AMA: Apps + Marketplace Edition

Hi everyone!

Lots of exciting announcements today on the Airtable Platform! For more information specifically about how this launch impacts developers - including updates to the Blocks SDK and how to submit an app to the marketplace - check out our post here.

Airtable Marketplace

We’ll be hosting a live Ask Me Anything (AMA) session in this thread on Thursday 9/17 at 10am PT, where a number of folks from our platform engineering team will be online to answer any developer-focused questions you might have related to building Apps and submitting to the Marketplace.

Feel free to begin posting questions here in advance! We’ll do our best to get to everything we can on Thursday.

See you there!

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Thank you for publishing the read format for lookup fields! While this is such a small thing in the scope of all the news, it is really nice to have and easy to see the implications.

The other changes are so wide sweeping that they need time to digest.


Also, the name “marketplace” implies that there would be apps for sale. However, the marketplace currently does not sell apps; it makes them widely available. Any financial transaction need to take place off platform. Care to comment on the the “marketplace” name and the ability to sell?

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We’d like to second that. While Airtable might not get involved with the billing infrastructure, it would be helpful to allow us, authors, to make it clear for potential buyers what plans the app offers, and what each plan might cost.

Eg.
Free - x features
n/month - x+y features

Where is this located?

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@Justin_Barrett

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It’s a bit in the weeds of the sdk changelog.

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ICYMI - we’ve also linked to the breaking changes in a post here: Custom Blocks update: Apps, SDK v1.0.0, and more

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Does Airtable have plans for a developers partner program?

How can I register as an Airtable app developer? What’s the process to publish an app in the Marketplace?

I don’t think there currently is a method of registering as an Airtable app developer. (Hence my question about a developers partner program.)

Anyone with an Airtable account can just start developing. The instructions for publishing an app in the marketplace is here.

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  1. Would Airtable be interested in buying the rights to an app for inclusion in the Marketplace?

    • I can imagine a scenario where a developer won’t want to set up a payment system to charge users, dealing with authenticated “active plans”, etc in order to distribute their blocks.
    • As an alternative, if Airtable bought the rights to, or established a “bounty” for, the best of the best of Custom Apps. That may relieve some of the headache for small-time devs like myself.
  2. Will there be a “developer portal”?

    • I can imagine in the top bar next to “(My) Bases” there would be a “(My) Apps” where developers can manage the apps (title, description, icon, etc.) they’ve made, whether they’ve been submitted to the Marketplace or not. Ideally, you’d be able to see/update the code for the app there as well. As it stands, there’s not easy way for us to see all the apps we’ve made in one space.
    • It would be an absolute DREAM if from there, you could use something akin to the “Base Invite” functionality to invite users to be able to use an App, making it available for them in their Apps Library. Much like inviting someone to a base or workspace, you may have the ability to remove someone’s access.
  3. Will the Marketplace feature “developer profiles” similar to user profiles on the Universe?

    • It would be useful to “follow” your favorite developers, especially if they’ve released more than one app
    • It would also be great to include tags for apps, similar to base tags on the Universe
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If I’m right sharing blocks with a 3rd party meant that you had to give access to the entire database. Is that with Marketplace any different? It would be great to create an app, and only have this app accessible for a 3rd party.

Regards,
André

I’d rather see it similar to Shopify apps, where developers can decide about their apps pricing, but it’s Shopify that handles the recurring app charges, adding them to customer invoices. Then, twice a month, Shopify pays out the collected amount to the developer’s PayPal account.

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Along the lines of @Kamille_Parks’s questions, I think I just don’t understand what incentive I have, as an independent developer, to build and maintain Apps in Airtable’s Marketplace.

I will certainly be developing Apps for myself. I have some inkling of desire to share some of the Apps I build with others, for their general benefit.

What I don’t have is a desire to receive a flood of incoming email from people I don’t know asking me for upgrades, bug fixes, improvements/enhancements, technical support on an App I decided, out of the goodness of my heart, to share with the world – and especially when there is absolutely no economic incentive for me to do so.

Marketplace seems like it makes a lot of sense for established companies that have a web service with an API. They have an incentive to publish an App on Airtable’s Marketplace for free, to move users towards their service and offer a desirable integration.

But I just don’t see how this makes sense for someone like me - a casual, independent developer. I work hard in my free time to develop quality Apps that I think others can benefit from. My reward for publishing these in Airtable’s Marketplace is that, if I want to benefit economically from this, I have to set up any payment processing and information gathering myself, and have no way to really police the use of my app; and in addition, I am on the hook to receive and respond to any manner of feedback regarding my App.

The economic incentive just isn’t there. I had imagined, as Custom Block’s beta began and was rolling along, that Airtable was targeting individual developers, “Makers” and “DIYers” if you will, with the platform. But it looks like they are targeting companies providing a web service that have an economic incentive just by having incoming traffic to their API’s and services. This is fine - it’s a valid direction to go - it’s just a little disappointing to someone like me.

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Will the rest of the Airtable published apps be made open source?

The Gantt app is a great example of an app that needs a lot of small improvements (and perhaps some large ones). I am no expert, but I would love to jump into the code of this block and see if I could remix it into the incredible powerhouse solution it could be.

The Flowchart app is another one we use frequently, but I have to do a lot of work arounds (including creating fake and meaningless records) to get the right look. Being able to tweak this would be awesome.

Thanks for all of the amazing hard work recently!!

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Agreed. Also, as a consumer, I’d MUCH prefer to have Airtable handle my billing than have to rely on the developer to set up things well.

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Expanding on my desire for a developer portal where we can see all the apps we’ve built for Airtable in one spot:

Will developers who have had apps published to the Marketplace have access to any sort of metrics like number of installs?

Agree with this. And would be great to get some sense of the Marketplace roadmap. No doubt the Airtable team have reviewed different models out there, but Shopify stands out as one that takes some of the pain away from indie/small developers, by managing the payment side of the process. If course, support questions, bug fixes and feature requests are always going to fall to the individual developer, so your capacity and desire to take this on will determine how involved you get in the Marketplace.

But, for the AMA - would great to get some details on Airtable plans for the marketplace.

Thanks!

Here are a few questions:

Has Airtable come out with best practices for storing and displaying sensitive data such as API keys in a custom app?

The Developer policy states that apps may not use unpublished APIs. What about an internal unpublished APIs that the developer has created specifically to interact with Airtable but does not want the public using?

The Developer policy states that apps must function on the desktop version and all supported browsers. It is not realistic for independent developers to actually test all of those scenarios. What do you consider to be a reasonable amount of testing for an independent developer?

The Developer policy states that apps may not “[d]isplay advertising or promotional content beyond your (or your organization’s) name and logo” Does this mean that we cannot include even a website in the app itself?

How can a Developer remove an app from the marketplace if the developer no longer wants the app to be available?

Can you clarify on the requirements to provide customer assistance? Are we allowed to charge for customer support?

Can you clarify on the requirements to provide bug fixes in a timely manner? What if the “bugs” are in a 3rd party library that the developer uses?

What are the consequences for failing to provide timely assistance/bug fixes? What notice will you give developers if they are not in compliance? Will you give developers any assistance?

How will Airtable determine if there are user issues, since developers must provide contact information? (Presumably users would be contacting the developer directly.)

Will there be an in-marketplace method for obtaining feedback from users? For example, will there be a rating/review system put in place?

Is there a link to this Session?