@Bruce_Maples, good to see you back here posting.
Well, that’s difficult to say because many things that were discovered and resolved back to the early 80’s are missing from a variety of technologies and Airtable is no exception. I think there’s a gap between two generations of tech solutions builders - those like you (and me) where we’ve endured the emerging innovation of personal database products and understood when a product reached a level of maturity, and those who lack this perspective. Indeed, I’ve spoken with many product engineers over the past decade who lack a clear definition of what it means to provide a complete database environment.
Why is there a gap?
Anyone’s guess, but my sense is that the new world of “modern” web platforms hasn’t really been tested much in real-world environments - at least not to the extent that we had to prove dBASE, Clipper, FoxPro, and others through the 80s and well into the 90’s. And perhaps this is related to a lack of data architecture being taught in schools the past 15 years. The focus in computer sciences dramatically shifted in the early 2000’s to clients, web apps, integration, and content rendering. Backend integration is thoroughly taught in schools, but data model architecture and native data model methods are not - that’s boring compared to fancy pages.
Airtable has been around for 6+ years and despite this, it shows a level of immaturity that is akin to the early days of Vulcan and dBASE II. Even VisiCalc (1981?) had a leg up on the way formulas integrate with cells.
BTW - if it wasn’t clear from the reference to JPL’s Vulcan database (JPLDIS by Jeb Long), I’m really old as well. But I have a good memory and during that time frame, I successfully developed products including LapLink, dBASE Professional Development Library, FoxPro Forms Converter, and dBRIEF - all of which were acquired by companies such as Borland, Microsoft, etc.
To be fair, Airtable has increased the pace of new feature development, but my fear is their platform is not being fully inoculated to the stringent requirements of business apps. If I’m accurate in this assessment, we will likely see a shakeout in the personal database sector where key decision-makers will begin to guide users into more mature platforms.
Regardless, the weaknesses like the one you point out, expose new technology companies to displacement - not disruption - a far easier pathway for competitors to extract user bases.