It’s Twitter pile on time for the fine folks behind 1Password. I, myself, thought about joining the hoard screaming how horrible they are to abandon native apps in favor of Electron. I think I’d be justified as a Mac loving sycophant.
After my initial disappointment I thought I’d think on it for a bit before writing my screed to Agilebits.
I don’t think I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna give the app a chance. Still love the app. Given their history and reputation I’ll wait and see how it turns out.
Michael Fey, their V.P. of Client Applications, and the decision maker on the matter has a nice writeup on their weblog about their challenges around rewriting their client code – which is, BTW, something you should avoid because it’s costly.
Ultimately we made the painful decision to stop work on the SwiftUI Mac app and focus our SwiftUI efforts on iOS, allowing the Electron app to cover all of our supported Mac operating systems.
As Mr. Fey points out. It was a simple business decision. They’re no longer the scrappy little startup. They’re big, and growing, and now they’ve taken VC money, which I’m certain brings its own set of expectations.
Over at Six Colors – one of my personal faves – Jason Snell is having none of it.
1Password, originally a Mac-forward software developer, has simply decided that the Mac isn’t important enough.
A lot of folks will think that’s really harsh of Snell. The entire article is worth a read. You can tell he’s torn. But damnit, this is, after all, the Mac! We Mac zealots are very picky.
I follow a lot of Apple and Microsoft folks, pundits and employees. I follow a Softie named Kyle Pflug and he’s disappointed by backlash to Mr. Fey’s blog post.
Great blog post. Horrifyingly toxic replies. Sigh.
Take a minute to read Mr. Pflug’s Twitter thread. It’s worth it.
Apple is a very slow moving company. Folks may disagree and that’s ok. They’ve been heavily criticized for their slowness in adopting web standards in Safari.
In a similar vein, Safari has consistently lagged behind competing browsers in supporting modern web APIs and features, presenting considerable challenges for developers wanting to create products that work consistently across all the major browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari).
Mr. Sun points out Apple’s slowness, or reluctance, to support modern web standards that allow web apps to be more like desktop apps.
A more standards based Safari would allow folks to make better web apps and give users more choice on their platform. That would mean we wouldn’t have to install another browser to work with certain web apps and web sites. They would just work.
We come back around to the native apps argument. Apple really wants developers to use their frameworks to create the best applications your money can buy for the Mac. As a developer, fan, and everyday user of a Mac I want the best possible experience I can get from my computer.
As noted earlier, Apple could, and should, embrace the open web 100%. Why? Good question. Because developers making these choices are not going to suddenly change their minds when they’ve decided the lowest common denominator experience is good enough for their users. 1Password isn’t some super sexy illustration or photo editing software. It’s a boring utility that does a job and does it really well I might add – yes, I’m a user and recommend it all the time.
If Apple would invest more time and resources to making Safari the best possible platform for creating apps and, at the same time, work on Electron so it would be a more performant, better citizen on the Mac, wouldn’t that be good for everyone? Imagine if you would an Electron for Mac package that includes Safari as it’s engine instead of Chrome. That would be amazing and would hopefully make the Electron experience suck less on the Mac!
In the end the big issue with that line of thinking is 15-30%. Apple likes it’s cut of each and every app sold in its App Stores. Granted we’re talking about Mac Apps here which, as of this writing, can still be distributed outside of the Mac App Store.
Apple also loves its platform and honestly believes its tools are the best to use when creating desktop applications. They have a long history of delivering on that belief; Objective-C, Cocoa, AppKit, UIKit, Swift, Catalyst, and finally SwiftUI. The last few years they’ve moved extremely quickly to deliver new developer tools. They really want us to take advantage of all that effort to turn out the best apps possible.
I got nothing in conclusion. I love making native apps but I also use a few Electron apps I really enjoy, like Slack and Notion to name a couple. Sure, at times, the hog memory and make my computer fans start roaring, but restarting them usually fixes it for a while. The only native app that ever does that on my computer is Xcode and it gets a pass because it a dev tool.
Everyone is going to have to make their own choice about Electron based apps going forward because they’re here to stay no matter what we zealots and Apple say.