Airtable vs. Amazon AWS Honeycode

https://www.honeycode.aws/features

Amazon just launched their No-Code app development platform. This is big news. Microsoft has their Power apps platform for quite some time now. But when AWS launches it, instantly the developer and creators community will love it. It’s also very very affordable compared to all other similar products.

Airtable and HoneyCode do not compare head-on-head. Since Airtable is database first and an app maker second whereas HoneyCode is just the opposite.

But AWS launching this is a huge move in the industry of no code apps.
Please share your thoughts on this!!!

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Thanks for cracking the egg shell on this topic. :slight_smile:

I’ve been using it for a while and I tend to agree; this is a different take on near-no-code app development, but the polarity you suggest is not really the complete picture.

Indeed, Airtable comes off as a “database” in the strictest of definitions until and unless a user can’t do something seemingly simple, and then the argument is the opposite; Airtable is not really a database; how convenient.

But the generally opposite polarity you mention probably matters at least when attempting to assess the key differences.

What Amazon has done is to quietly outflank all the near-codeless platforms by integrating seamlessly with all the types of things that typically trip up users who need more than just Airtable itself to create an ideal solution.

Things such as microservices (Lambda), object storage (S3), and commerce (Merchant Services). These are the things that make good solutions a possibility in an API or automation economy. But the watershed moment in my experience is the event architecture; this is a game-changer because most code-free platforms (thus far) have missed the importance of this underpinning. Lastly, security - I’m not a security-minded expert, but Honeycode will not likely disappoint anyone who has struggled to shape and share information across their teams and partners with near-perfect precision.

But closer to Airtable’s home is the idea that Honeycode starts with the premise that all solutions - regardless of type: mobile or web, and any target audience - depend on and circle the fundamental essence of data. This is their way of saying "your solution is more about data and less about tables and fields, and schemas. They are attempting to elevate the essence of near-codefree apps to a level that allow users to focus on the app and the UI/UX features without getting bogged down in the minutia of how best to create complex fields that perform links and such.

My experience is that they’ve designed this to help you begin from a solution-centric perspective; data is important but a high-level solution design that meets key business requirements comes first. This is a polarity swap that may be difficult for Airtable users to adjust to.

And do not under-estimate the strategery behind Honeycode; Amazon has a precise definition of “data” (which is extremely abstract) that is not identical to “database” (which is extremely limiting). Google also shares this subtle architectural enlightenment.

The only beef I have with this strategy is that AWS (by and large) is not known for making things simple; I dare anyone to try to host a web site in EC2 in less than a weekend with help from five other techie geeks.

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Indeed!
I had very quickly felt this Experience when I was just discovering Airtable without Script-Block, only provided with (sometimes terrible) Formulas without any possible Iterations and that therefore, looking for something else, I dared to venture a little at AWS just to sniff its flavor.
olπ

I played with Honeycode yesterday. It definitely does everything that people have wanted Airtable to do for years, and Amazon knows how to structure data & build in real security.

But — it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t even pretty to look at. It honestly felt like a chore to me. There was no joy involved with it at all.

I’m going to be sticking with Airtable, because I like joy in my life. :slight_smile:

Despite Airtable’s (many) shortcomings, I’ll take the playful & whimsical & accessible & fun nature of Airtable any day of the week. Honeycode is not for me.

Airtable has that thing that Steve Jobs used to talk about: “surprise & delight”. No, Airtable can’t do everything. Airtable can’t even do most things.

But everyone, including me, loves Airtable nonetheless. :slight_smile:

Indeed, Airtable has just enough of something that puts a little enjoyment back into the work of data. This is an undeniable advantage that many products never achieve.

However, there are other business interests that typically do not weigh heavily the enjoyment of using a tool against things like enterprise security, total cost of ownership, real-time processing, deployment elegance, and scalability. There are also many organizations where Honeycode vs Airtable is not a binary choice; rather business and technical requirements dictate which tool might get the nod. If Airtable must compete under these conditions, it will fall short in many situations and those shortfalls will occur more frequently as the ugliness of Honeycode apps fade and the feature set grows.

Do you remember how difficult Airtable was to use for anything meaningful in 2016?

Honeycode (early preview release) is now less than 36 hours old. How long will the Honeycode team languish in the lime-light as dim as it may be? Amazon has very deep pockets and a very deep technical bench. They don’t move at a snails pace and they care little about Airtable. In fact, it’s very likely that their dev team has never laid eyes on Airtable or M****soft L**ts, a requirement of all software engineering teams who are directly involved in market disruption.

It’s Microsoft they need to beat.

I’m eager to watch two tech giants compete for the soul of customers who demand code-free development tools that create robust solutions. And by “robust”, I mean solutions that embrace business requirements that run deep beneath the playful & whimsical surface - requirements that meet known compliance, security standards, and other things that domain experts rarely think about and which organizations care greatly about.

Three comments …

  1. Do not make the mistake of believing everyone loves Airtable. If you’re on this community and especially often, you are consuming a deeply biased diet of information. With rare exception, every single former Airtable customer is not here to tell you why they’re a former customer. A few will express parting displeasures, but the vast majority will not - they don’t have time or incentive to help Airtable improve.

  2. The analytics from my harvests of this community’s content would truly depress you; it’s one reason I don’t often share them here. To give you a very brief glimpse, consider that more than 2,000 people have raised issues and recommendations for more powerful string parsing over a half-decade and to this day, there is still no Split() function. Imagine what the churn data tell us about the vast number of “loving” customers who once appeared in the community, but are now silent. Do you think they are silent because all their feature desires have been met?

  3. This is not about the love of a product. Consumers tend to love something until it doesn’t love us back. We’re all hiring Airtable to do a job and when it fails to do the job in a successful and practical way, we look for something else to hire. Free and open markets are vicious about shifting interest and adoption, and emotions slow that process only to a point.

I’ll end my rant for the week by saying - yeah, I love Airtable too.

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Thank you @Bill.French for also sharing analysis and criticism with us because you have a wealth of experience in both the Customer market and the Tool market and I think you also have some very good insights, which do not come out of nowhere but are well-founded.

Would we Like or Love airtable ?
I believe that we are well welcomed on the code side by caring, even empathic Engineers, who allow us to have a direct dialogue with them.
This can result in a form of “like” or “love” “airtable” even if I am aware of it and I am not confusing DEV Team’s Women / Men and working tool like airtable which must remain a tool and not become a half help or worse, a pain.

Airtable’s Script-Block made me stay !
I also find that the UX of airtable is amazing: absolutely amazing: I find that this database product is the right one for me even if it’s Script-Block that made me stay.
Without Script-Block I would have left airtable.
@Kasra

Maybe Custom-Block is the real future of the current airtable?
Maybe Custom-Block is the real future of the current airtable: airtable with or without code but with an exceptional UX.
I’m not sure yet, but I have a feeling about it, even if I still have to confirm this feeling with some solid attempts in July and August 2020 on custom-block.
I say this because I currently believe that the pure No-Code, without any code at all, is a “nice friendly cul-de-sac” but without having compared the two approaches to solve the same range of problems, I can’t say for sure.
Now, whether the “Customer” and “Product” Markets will decide that the No-Code will be the tsunami against the Code in the context in which we are discussing, is beyond the scope of my view at the moment: this question is more within Bill’s analyst’s scope!

Back to your wide and deep analysis:
I ask you if you would agree to invite us to continue this conversation with you on another virtual place more adapted since your words seemed not to be welcome in this thread?

Best,

olπ

Indeed. I waited almost two years with the hope this feature alone become a reality. While I don’t love everything about Airtable, I certainly love it that the team cares enough to have open dialog with the community.

There was a time when it was rare to see any Airtable workers engage in technical requirements discussions. Because of people like @Zoelle_Egner and @Michelle_Valentine, @Jason, and @Kasra - we’re getting good guidance and thoughtful direction.

People who care deeply about a product can often transform the competitive landscape.

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and @Billy_Littlefield, @Stephen_Suen, @somehats, @Emma_Yeap without forgetting @VictoriaPlummer who’s not a DEV but helping a lot about Script-Block.

olπ

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LOL! That’s a great quote.

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