Post from the FileMaker magazine

Given the recent discussions I thought this article from 2015 quite interesting, especially considering the interest and influx of FileMaker developers following Tim Dietrich’s very public move:

Matt Petrowsky - ISO FileMaker Magazine:
This post is a response to my friend Tim Dietrich’s post about “Goodbye, FileMaker”
Here’s my (somewhat) quick little take on Tim’s post. Like ALL software, there will be an ebb and flow to what’s popular and what’s not. Outside of the small world/community of FileMaker developers it’s a lot like “Eggs are good for you.” no “Eggs are bad for you”, ok “Eggs are good for you”. This year it’s Ruby/Rails, the next it’s Python/Django. It’s PHP/Symfony then JavaScript and Node. Then HHVM comes along and makes PHP cool again - wait, JavaScript is still better. And on an on throughout history. It’s an infatuation with CMS systems then security issues remind us that static web sites suit 80% of the use cases.
All of these variances are coming from perspective. Perspective of what YOU know in relatation to what’s known by those who you know. It’s what you discover and what you’ve outgrown.
As a technology, FileMaker has definite pluses and minuses. It’s handling of data structures like arrays is abysmal. It’s lack of fundamental features like patern matching (regex) is almost unforgiveable. It’s presentation of UI without having to mess with data binding is second to none. It’s platform agnosticism is the stuff of dreams. Pros and cons, pros and cons.
The most difficult thing, I think, we are facing as FileMaker developers is plain and simple communication. FileMaker, Inc. is currently VERY bad at this. FileMaker, the company, has fallen behind the times regarding their level of communication with their developer constituency. The expectations of most all developers, at least those outside of FileMaker, is pretty close to real-time with regards to what’s happening and what’s coming. Any open source project, and even many closed source projects, use anything from a company blog to the available wiki or issue queue on GitHub. Even the closed lip Apple provides public insight into what coming and what they are working on. So, that “FileMaker’s a subsidiary of Apple” remark you’re about to pull out doesn’t hold water. The “We’re working on it. We’ve shown it to a select group of people at an expensive event and it will be here some time in the future.” REALLY doesn’t work anymore.
Software, as it used to be, is not this secret magical reveal like it once was. Developer’s aren’t wowed by features much anymore. The mindset has shifted to “Tell/Show me how your platform is going to sustain time and competition and keep me updated.”
FileMaker, in my opinion, DESPERATLY needs a well respected evangelist. Subjectively, from many developer’s who I’ve spoken with, the perception is that FileMaker is withering. It’s trying to decide what it wants to be and to whom. I don’t personally know where FileMaker is financially as a company, but developers, like most all people, like to put their bet on a winning technology. It doesn’t have to be the number one horse, but you don’t want to bet on the last place finisher. This is the type of question I hear many developers trying to answer.
The tech still seems solid. Where the tech goes in the future is dependent upon the decisions a developer makes today. If a top FileMaker developer were to now advise people to go with Node and Sails* because they’re no longer confident about the future of FileMaker, then this becomes a BIG problem when compounded by the number of developers who jump ship.
Here’s why. FileMaker may stick around for many more decades to come, because it’s infrastructure type software (not something you typically change quickly), but it may eternally be mired down by the perception that it’s not powerful because as soon as top developers become discouraged, they leave the platform. What do you have left? Less knowledgable developers creating mission critical software which simply makes FileMaker look bad. It’s seems like the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis…/Legalized_abortion_and_crime_eff… to me. If the people/developers who make your software look good leave, and don’t bring in newer developers, then the writing is on the wall for the future of your platform.
That, to me, is the real problem that FileMaker faces as a company. Developer frustration. People will forgive technical shortcomings and come up with solutions around it (ala plugins) but if they don’t feel like the company building the technology is solid, then they will find something else - hedging their bet on their technical skills investment. Losing a developer like Tim, removes the types of contributions which make a platform more healthy. It’s the fundamental premise of open source.
FileMaker, if you’re listening, and you’re one of the decision makers, then open your ears to the market. The market will tell you what they want. Right know, they’re telling you some things need to change for them to become more confident - that is, of course, unless you don’t consider developers of your development platform your market. From my perception, developers make your platform look good/appealing, not your casual FileMaker user. I sure hope FileMaker doesn’t fade into the software graveyards of history. Personally, I really like it and I hope they listen to what their developer market is saying. The time has passed when the number of limited alternatives has kept any one developer totally loyal to one specific platform.

  • From the asterisk above about Sails JS (one of HUNDREDS of various frameworks): Building highly scalable software in things outside of FileMaker has become MUCH, MUCH easier in the modern software world. Frameworks galore allow you to plug-n-play with web services all over the place. The threat to FileMaker used to be the browser. This is not the case anymore. Developing a mobile application and hooking it up to a backend is easier than you may think. Yes, it does take a bit more knowledge and effort, but it’s certainly NOT rocket science! Do you own research and seriously ask the question “Where does FileMaker fit 5 years from now? Especially, if things become even easier in other environments?” Go watch the video on as an example and be informed!

Incidentally, does anyone know what happened with Tim’s site The link in the article does’ work anymore …

Promptly found the new site moments after I posted

CampSoftware is my site. While Tim and I work and talk a lot together, we each work for ourselves separately.

But I agree completely with Tim’s “Goodbye, FileMaker” post. I won’t be creating any new solutions with FileMaker either. Our Xanadu project was born out of frustration from FileMaker Inc’s decisions and behavior.

I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine last sunday about FileMaker. He is not a geek. He is not a programmer. But he is geek-friendly. In the past he has used FileMaker to “build” an app. Basically a simple database and a simple front end to view/edit the data. Now he doesn’t touch FIleMaker anymore due to costs. He has tried Bento and other similar apps. For him they are to constrained. Maybe they are or aren’t but for his needs with his abilities they were.

Now this conversation came up as he saw me using Xojo and wanted to know more. I probably could have sold him on Xojo if it were more tightly cupeled to the databases.

And as I talk to more and more folks, they are running away from FileMaker. And towards (gasp) Access DB.

I do like the tools that both @Tim Dietrich and @Hal Gumbert have written (XFM and Xandu respectfully) to help people get off of or mitigate their FileMaker costs.

FileMaker 12 Server was $3000 flat and came with 50 web connections. You had to purchase one FileMaker Pro PER user for use on Mac or Windows at $300 each. Many FM devs thought $300 each was expensive as each copy could be used for development, but users don’t need that. Devs begged for a $100 each client with no dev tools.

Instead, the prices exploded. Take a look at their pricing now: It’s pushes hard to get you into annual licensing where you don’t own anything at the end of the year. Perpetual aka normal licenses are still available at extreme costs and the new server only comes with ONE web connection.

Every day I use Xojo, I’m grateful.

Well, FileMaker is doing well as far as we know. They have more revenue and more users year of year.

For Hal’s calculation, buying server with 50 clients (no maintenance) is something like it was before. Just instead of server + 50 clients you buy server for that price and the clients are not charged separately.

Anyway, FileMaker is not for every solution, especially not with 1000+ anonym users as we have in a few web projects.
So use which ever tool is better for the job :slight_smile:

That’s not true if you are building an app where the primary interface is web. FileMaker 12 Would have been a $3,000 flat for 50 web users. Now it would be $14,744.00. :frowning:

We still work with clients who use FM. It doesn’t make sense to convert for the sake of converting, but when FM solutions need a refresh, we help our clients to Xojo web web apps.

it depends, but yes, FM used to have Web as free add-on, than with small charge and now as costy as a desktop client.

The article is interesting because the desire for a strong evangelist reminds me of my calls for Xojo to have a strong leader centered around the language. Users desperately want to understand the future implications and design considerations of the tools they are using. Most understand things take awhile, don’t always work out, etc. However the secrecy or even lack of clarity regarding the future makes the costs harder to justify. Interesting post despite me not using Filemaker and now thankful that I do not.

Geoff Perlman writes in this forum as CEO of Xojo Inc.
I don’t think there is any top level FileMaker Inc. executive writing on their forum.

This was my take as well. Especially the “developers aren’t wowed by features anymore” aspect of it. This isn’t the “good ole days” where REALbasic 5.0 was a solid and substantial upgrade over REALbasic 4.5. This is why the rapid release model exists. Software is almost expected to be like a service these days. From a design standpoint, Xojo could consider dropping the version number. It’s not Xojo 2017r2, it’s just Xojo. Sure, there would be a version in the about box, but the point is the upgrade from 2017r2 to 2017r3 is not and should not be like the upgrade from RB4.5 to RB5.0.

I understand however that Xojo’s marketing pretty much requires the version numbers, big feature lists, etc. to send press releases. Xojo always sells more around releases, so dropping the version may actually hurt the bottom line.

Some users are looking for a version of Xojo that is “done.” That’s never going to happen. Not like the old days. Xojo will never be done. It will just keep evolving. The only hope is that more bugs are squashed than added each release.

Sorry if this is somewhat off topic. I’m not trying to turn this into ANOTHER armchair developer thread. I just found it interesting how many of the things said relate to Xojo too.

We’ve seen “is done” before.

"Thomas J. Watson Jr. of I.B.M. is said to have opined in 1943 that, “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”

Do we want Xojo to be SpaceX or ULA (innovative or stagnant)?

In my little part of the world with just 4.5M people to support I am seeing a software industry that is stuck in stagnant. Line of business applications that can’t be upgraded without spending a fortune to recode because they were built on a platform that didn’t innovate.

I choose innovate with Xojo and I like the fact that Xojo has taken a page out of MS’s book & kept backward compatibility.

Looking forward to seeing native Swift apps running on Android.