Saturday, September 30, 2017

Statement on ExtJS

In late August the news came out that Sencha was acquired by a company called IDERA. When I first saw the email, I was shocked & confused at the news. Was this a good thing or bad thing? I spent the following weekend googling for info on the internet, reading tweets, etc to try to figure out what it meant. There were rumors the engineering team was being let go, but nothing was conclusive and it remained that way for a few weeks.

In the last week or so it has become abundantly clear. The Sencha engineering team has been let go. The evidence was all the Sencha engineers announcing their last day on social media.

I work at Flex Rental Solutions, and we bought into ExtJS and its "one platform, no dependencies" philosophy a couple years ago. We are rewriting our Adobe Flash app starting with mobile first with plans to move onto desktop next year. We've had great success with our mobile app using the toolkit.

However, with the news that the Sencha engineers are gone, we are seriously questioning whether we will stick with ExtJS. Our mobile product is about to ship, so we are not going to pivot for mobile in the foreseeable future BUT we are considering alternatives for desktop. We have been banking on the "modern" toolkit to get fully up to par with the "classic" toolkit (presumably in the 7.0 release). We want to be able to build phone, tablet, and desktop with a single toolkit and codebase, and do not want to use the "classic" toolkit (since it's basically the legacy toolkit). With the Sencha engineers gone, the "modern" toolkit parity seems highly unlikely to happen, at least on a timeline that works for us.

ExtJS is a great BUT highly unused framework these days. Nobody really talks about it in the tech community, at conferences etc. It's sad ExtJS is such a great framework that almost nobody has heard of. I fully believe that is due to bad management of the toolkit, and not the toolkit itself. Here are some of my recommendations to give ExtJS a shot at becoming relevant again:

ExtJS should be free

Charging for the framework at all is just completely misguided. Even worse, you have to start with a 5 developer license pack. That pretty much rules out all the individual developers and anybody just looking to get an app off the ground. There is nothing wrong with having a company behind it (that makes money), but it should make money off support of the framework and other value added tooling, services, etc.

ExtJS should be open sourced

With ExtJS engineers gone, the only future ExtJS has is to be open sourced. Otherwise, the toolkit is just going to die. ExtJS is an incredibly powerful and complex toolkit. IDERA is kidding themselves if they think they can just pick up things where the Sencha engineers left off. Open it up to the community, and ExtJS actually has a shot at competing with the likes of React, Angular, Vue.js etc.

ExtJS needs to embrace mainstream JavaScript

It's been frustrating to me that ExtJS doesn't embrace the JavaScript ecosystem in terms of tooling and access to 3rd party JS libraries. ExtJS should just be a dependency that is declared in a NPM "package.json" file with build support via mainstream tools (such as Babel & Webpack). I know ExtJS likes to promote "one platform, no dependencies", but c'mon, sometimes you just want to bring in a node module that helps you do String manipulation or a multitude of other non-UI JavaScript operations that is not included in ExtJS or JavaScript.

What We'll Do at Flex Rental Solutions

Basically if full "modern" toolkit parity doesn't come out by early 2018, we will be forced to ditch ExtJS for desktop. This means that when our annual subscription comes around in June 2018, we will NOT be renewing. We have everything we need to build mobile in 6.2 & 6.5, so there will be no point in us renewing. We are already putting together a Plan B. We can already see there is viable path for us with React and mainstream JavaScript.


So IDERA, are you going to make the right choices? There are tons of other companies banking on modern toolkit parity and for ExtJS to embrace mainstream JavaScript. You will see companies leaving in droves for React/Vue.js etc if you make the wrong choices. ExtJS is a fantastic piece of software. Please do what's best for ExtJS and all its dedicated developers.

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