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Re: Worried that AirTable is going downhill

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Scott_Gould
6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

Hi there,

First off please accept this in the spirit of genuine concern and not moaning or such.

AirTable is an important part of my business, and indeed a joyful part of my life as a tool that gives me immense value.

However, there are things that I am noticing that are starting to make me worried, and wonder if AirTable is going downhill.

I’m worried about this because I had the same experience with Evernote. It was an excellent product for a long time, and then it stared going down hill. It’s now a worse product than it was at its place of best usage to me.

AirTable was a very consistent product. That’s what I liked about it. But I’m starting to notice inconsistencies, and it’s really worrying me.

Maybe I’m just getting itchy feet. I don’t know.

Is anyone else feeling this?

21 Replies 21

I, too, was quite thrilled with Evernote, a distant memory of being quite delighted with the product. And then it changed in almost imperceptible ways at first. Over time, I wondered if I wasn’t the frog in the experiment to see if I’d jump out of the pot before it got hot enough to kill me. That’s a myth BTW - the frog will jump out once the water becomes too hot. And like the frog, I bailed on Evernote, but not fast enough.

As to Airtable, I also see signs that are similar to long-lost software apps. If you live long, you’ll start to see the signals of decline, and while I’m sensitized to what you’re suggesting, there is one signal I’m not seeing – what looked and felt like some ideal features that hooked me on Airtable, still seem to be there. There’s an undeniable consistency in the core UI and functionality that was present in 2017 and remains today.

All successful apps and companies must adapt and change from time to time. However, my fear is more centred on evolving the underlying architecture fast enough to reflect the requirements of scale and enterprise suitability. How many decades will we wait for a Split() formula, or the obvious need to open the platform to support user-defined functions? These are examples of change that cannot come fast enough and will be absolute certainties for platform longevity.

Since you kicked open this door, you’ll now have to be very specific about what troubles you. :winking_face:

Hi Bill,

Thank you so much for this response. I’m glad to be able to talk about this frankly.

The things I have seen are very small and perhaps I’m being oversensitive, but they do reminder of me of other apps that declined. In no order, then are:

  • The add button doesn’t fit quite into the design, and then you get a window of options that are half implemented IMO
  • The dropdown menu is styled differently on some elements
  • The background color on Kanban view was recently changed to a shade of grey, and it’s now harder to distinguish cards. A small but important UI change that is very noticable
  • Interfaces has two entries - fist the interface base, then the interface view - that’s two redundant clicks
  • Going back to the base from the interface uses a subtle difference in design languagr]
  • The frequent “suggested for you” is like Evernote offering me old features I’ve never wanted
  • I see more and more “Contact Sales” or options to upgrade to Enterprise, even though I’m on Pro level and a solopremneur using it just for myself
  • the back button in Mange fields (and formerly in automations) is on the left side of the screen, utterly the opposite side of where it should be

I feel very pedantic. I’m not talking here about features I want that they don’t have (although, I am desperate for a better page writing thing, so that I can make better notes, like Notion). I’m just mentioning the little things that seem to indicate a slight sloppiness on a platform that for years I always held as being very tight.

And so it worries me, because Evernote was tight. And then it just became an ungoldly mess, one little UI slip after another

Yep - it would be nice, but Airtable has carved its niche without giving deference to content creation or management which is why my team at Stream It uses Coda, not Airtable. And the entire premise of Airtable is about tables with data, so we can’t indict them for remaining true to that conviction. Whether that’s a smart strategy or not remains to be seen. Lack of it certainly didn’t help in Stream It’s decision process.

It’s the “kitchen sink” indicator; once they feel compelled to toss in everything including the kitchen sink, you best be looking for the EXIT sign. Back in 2017 the ungodly mess was represented by the vast array of Goldbergian workarounds and hastily crafted Zapier recipes. This allowed Airtable to remain relatively simple. Then the other shoe dropped; they realized that (for many reasons) a number of workarounds had to be made less workaroundy. Ergo - complexities representing the true requirements that users had in mind needed to make their debut in the UI. Now, the ungodly mess has come home to roost, and it will likely get worse before it gets better.

Can they overcome the mess that is brewing?

Your points are all good indicators of the slippery slope to product obscurity, and @ScottWorld will be quick to add another 200+ items to your list. :winking_face:

Thanks for this Bill. I like your Goldbergian point :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve come across @ScottWorld’s stuff before and used some of his formulas

I have lovely AirTable personal CRM setup. It runs so much for me in a very automated way (I have it hooked up to monitor my email, update my contacts, manage calendars, automate my accounts, email me reminders, etc etc etc)

But, I of course get a bit worried it might all go south!

I can’t go down the rabbit hole with you here, because it will eat up my entire day, but your instincts are 1,000% spot-on. That’s 10x more than 100%.

Thanks Scott, good to know, or is it, not good to know?!?!

Lol, that is a question for the ages! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

How many don’t go south? Can you look at your business (or personal) process and find evidence of long-standing apps or services that have been sustained for at least a decade? I can see only one and despite having coined the phrase, Email is Where Knowledge Goes to Die, it is GMail.

I switched to GMail in 2005, but I should have switched April Fools Day 2004 when it was launched.

There are other apps that have sustained well; Excel and Outlook for starters. But when it comes to database apps, they don’t really stay around long. From VisiCalc, to VisiPlan, Quattro Pro, dBASE, Access, FoxPro, and Clipper; they all see their days dwindle relatively quickly. One Internet year, of course, is like 12 lifespan years.

This leaves only one known - change. Build your systems in ways that make it possible to grab a go-bag and move on. Since Airtable formulas and scripts are locked into the platform, the go-bag will probably have only your data. Ergo - best to think carefully about building deep dependencies on a specific architecture. Easier said than done.

FileMaker is amazingly still around 40 years later.

But yeah, I like Bill’s idea of having a grab-n-go bag, so you can flee at a moment’s notice. You may even want to use On2Air: Backups so your data is already waiting for you somewhere else, in case we don’t even get a moment’s notice.

I’ve been in the software industry since I was 12 years old, and I am not personally thrilled with what I see with Airtable’s internal operations.

On the other hand, Airtable has over $1.4 billion in funding, so that could sustain any downhill decline for a while.