One of the most common questions I get about Xojo from customers is “Do you think Xojo will stick around?” Sometimes I get ahead of myself and immediately think “Of course it will”. That’s not really the type of answer they’re looking for, so I try to elucidate.
Typically, they’re planning to start a big project and are reticent to go with Xojo for the following reasons:
- Xojo has a small team
- The Xojo community is fairly small compared to other languages/environments
- The number of recently announced sweeping changes to the language
- The backlog of bugs in Feedback
They’re not wrong to worry. If you’re looking to invest your time, money, and energy in to a massive project which could make or break you, you want some assurances that the technology you’re basing it on is going to last.
The Answers I (try to) Give
Xojo has a small team
True. They’re not Microsoft, Apple, or Google. Some people see this as a weakness, but I think it can be a strength. Your problems get personal attention, and if they’re major then the CEO will get involved. That’s a pretty big deal. Not to mention that all of the folks at Xojo care about their work, and that’s not something you see a lot of in bigger companies.
The Xojo community is fairly small compared to other languages/environments
Typically a small community size can be seen as a negative, but this overlooks the possibility to get to know others in the community as more than a name on the screen. You get to know who’s an expert in business, who’s a troll, who’s great with Win32 API, who knows the inner-workings of the IDE and compiler, and who is most likely to help and encourage new users. This gives you a jumping off point for knowing who to turn to when you have a specific question by @mentioning them in the forums or messaging them directly.
Xojo has a great community. There are local user groups where you can get tacos. Posting in the forum that you’re traveling to an area will more often than not result in an impromptu lunch/dinner with a fellow developer, or details about attractions that you otherwise might not have found. The forums use real names which personalizes members of the community, bringing citizen developers closer together.
The number of recently announced sweeping changes to the language
Some see this as a bad thing, others as a sign that the language is healthy. While I’m not overjoyed at the changes coming in API 2.0 and Web 2.0, as it’s going to create a lot of work for me and replace some of my products with built-in functionality, it’s definitely not a bad thing. Whether you’re talking about development languages, applications, or people; the name of the game is evolution. Evolve or die. If Xojo was the same today as it was back in 2000, how many people would be using it? Close to none. The fact that Xojo sees the writing on the wall and works so diligently to either get ahead of future issues or devote the hours to massive changes to improve current conditions is a major positive in my opinion. Just a few of the more massive big things they’ve done that worked in their favor, but some users were opposed to:
- Windows Target
- Web Target
- iOS Target
- Linux Target
- LLVM Compiler
I trust that they’re not asleep at the wheel.
Likewise, I try to consider what they’re looking at. If they start their Web project today and Web 2.0 lands in six months, that’s extra work for them. The key is develop with what’s available and worry about conversion later. Is it worth it to delay a project for six months rather than spending a week or less working out the kinks when you convert? I certainly don’t think so.
The backlog of bugs in Feedback
While frustrating at times, this is the reality of such a long-lived product with a small team for its all-encompassing nature. For what Xojo offers, the team gets a lot done. Sometimes things reported just can’t be a priority for them, especially if there’s a reasonable workaround. Are there reports in Feedback that we’d like to see addressed? Sure, and there always be, but Xojo is a company like many others that has a finite amount of resources available during its release cycles and must apply those intelligently. If something is a show stopper that effects a large portion of the customer base, you better believe Geoff and the team will be all over it, especially if the community rallies around that issue like we recently saw with a major bug in the ListBox.
Other Health Indicators
There’s a lot that could be covered in this section, but there’s one I’m intimately involved with. The third-party ecosystem. A sure sign of a language’s strength can be gauged by products being sold by other developers as a compliment to the language. Whether that be frameworks for extending the abilities of built-in functionality or entirely new UI paradigms.
From my point of view, the third-party ecosystem of Xojo is strong. There’s a lot of open source out there, as well as plenty of developers competing for cash by designing great additions to Xojo. If there are people who are making even a small portion of their income by expanding the functionality of the language, that’s a good sign. That means that there are users spending that money within the Xojo ecosystem.
There may be the odd occasional third-party vendor who takes months to respond, or vanishes overnight, but these are more the exception than the rule and can happen in any market regardless of how strong.
I’m sure there’s a lot I haven’t discussed here, and some points I may have missed, but this is how I see Xojo: strong, getting stronger, and striving to be the tool and company we all need it to be.