What's with this Adobe logo? I don't use Adobe Flex, I use Flex, the fast lexer, and I've had to add a million tags to my ignored list to try (unsuccessfully) to filter out the questions about this Adobe Flex business to get to the (few) questions about Lex and Yacc. And now this?

I suppose this is some kind of promotion sponsored by Adobe. How long will it last? When can I go back to trying to forget that a company I don't like has a product with the same name as a common tool that helps write compilers?

  • 6
    How many of the questions tagged flex are for fast lexer versus the Adobe product?
    – Rex M
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 5:33
  • @Rex M - Not enough. The majority of flex questions are for Adobe Flex. Which is why I have to have about 8 ignored tags for things related to Adobe Flex to try to neutralize this. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 5:35
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    Yah, well, maybe flex (fast lexer) should have more carefuly chosen their name. Why they decided to pick a name that would be used by Adobe years later is beyond me. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 6:05
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    If Adobe claims trademark status, their next step might be to register it, then restrain anyone else from using it. Be careful.
    – pavium
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 7:24
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    Putting company logos in tags is horrible. I appreciate that stackoverflow.com llc has to make money, but this is really intrusive. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 10:00
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    How is it intrusive? Granted I am the type of person who blocks all ads, but judging by the screenshots (haven't run across this in the wild yet personally) it doesn't seem intrusive at all. And even more, when I see that "flex" tag, I can now immediately know that it is an Adobe product/technology when normally I would sit and look at it for a while and not know what "flex" means.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 11:14
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    @TheTXI: As I scan down the list of questions, my eye is drawn to the Adobe logo, and away from the text of the titles and tags. (I don't think it's just because it's new.) Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 11:28
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    When I am scanning the tags, a logo on the tag gives me a great visual indicator of what the tag is concerning. If I see tags with Adobe logos on them, I know that tag is for an adobe product before I even have to read the text. To me that's a feature (especially if I were someone who specializes in Adobe software or technologies). It's not intrusive at all, and I think the term you may be looking for instead is "slightly distracting". Sure it can lead your eyes towards it during the process of scanning over text, but that's the whole point of advertisements...to catch your eye.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 11:34
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    And as I have said in other comments, I am not an advertisement person at all (I normally have everything blocked so most ads don't ever even reach my eye), but I will give credit to Alex and Jeff and the rest of the development team for coming up with unique and relevant ways to do advertisements and sponsorships based on the content that is being presented to the user. I think of it as a quantum leap forward compared to what AdSense promised to bring to the table long ago.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 11:36
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    This is when I realize that I've upvoted every answer to my question. Damn me for being so reasonable! Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:03
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    Hmm...now the RedGate image is on tags like "Sql Server", which doesn't strike me as the same thing...RedGate doesn't own, make, or maintain Sql Server...they make a product for it. I find this much more distasteful than the Adobe tag (which was, to the best of my knowledge) only on their own products. If this is allowed, what's to stop me from paying to have my logo on "best-practices"? Isn't that weird?
    – beska
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 18:39
  • Adobe Flex is not by Adobe now. There is Apache Flex.
    – Alex Koz.
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 17:47

9 Answers 9


I would suggest that you retag to . I went through and cleaned this all up a couple of months ago (there was only about 50 questions, total, about gnu-flex). This seems to be the more standard way of referring to this application.

EDIT: Here is the list of searches I use when editing tags:

  • [flex] bison
  • [flex] lex
  • [flex] lexical
  • [flex] pars
  • [flex] parse
  • [flex] parsing
  • [flex] yy
  • [flex] [bison]
  • There might be an easier way to do it, but I don't know. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 5:54
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    There are bison in the tags? Do the buffalo know?
    – random
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 6:09
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    Flex (the fast lexer) is not part of the GNU project. gnu-flex is misleading. My ideas for this tag are are fast-lex, fast-lexer, flex-lexer. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 6:34
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    Okay, you're right about it not being part of the gnu project, but it's close enough (even linked from the gnu website, gnu.org/software/flex). I don't know how many people actually refer to it as fast-lexer (I know I don't - I usually think of it as just flex).
    – a_m0d
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 7:14
  • And the formatting is stuffed up in the above comment :(
    – a_m0d
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 7:18
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    How about just lex? There's no confusion there if you're familiar with flex, you should be familiar with lex.
    – Eric
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 13:20
  • I don't think this is a perfect solution, but it's been done, so I might as well accept this as the answer. Commented Oct 1, 2009 at 2:21

Generally, when you get this sort of clash, and both names have reached some kind of threshold, it works on a first-come-first-served basis.

Can I recommend:

  • [flex] - the lexer written in 1987
  • [adobe-flex] - the programming language written by Adobe in 2004
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    Popularity wins in the real world, so why should Stack Overflow follow a first-come-first-serve rule? Sure, that sucks for the lexer and all, but they lost the popularity contest and chose not to trademark the name. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 14:47
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    @Alex: We must have completely opposite world views here. You seem to be saying that words are owned, and there can only be one (hence trademarking). I'm saying that words are associated with one project or the other, and flex has meant the lexer for the last 20 years. If I named my project gcc or python, then trademarked them, would that make the name mine (I assume they aren't trademarked already, but if they are just pick scala, or clojure, or whatever)? Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 15:25
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    Some words/phrases are owned (trademarked), others need to be shared... but meanings do change over time based on popular opinion. 10 years ago, 95% of devs would say that mono was a communicable disease... now they'd say it's open-source .NET. Same could be said for MUMPS, though I'm sure that alwyas fits in the 'disease' category. If "the people" say that Flex is an Adobe thing, then that's what it is. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 15:47
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    Not only does the lexer have priority, but I simply can't imagine that adobe didn't know it. Alex's example all cross category boundaries disease != software. I see no reason to kowtow to adobe's misbehavior in this matter. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 16:31
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    Tell ya what. When the flex lexer supercedes Adobe's Flex in Google's search results, then we'll talk about who has priority. It's not our job to right any perceived wrongs to unrelated parties about who owns what name at the cost of confusing the majority of users. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:59
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    @Alex: And what happens if times change? Its unlikely in the flex case, but your suggested rule fails in general. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:21
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    I agree with Paul Biggar. While normally I would be content to go with the general opinion, flex is has been flex since 1982, and will continue to be flex for a long time. It nicely fills a niche quite well. Adobe Flex was released in 2004, and is quite likely to be traded in for a shiny new product as soon as Adobe thinks that it's no longer successful. And then we're stuck with a bunch of [flex] tags for an outdated product, and inaccurate tags for a program that stood the test of time. It seems better here to pick an absolute standard, so that we don't have to constantly retag... Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:29
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    ...questions to cope with the changing times. Furthermore, StackOverflow doesn't follow the rule of "most popular" for any product released since it's inception - if Microsoft released a programming language called Objective-C, questions about it would be tagged [ms-objective-c] because Apple got the [objective-c] tag first. It's only for products that are older than StackOverflow that we have arguments about who gets the tag - for younger products it's clearly first-come, first-serve. Plus, the [adobe-flex] tag already exists (albeit little used). Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:32
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    Things change and evolve all the time... companies are bought, products are renamed, brands are rebranded, etc. I think it's best for a non-historical informational resource to reflect the present times, rather than what once was. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:37
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    @Alex: If flex was dead, I might agree. However, flex is still the best known and used lexical analyser generator for C. Anywhere there is bison, there is flex. Its not dead, not dying, and not going anywhere. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:46
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    Adobe Flex is far more popular at the moment on SO. That's all that matters. Someone who types just "flex" more than likely means Adobe. If popularity of the two was about the same, I would argue both need a qualifier [abobe-flex] and [gnu-flex] and bare [flex] should be discouraged. Note that such a system allows GNU flex to catch up to Adobe Flex, establish a clear lead, and eventually get the [flex] tag. It doesn't matter who came first, before or after the site was created. What matters is what most people are thinking right now. That's why it's a wiki. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 19:43
  • @Patrick: There will be some fun in changing thousands of questions' tags when flex catches us with adobe-flex. And the more fun when adobe-flex nudges ahead again. Commented Oct 1, 2009 at 8:54
  • @PatrickMcElhaney, adobe flex is the one dying right now...
    – vonbrand
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 5:34

Advertising in-tags is not cool. It reminds me of the scripted a hrefs where, when you mouseover, you get some kind of ad popup.

I recognize that StackExchange Group has to make money. This is not a good way to go about it, and this trend makes my experience significantly less enjoyable. Remember, in 6-8 weeks, someone can build a SO clone and suck the SO datadump into it.

Increase the advertisement levels, and eventually the concept of switching is going to be a reasonable choice to get away from ads.

Frankly, I think ads are a lousy model...sell product, not ads.

  • 3
    While I agree with you in a large part, I have problems with "sell product, not ads." What product to they sell, if not ads? Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:02
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    Well, (pulls idea from thin air) they could sell a GUI that reads all the datadumps locally. That way if you work in a network-restricted place, you have access to the knowledge set of SO. I'm sure other people can come up with other ideas. My point is, I buy products, but I don't want to see ads. One enhances my life, the other degrades my quality of life experience. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:12
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    I have no problem with relevant ads which don't intrude on content. The problem is that here it does intrude.
    – starblue
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:23
  • 1
    Without disagreeing that ads aren't cool, that seems like a very specialized app. It would be difficult to update the datadump (since it's on a network-restricted machine) and I can't imagine it would sell well enough to compensate for advertisements (anywhere likely to place heavy network restrictions on your machine is also likely to place some limits on the software you're allowed to use on that machine). I'm not saying "Yay, ads!" - I personally couldn't care less - but I'm not convinced on the alternatives. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:24
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    Products, eh? Oh I know, I know! How about we sell the answers? Check it out: people would come from Google, but we'd hide the answers at the bottom of the page and trick them into buying a membership! The people providing the answers wouldn't have to pay of course. Oh man, that'd be great!!!! Why didn't anyone think of that before?!?! That's soooooo much better than ads!! Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:05
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    "I buy products, but I don't want to see ads." And you find out about these products... how? Is this like, "I will buy your product, but only if you don't tell me about it first." Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:09
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    Catalogs are how I typically buy products: either online or offline. Ads make up an extremely small part of informing me of products. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:11
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    @Alex: On a purely personal level, you're substituting sarcasm and anger for reason. Please don't do that. I'm trying to contribute to make this community a better place. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:14
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    @Paul I read a study that said something like 90% of people say that ads don't influence them, yet 99% were influenced by ads. None of us want to be tricked or fooled, but unless you're actively AdBlocking them, you are influenced. You just don't consciously realize it. And I don't meant to come across as rude or angry. Sarcastic... call it a personal flaw ;-) Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:32
  • Well, there's a huge volume of products that have been marketed to me. However, I don't go buy them. E.g., SlickEdit or PlasticSCM. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:46
  • Of course you don't. Nor does anyone else. Out of 100 products we'll see, maybe we'll consider 1. It's such a small number that most truly believe, "ads don't influence my buying descision." But ads do influence, if only 1/100 of the time. The magic happens when you show that 1 ad to 100,000 people. Ba-zing! Sales time. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 20:21
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    OK, statistically, ads matter to 1% of the population. M'kay. But what about the 99% people who are irritated? SO has increased its ad-presence quite consistently over the past 6? months. It's quite irritating, and I'm getting to the "this is annoying enough to install greasemonkey just to remove them" point. That's too many ads, in my opinion. As the ad hassle goes up, the probability of someone starting up a non-ad-based open source site also goes up, especially since they can leech the Q&A from a data-dump and jump-start their site.That's not a good thing for the programming world..cont Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 20:30
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    No, no... I mean, ads only influence you 1% of the time. You, as in... you, Paul Nathan. Ads become effective only with large audiences. As for selling software products... that's hard enough without having to worry about a maintaining a huge site like SO. And selling swag doesn't quite pay a developer's salary. But even so... we'd have to promote these products through... ads. Commented Oct 1, 2009 at 4:21
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    effectiveness aside, ads are an annoyance. I see the trend of SO as moving towards Expert Sex Change in terms of ads. Yes, yes, "that'll never happen". Mm. Right. I think LJ once said the same. If you have an ad-based revenue, you begin to optimize against ads. See, SO is great. But the catch is, I can go somewhere else if SO is annoying enough, and I can install ad-blockers(which I've partially done already just because of this). So if you're going to focus on making money via ads, it's going to be counterproductive at a point. cont... Commented Oct 1, 2009 at 16:14
  • 1
    ..cont. Sell me something I want to buy, please. I've spent hundreds of dollars at coffeeshops that don't hardly advertise, because I want to buy mochas. If SO offers me something that I want at the right price, I buy it, SO makes money, we all have a dance party. But you're providing me with a reason to go somewhere else with ads, which means SO doesn't buy .05% of the new server, we have a sad day, etc, etc. Follow the logic here? Commented Oct 1, 2009 at 16:16

Can't argue with selling advertising on the tags, though I am finding the Adobe logos visually intrusive. Maybe that will get better after I'm used to them or there are more tags with logos.

That said, I never complained--or even worried much--about [flex] being a dual use tag when it was just [flex], but when it became [LOGO flex], it unfairly and unreasonable excludes the product with priority.

Grr---can't make the picture show up.

  • 2
    This is really the problem. [LOGO flex] is now wrong for all lexer uses of [flex], while [flex] was just fine. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 18:22

If it is an issue for you, you can always opt to use a userscript (if your browser supports it) to remove the images. It bothered me, so I wrote one.

User script to remove SO sponsored tag advertisements


The logos bug me too. I didn't know before now that flex-the-lexer was not a GNU tool (although I never assumed it was). Now that I know, the [gnu-flex] tag seems distasteful (and propagates the misconception).

It seems to me that we can do better. I thought of a couple of ideas, but any solution needs to deal with the fact that "flex" is how the product is known to most of its users, so a tag that does not contain the word (including suggestions like [fast-lexer] or [lex]), even if accurate in some sense, might make the questions harder to find for some users. There also seems to be the issue of addressing the GNU flex myth.

I propose a change from "gnu-flex" to "non-gnu-flex". That fits with references like this one: http://ftp.gnu.org/non-gnu/flex/flex.README. I also think it helps combat the myth.

But I'm not sure -- I'll happily do the retagging, but I'll wait to see if this "Answer" ever gets more votes than the gnu-flex (accepted) answer. If it doesn't, then it's probably not the best solution.


I hear you. If you feel strongly about this, I recommend using [fast-lexer] as the tag instead of [flex].

  • 1
    That might be a good idea for a retag. We might change the tag to [lex] instead to make it a bit more intuitive. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 5:36
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    why not retag [flex] to [Adobe Flex], since it is a proper noun and product.
    – beggs
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 5:50
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    @Chris: No, can't do that, because lex is different than flex - flex is a free implementation of lex, but is not the same.
    – a_m0d
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 5:56
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    @a_m0d: What's closer? Adobe Flex to the fast lexical analyzer or the lexical analyzer to the fast lexical analyzer?
    – Eric
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 13:21
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    While we're at it, we can change [python] to [dynamic-duck-typed-language-with-whitespace-based-syntax]. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 14:43
  • Jeff, it's true that this is going to have to be how the community addresses this case. I understand and accept that you need to get money; this seems like a decent way to go. The sad part is that adding logos to the tag buttons effectively enforces a single meaning for the tag; a company can buy a piece of the folksonomy. A system where tags may have multiple meanings (because those words really do have multiple meanings to the multiple people involved) can sometimes be more powerful for the users. librarything.com/thingology/2007/07/… Commented Oct 12, 2009 at 8:08

This is more flex's problem than anyone elses.

While they most certainly had the name first, Adobe took it over basically owns it now. The project is still on the first page of google:flex, but it ain't at the top.

Long term, and to distinguish itself from Adobe's product, it would probably make sense to rename the project. Heck, I didn't even know about flex before now (though I am familiar with Yacc and Lex), and just assumed it was always an Adobe thing.

How about... freelex? That has a ring to it. Or freelexr. That's web 2.0-y I think.

  • 2
    I like how you are getting voted down for proposing logical solutions to it all. It's not SO's fault that when people think Flex they think of the Adobe product now.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 11:15
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    @TheTXI: This is not a logical solution if you're at all familiar with flex in the lex & yacc sense. No one associates the phrase "free lex" with flex. Suggesting [freelex] is akin to suggesting [mono] be retagged to [free#].
    – Eric
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 13:29
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    I'm suggesting that the people who built flex ("free lexer") rename their product and be done with it. They are going to be... scratch that... they are marginalized with Adobe taking the name. The other option is that Adobe renames their product... maybe we can get an online petition going for that. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 14:37
  • google:flex show the free lexer in the 7th place here...
    – perbert
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 15:03
  • How about [ex-lax]? It would stand out. Just saying. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 16:18
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    @Eric I like the name free#. I think that should be the standard for mono. :)
    – Alex B
    Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 17:23
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    FWIW, I think a retagging to adobe-flex makes sense. Flex/Bison have primacy of age. Commented Sep 30, 2009 at 20:38
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    This suggestion is preposterous. The old flex has been in existence for decades. "Rename" the tool, now, just because Adobe uses the same name for an unrelated product? That would destroy their findability in search engines, not fix it. All of the web pages that talk about flex? Not to mention the countless scripts written referring to the executable by name (hello, command-line), which mean that even if they "renamed" the "product", they'd have to preserve the name of the tool, which is what people would search for anyway, so the net effect would be zero. This is a useless suggestion. Commented Oct 12, 2009 at 6:46
  • @Alex +1 fur suggesting an online-petition, the sarcasm in that is great :) Commented Jan 19, 2010 at 21:02
  • Actually, by the votes here it would seem more people recognize 'flex' without attribution as flex and only a minority immediately think of the Adobe tool.
    – Chris Dodd
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 19:28

It would seem that the real problem is new users coming to stackoverflow and asking questions about flex (or looking for answers) and getting confused by/causing confusion by using the wrong tags.

The obvious solution to me would be to use distinct tags for both flex and Adobe flex (probably gnu-flex and adobe-flex) and have flex become some kind of meta-tag, and whenever anyone uses it they get a dialog saying (roughly) "This tag is ambiguous, did you mean abobe-flex or gnu-flex". That way any new user that has questions about either will be immediately redirected to the right tag for whatever they're trying to talk about.

This would even work well with the trademark icons -- you could recognize ANY tag beginning with adobe- (or google- or apple- or ...) and replace the prefix with the appropriate icon.

  • The idea of replacing adobe- etc. with the appropriate icon is interesting, but that's a separate discussion. This question is old - from '09, in fact - and has been 'resolved' by using gnu-flex for that tool and flex (still with the Adobe icon). On MSO, it's usually appropriate to raise continued concerns as new questions when something's this old; things have changed a lot since then. Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 20:35

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