If you follow me Twitter, then you know that I've been very impressed by a new service called Airtable.
Airtable is difficult to describe. You could say that it's a cross between a spreadsheet and a database, but I think it is in a category all its own. I recently tweeted, "Airtable provides the speed and flexibility of spreadsheets, and the reliability and structure of databases." You'll have to use it yourself to fully appreciate Airtable and see why I'm so excited about it.
When you're using Airtable, one of the things that is easy to forget is that it is Software as a Service (SaaS). Airtable's browser-based application is so well executed, and the service itself is so responsive, that it feels like you're running a desktop app. And it's plenty powerful, too. You can easily make schema changes without having to leave the spreadsheet-like "rows and columns" interface. (The Airtable iPhone app is equally impressive.)
Spending time with Airtable got me thinking about the FileMaker platform, about its future, and what I'd like to see...
WebDirect As A Replacement for Pro
I'd like to see FileMaker WebDirect get to a point where it has completely eliminated the need for the FileMaker Pro and Pro Advanced desktop apps. In order for this to happen, WebDirect needs to be a full FileMaker client, capable of both working with FileMaker databases, and working on FileMaker databases. In other words, it needs to give us the ability to create new databases, add tables, modify relationships, create scripts, manage security, and so on - all of the developer-oriented things that we do.
FileMaker As A Service
I'd also like to see the entire platform move to a SaaS model. Think of it as "FileMaker as a Service," where "FileMaker Server" no longer existed. In its place would be hosting provided by FileMaker Inc directly. We would no longer have to manage our own servers, struggle with SSL certificates, and so on. FileMaker could easily enhance the platform, making updates and upgrades with little or no effort on our part.
A Different World
It is difficult to imagine the FileMaker platform without Pro, Pro Advanced, or Server. And yet that's where things seem to be headed.
We now live in a world where SaaS offerings are commonplace and accepted. Where we essentially subscribe to software services. Where our data is stored "in the cloud."
If you look at emerging technologies like Airtable, and all of the progress that FileMaker has made with WebDirect in such a short amount of time, you can see that the types of changes that I've described seem to be possible. You could even argue that in order for FileMaker to continue to evolve and compete, these types of changes are necessary.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the future of FileMaker. Please leave a comment below.