The Lizards are Sleeping, not Leaping
a report by James Rile, PlanetDjVu, June 15, 2003
LizardTech should be leaping this month, now that Acrobat 6 has been released, with new information, announcements and product repositioning (i.e. lower pricing) to help keep the DjVu format competitive with PDF, and to help users understand the benefits of DjVu over PDF.
Instead, LizardTech is sleeping, and we are afraid that this sleep is turning into a coma.
LizardTech announced the release of "Document Express 4.0" for DjVu three months ago, and since that time, there has been no further information or updates concerning DjVu on their website. Worse, this upgrade introduced new bugs and problems in the DjVu browser plug-in that have not been fixed.
Worst of all, LizardTech no longer responds to e-mails, letters and phone calls, not from us, and not from end-users and potential customers of the DjVu format, according to reports received by us directly by the PlanetDjVu community and in the PlanetDjVu forums.
LizardTech has "gone to sleep" leaving false information and comparisions on their website, that do a dis-service to the DjVu format, and that insult the intelligence of the reader.
Consider the single comparison of DjVu to PDF that is provided on the Examples page of the LizardTech website. We published a News article here a year ago, proving that the PDF file in this comparison was delibrately made to be 10 times larger than it should be, and then was delibrately NOT optimized for web viewing, in order to exagerate the file-size-reducing benefits of DjVu, and to support the marketing claim that DjVu makes files "100 times smaller than PDF". AT&T never made such a claim. This is entirely a falsified claim of LizardTech. AT&T only ever claimed that DjVu files could be "5 to 10 times smaller than PDF". Today, with the release of Acrobat 6, and with the new PDF 1.5 format supporting JPEG2000 and JBIG2 compression methods, the accurate claim should be "DjVu makes files 2 to 5 times smaller than PDF".
Another insult to the intelligence of the reader is the reported filesize of the DjVu browser plugin. The download page lists the plug-in size as 1.74Mb, but when you download it, you discover that it is 4.6 Mb. We ask, "why the need to lie about something like this?". We think that honesty, not marketing deception and false reporting, will sit better with users, who are always after the truth of things.
The Lizards are not the only ones who are sleeping. The top link to "sites using DjVu" on the LizardTech website is a link to DjVuZone.org, a site that has been frozen since 2001. The technical information about DjVu on this website is now outdated and inaccurate. DjVuZone.org has long been sleeping too.
The World is Quickly Forgetting about DjVu
Turn on the TV this month and you are sure to see commercials for Adobe Acrobat PDF. We are reminded, in contrast, that here at PlanetDjVu, we have been the ONLY ones to report on DjVu for the last year. There have been no reviews of DjVu or DjVu products in the press for the past year, outside of this site.
Thee years ago, when we started with DjVu, we never imagined that we would be the LAST ones to be talking about this document format!
What Can Be Done Now?
The original format authors of DjVu have maintained the open source version of DjVu, called DjVuLibre, and they have fixed up the many problems that were in the DjVu code base. But this, by itself, does not help enough. LizardTech owns the DjVu trademark and a large part of the DjVu code base. There is no way that the DjVu format can be successful as long as LizardTech is intent upon burying it.
All we can do now is wait. Wait to see if LizardTech will fail and then pass ownership of DjVu to someone else. Wait to see if LizardTech will choose to revive the format. But don't hold your breath waiting for the sleeping lizards to wake up. They have already fired the software engineers who knew the DjVu code base, and those who could help them at DjVuLibre and at PlanetDjVu, they continue to shun and ignore.
We are not quite ready to "write-off" DjVu and close the PlanetDjVu website, but we are close to doing so. We know that the DjVu code base as maintained by DjVuLibre is still sound and has market potential. We know that the fiscal year of LizardTech ends this month - and will this bring any change?...
We have watched the readership levels of PlanetDjVu steadily diminish over the past year or two. We can assume now that you, the reader of this article, are most likely someone who has persisted with us on trying to make DjVu "happen". We encourage you to "stick it out" with us just a little longer, perhaps for another month, before leaving DjVu behind.
Truth be told, we have stuck it out this far because we have already developed commercial DjVu encoding software that is far superior to what LizardTech produced. Although LizardTech has obstructed us from releasing this software, we don't want to write off DjVu as long as there is any future chance that it can be released. In the end, however, elegant software for making DjVu is worthless if the DjVu viewers from LizardTech remain broken, and if users conclude that they cannot trust the integrity of the format owner, LizardTech.
Stay tuned for our final decision about DjVu next month. Meanwhile, Adobe encourages us to focus entirely on PDF. We recently received a scholarship from Adobe to attend an Acrobat 6 developers conference, and we have received the full Acrobat PDF 1.5 SDK documentation from Adobe. LizardTech cannot even document DjVu anymore (the new Version 24 of DjVu has no documentation), much less disseminate it! LizardTech and Adobe, DjVu and PDF, have become a "night and day" comparison, sad to say. Not even the best efforts of DjVuLibre and PlanetDjVu can change this, unfortunately.