Instructables

Autodesk Acquires Instructables: What It Means for Makers

Featured
Picture of Autodesk Acquires Instructables: What It Means for Makers
This my article I just posted on MAKE "Autodesk Acquires Instructables: What It Means for Makers"

The big news this week was “Autodesk Acquires Instructables.” It’s taken me a few days of really thinking about this for my column. Autodesk is jumping in to the biggest DIY community online — it’s a huge risk, with a likely even bigger reward. I think Autodesk knows how to make a thriving business for professionals, but what about makers? That’s what this week’s Soapbox is about: Autodesk acquiring Instructables and what it means for makers.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Let's Get This Out of the Way: Ads! Pro! Steps!

Picture of Let's Get This Out of the Way: Ads! Pro! Steps!

Instructables is ad supported — there are ads, lots of them. Sponsored contests, too. This was all before the acquisition. Needing to log in to see all steps, PDF downloads, less ads? This requires a pro membership (starting at $1.95/month). Instructables did this during the advertising downturn in 2008/2009 when the site needed to generate revenue to pay people and staff. At the time, it was the biggest controversy, and commenters claimed it would be the end of the site in six months. That didn’t happen — the site only got bigger. They survived. I wanted to mention this first because these are things before they were acquired by Autodesk. Usually “more ads” and “more ways to make money” happen after an acquisition.

Instructabliss is a site that I’ve seen posted a few times; it loads pages from Instructables and puts all the different pages on one single page. It also handles things like logging in so you can view everything. I don’t use it since I don’t know how or if my log in would be stored on another site. As Instructables gets more resources to hire, we might see UI changes and better browsing experiences.

For my viewing, I use an ad blocker like many people do for many sites. I have a pro membership because I’ve used it for work. I always wanted a version of Instructables I could download and run on my server like you can with WordPress. I would still like to pay for a package that lets me run my own Instructables on the sites I work on. I think that’s not likely now, but I’ll talk about this later in the article. As far as charging money for anything or having ads, many people do not like that MAKE has ads, or has a print magazine that costs money to subscribe to and that we charge most attendees money for tickets to Maker Faire.

I also know some “experts” don’t like many of the basic, simple, or in their words “just plain wrong” projects on Instructables. Again, this is all before Autodesk bought them earlier this week. Not every project is a winner. I understand some of the projects aren’t that great. If I was 10 years old now, I’d post some stuff too that experts would hate on, but that’s the nature of the site when you have this many people sharing. Instructables recently added a lot of editorial staff to make the site better, pushing the good content out more. Again, this was pre-Autodesk.

I wanted to spend time talking about this because I don’t want the comments here to have the same things I mentioned here (Ads! Pro accounts! All the steps!). Or Revit vs AutoCAD vs MicroStation. This article is about what this acquisition means for makers, and for Autodesk. This is about the future. If you have specific things you’d like to see Instructables do or change, post on their site, where they’ve asked for this. Please stay on topic here on MAKE! What will this mean for makers?

OK, let’s get going…
jknotts110 months ago
i like that they support college students like myself by giving me a 3 year license on about 68 different software suites and similar programs for early education [K through 12th grade] and for teachers as well. The education links found on the autodesk website also provide online classes and technical support. I have to say it's a smart move provide future engineers and designers the tools to learn a valuable skill and that becomes an investment that pays off in the form of expanding the user base via early adoption. I have to say supporting a website that is a beacon of free information and community based education seems appropriate considering the audience this site attracts. I believe engineers, designers, and innovators are born rather than made and if I sold tools used to give ideas form I would definitely want to make sure my tools were involved in the learning process.
Dream4real1 year ago
Hello Instructables, I recently (March,2013) purchased a Pro membership. I've selected the "Allsteps Default" in every way I know how but it just won't "take". HELP ! ! Thanks for your attention - I hope. Dream4real
lloydrmc2 years ago
Add Autodesk to the list of great, 21st century, American companies. The Free Market lives!
pooh14852 years ago
Autodesk, inventers, like hand & hand
I hope this doesn't change the personality of Instructables. Because, IMNSHO, I kinda thought the site was DIY nirvana driven by those who just want to share and encourage. I have seen projects that did not interest me, but never saw a "bad" entry. I've never received a "bad" gift" either.
My two questions are:
1) Why did Instructables sell anyway? weren't you successful already?
2) Why did Autodesk by you? What would be the benefit? Call me smallminded if you want (I'm sure many have), but, all I see is a corporation swallowing up another "little guy" that just happened to be 'bout the coolest, most interesting and charitable site I've ever had the pleasure to scope out. In any event, I just hope the spirit of the site is not lost. That would really be a sad thing indeed.
Good luck to all parties involved.
without making a wish list a lot of your presented projects filled that requirement. I know the budding minds out there can produce in advance of present technologies and let loose would enhance future projects. If space and time permits, may I suggest a column where people can put their wish list of wanting to make. It can just sit there,or you can refer them to prior projects in most cases that would fill the bill.
Those too far off base might just make it to home base with the aid of your intrepid following. Best wishes to your team for now and the future-.
randofo3 years ago
This is my comment reposted from Make:

First off, thanks for the great article. This is perhaps the best article that I have read on Make in years (don't tell Becky I said that).

Secondly, about six years ago I was hanging about Eyebeam and a friend of mine basically said, "Hey. I taped some LEDs to magnets, threw them at a building, then posted them on Instructables and now I'm famous. You should post your stuff on there." I thought about it for a while, but didn't really do much with the advice.

A few months later I followed my girlfriend to San Francisco where I ended up unemployed and quite bored. One day, while trying to kill the time between job interviews, I thought back on my friend's advice and started posting projects on Instructables to try to win some of their contests (with mixed results).

After posting a few things and lurking on the site for a couple of months, I noticed they were looking for interns. I sent in my application. One thing led to another, and I have spent the past five years filling more positions within the company than I can count (often simultaneously). I'm not sure what has changed more times, my daily responsibilities or the location of my desk. I have watched Instructables grow from 7 people to 23 people and have seen many talented and passionate people come and go (more often come than go). I've also posted 163 Instructables, but (aside from Christy - and her measly 133) who's counting?

That said, I invested a lot into Instructables as an employee and, personally, as a maker. When I first learned that the company was bought by Autodesk, I was both elated and confused. My gut reaction was "Yay! A great company bought us!" ... "But why did they buy us?"

I'm not going to bother answering that question here. I think Phil has already pretty much hit the nail on the head.

The point is... The last five years at Instructables was one crazy ride, and as this ship gains incredible momentum, I have no plans of disembarking. I'm feeling pretty confident right now that there are amazing things in store for Instructables' future. I wish I could share everything that we're planning with you right now, but to be honest, there is still much that is undecided. This is exciting because it means there is a lot of opportunity for everyone to work together and do some really groundbreaking things. While I don't know how this will all ultimately play out, I think we have joined a great team at Autodesk, and I am currently very optimistic for the future.
Wow - That is big news.

This really validates the good work everyone has done here.

Someone at Autodesk is very smart.
I tried that once and got stiff neck
omnibot3 years ago
It's good to se Wilhelm get a title and hopefully a well paying job for all his efforts.
I especially like your idea for a standardized format for how-to's. I sometimes to post my stuff on a few different sites but it can be hard work porting everything over with the different site designs. A standard format would be nice :)
pie R []ed3 years ago
From my experience auto desk is a wonderful company, and I predict a bright future for the make movement. If it takes a turn for the worse, then we can simply MAKE a new site, and life will go on. This is a movement, and the power is with the makers.
caitlinsdad3 years ago
Thank you for your writeup.  As a steadfast fan of ibles and having been burned by The Man in real life, I have a cautious outlook of what may come.  I wish to have an optimistic outlook but I know how corporate pressures can come and bite you in the behind.  We shouldn't be naive about it.  Only thing I can continue doing is continue Making.  Yeah, I see it as an opportunity for the competition to step up too, my options are open to post somewhere else but I will wait and see.  Free-agent makers, a market segment waiting to be tapped.

 
ilpug3 years ago
well, im glad that things are looking up for the future of making! as long as anyone doesent try to make me pay for anything i got for free before, im fine with it. cant wait to see more open source.
kelseymh3 years ago
Thank you very much for cross-posting this from MAKE! And thanks also to Randy for copying his comment over here as well.

If you've read the comments on Eric's two I'bles forum topics, you are well aware of the, er, "concerns" that many in the community have about this acquisition. I'm glad that the vitriol, at least so far, hasn't been directed at I'bles, but rather at their evil CAD overlords :-)

I personally am not sure what to think, being at best an observer and user of the "online ecosystem." I hope that Eric, Christy, and the rest of the awesome staff are able to maintain their autonomy and support the often irreverent culture we have. How that irreverence ("If you can't open it, you don't own it.") fits in with a for-profit corporation is an open question.
splazem3 years ago
Awesome! Great instructable and very informative. Thanks!
+1