCAD products on eBay.

    AutoDesk gives nothing away for free. They don’t even Sell things. Autodesk is all about control and LICENSING.

    RIP Instructables – alas, you used to be somewhat useful.

    1. autodesk just released a free 3d tool, i mentioned this in the article a few times: http://www.123dapp.com/

      “Autodesk 123D is free 3D modeling software
      integrated with content and fabrication services.”

      win only at this time.

      and as a previous commenter say (bill) “They already offer all their software for FREE to students for 3 years.”

      here are the details for the specific case you mentioned…

      ————
      In 2008, in Timothy S. Vernor v. Autodesk Inc., a U.S. Federal District Judge in Washington rejected a software vendor’s argument that it only licensed copies of its software, rather than selling them, and that therefore any resale of the software constituted copyright infringement. Judge Richard A. Jones cited first-sale doctrine when ruling that a reseller was entitled to sell used copies of the vendor’s software regardless of any licensing agreement that might have bound the software’s previous owners because the transaction resembled a sale and not a temporary licensing arrangement.

      In 2010 however, the judgment against Autodesk was overturned and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the sale of the software was indeed a lease and not a sale. Because there was no sale, the court held that the First Sale Doctrine did not apply and remanded the case for further proceedings.
      ———–

      and here’s some more info (wired)…

      ———–
      The 3-0 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, if it stands, means copyright owners may prohibit the resale of their wares by inserting clauses in their sales agreements.

      “The terms of the software license in the case are not very different from the terms of most software licensing. So I think it’s safe to say that most people don’t own their software,” said Greg Beck, the defense attorney in the case who represented an eBay seller sued by Autodesk. “The other ramification, there is no reason a similar license could not be put into the cover of a book. It wouldn’t be difficult for everybody to implement this.”

      Beck said he will ask the San Francisco-based appeals court to rehear the case with 11 judges.

      The Software & Information Industry Association, whose members include Google, Adobe, McAfee, Oracle and dozens of others, urged the court to rule as it did. The Motion Picture Association of America also sided with Autodesk.

      The American Library Association and eBay argued against the outcome. The library association said it feared that the software industry’s licensing practices could be adopted by other copyright owners, including book publishers, record labels and movie studios.

      That assertion was not lost on the appeals court, saying Congress is free to modify copyright law “if it deems these or other policy considerations … require a different approach.”

      It was believed to be the first appellate ruling directly addressing whether a user agreement could forbid resales of software, though the appellate courts have previously backed companies that have imposed terms on how software may be used. The decision covers the nine western states, including California.
      ———-

      so it’s not over? “Beck said he will ask the San Francisco-based appeals court to rehear the case with 11 judges.”

      and since autodesk is wanting to become more maker-like with the instructables joining they’re going to need to rethink some of their licensing and policies. the maker world is fueled by open source licenses, creative commons, reuse, recycle and if autodesk wants to attract makers they’ll likely need to open up more.

  19. Alright, somebody enlighten me… I have none of these problems with instructables and I do not have a pro membership. I have never given them a dime. However, I did have an account there before the 2008. Maybe that is the difference? I have not run across a single thing I have been unable to do there without the pro membership.

    Are you sure you guys aren’t just whining?

    1. Yeah, as a user who has never had an account, the inability to look at the majority of photos or download any files or view any source code from the entire site renders it useless to me 90% of the time. If I accidentally click a link to an instructable page, I instantly close it. It’s not worth it for me at this stage in my life to pay money to view some little script a hobbyist wrote and posted there. If it became usable (fully accessible), I’m sure there’s a lot of good content on that site, it’s just inaccessible to me.

      1. I have a free instructables “account/log-in/whatever”, and I have never seen any need for anything different. I don’t need a pdf, nor do I need to have everything on one page. If I ever wanted to print something out, that might be nice, but I’ve never seen anything I liked so much that I would want hardcopy. I have one e-mail account that is basicly junk, because I use it for account logins, and things like posting to hack-a-day. I have another e-mail account that I “use”, plus one at work.

    2. There are non-members, paid members, unpaid members, and really old unpaid members.

      The site really sucks for the non-members and recent unpaid members. I’m not sure exactly when they “took features away” from the newly registered though.

      1. That makes sense, I guess. I can view all steps on one page, download PDF files, etc. I have not come across a single feature I have been unable to use with my membership.

        I always read these rants and thought, “WTF are these guys talking about?”

        Now I know. Thanks. Well, at least they were kind enough to have grandfathered some of their older users. If I woke up someday to check it out and they took features away from me, I probably wouldn’t have gone back.

      2. Just want to say that I’m not sure when this happened as I am one of those ancient unpaid members of instructables, but it is now possible to view all steps on one page without being logged in.

  20. As long as it doesn’t affect the free status of the software I don’t care in the slightest. I haven’t visited instructables in years (unless I’ve been linked to it). Keep the software free, keep listening to the community to improve it and it’s all good.


  21. No fucking way! It has to be the worst page ever.. You have to be a premium member to do anything at all, and actual content is only 1/10th of the page.

    I suggest that hackaday set up a free page for projects.

  22. I’m not going to enter a dog chasing it’s tail sort of discussion concerning Instructables itself beyond the following.

    Autodesk purchase Instructables as business investment. Apparently Instructables move to a premium model really never hurt that enterprise at all. I don’t think we can expect Autodesk to change the premium model, if they can’t expect it to increase revenue. There’s an old saw about wishing I won’t included her , because it might violate the new guidelines, but I really doubt that Autodesk will return instructable to their former business model.

    As far as Autodesk is concerned, I have to feel they are expecting too much from those who post their projects to instructables. Save for the craft project very few paper to have commercial promise at all, that Autodesk products could aid the designer/builder. Perhaps Autodesk should have considered Etsy, because Etsy is already a community of persons seeking to earn money by using their skills. I like Instructables, and it seems to be one of the easiest, least expensive avenue for persons to share what they did. In the event Instructables can’t meet Autodesk’s expectations, instructables may be offloaded in a roughshod fashion that could end Instructables. Nothing that the users Of instructables can do about it but, I hope those who contributed to the wb site have their files saved elsewhere.

  23. AutoDesk is the company who IGNORES Linux existence and makes soft for “professional” WinPeople…
    What positive thing can I say about this people?
    AutoDesk is very very selfish.

  24. It’s premature to ascribe motives, let alone final results. FUD is not always from Corporations to the public either. Even so, the very real elements of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt are quite rational given what both players have done in the past.

    IF it’s a legit case of Instructables getting better funded while Autodesk embraces “Open” society? Sadly, I too fear that both players will be at risk of putting their worst sides forwards as opposed to their better ones. Oh, I wish it would for example- have Instructables return to a “Less Paywall” mode and Autodesk to *EMBRACE* the F/OSS models. Software being financed through Training Courses and SUPPORT can be an incredibly powerful working concept. I suspect that Autodesk will have some employees reading the buzz- and that should include HERE. IF there’s any folks from Autodesk and/or Instructables reading this thread? Do consider the advantages of “less restrictive” mindsets and corporate realities.

    Having a million seats @ several hundred bucks a seat Vs maybe several millions of seats free versions- and even 1/3 each tossing in even $100/seat for certifications? That may be a worthy vision for pitching to stockholders.

    Don’t forget- 3D printers are poised to become comparable to what happened with home inkjet printers. So if they design it in Autodesk- post it on instructables, andthe public decides to print it on a printer certified for Autodesk, those certs for coders/designers become more valuable!

    Call it Hacking the Financial models?

    1. I think the business model of such companies is based on their management/owner’s specific view, and they are almost always stuck in their ways so what you start with is what it ends with.
      And it seems to keep them afloat, and in the current market uncertainties they will be even less likely to be open to thinking of new ways to do things I expect.

      But that still won’t tell us what will happen with instructables though.

  25. CASE AND POINT: I learned how to program AVR microcontrollers when Hack-A-Day ran a story “Ghetto Programming: Getting Started with AVR Microcontrollers on the Cheap” and linked to the instructables page http://www.instructables.com/id/Ghetto-Programming%3A-Getting-started-with-AVR-micro/

    Free to view at that time, I followed that little write-up and programmed an ATTiny2313 and ignited a passion for electronics which unfolded into a life-changing hobby for me! Now, without a paid account, you can’t even view the 10 line source code for the LED_BLINK.c source code! (“step 7″)

    That was a perfectly good and helpful article, destroyed. I can’t even link friends to that page.

  26. Accusations of selling out to the man are justified in this scenario I think.

    Considering that AutoDesk was abusing the DMCA by sending DMCA Take-Down letters to eBay as an attempt at keeping people from selling their old versions.

    ars technica =

  27. I just hope they get rid of their spammy, scammy adds from adblade. If I see “$LOCAL STAY AT HOME MOM MAKES $3454 FROM HOME!” one more time, I’m going to scream.

    1. Adblade ads have been removed from the site. Also there will no longer intentionally be screen takeover ads. Sometimes they slip in and have to be manually removed.

  28. I hate Instructables – Give me your personal information and I’ll let you actually see other people’s contribution to my money making site that I don’t them pay for. That’s Instructables talking….

    I hate them, no matter who bought them.

  29. So, Autodesk bought Instructables to get more exposure for its free tools. I suppose there’s something to that, as I was previously unaware they *had* any gratis tools. They hope that leads a subset of free users to eventually jumping upmarket to one of their “leased” tools. That’s a GD big jump, when their cheapest lease is US$1200. I guess we’ll see how that plays out. As it stands I don’t really *care*, so long as Instructables doesn’t start twisting authors’ arms to use Autodesk products.

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