We need more software builders, not just users

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Howie Liu

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A half a billion apps are about to be created, and the next wave of creators won't need to be tech-savvy

A half a billion apps are about to be created, and the next wave of creators won't need to be tech-savvy

Airtable's new platform empowers teams to build exactly what they need, using flexible, powerful tools.

“The real computer revolution hasn’t happened yet.”

Those were the opening words of a presentation I used in 2012 to explain the idea that would become Airtable. We didn’t even have a name and computers were pretty much everywhere by then, so I’m lucky I wasn’t laughed out of the room.

But I still believe it. No matter how much technology has shaped our lives, the skills it takes to build software are still only available to a tiny fraction of people. When most of us face a problem that software can answer, we have to work around someone else’s idea of what the solution is. Imagine if more people had the tools to be software builders, not just software users.

To us, that’s the real computer revolution. And it’s why Airtable is entering its next chapter: a new platform where anyone – even without technical training – can create customized applications that perfectly fit their needs, build more interconnected teams and organizations, and benefit from a growing community of people who share what they create.

Teams at more than 200,000 organizations already use Airtable as the database powering everything from major film productions to the world’s biggest retail product launches. Now, with a platform that grows and extends based on customers’ unique needs, they’ll take part in what analysts expect to be the birth of 500 million new customized applications by 2023.

We’re thrilled to introduce the first of many features we’re developing. We look forward to your feedback, and we can’t wait to see what you build using Airtable.

Build or integrate the apps you want (even if you’re not a developer)

Previously, teams could customize Airtable using Blocks (pre-built functionality like maps and Gantt charts). Today, we’re expanding them to be much more powerful.

With Airtable Apps, you can now create applications with the precise functionality and design you want. For example, Frontline Foods, which supplies meals to frontline health workers, built a custom app in Airtable that matches hospitals and other facilities with nearby local restaurants. The app helps allocate resources where they are most needed, helping Frontline cut down on driving time, save money, and deliver fresher food to those supporting their communities.

Airtable Apps are based in JavaScript – the most prolific programming language in history, with a community of 11 million members. Even hobbyist developers can piece together their own apps from over a million open-source JavaScript modules. And since apps are fully integrated with Airtable and your existing information, we can take care of most of the complexity that comes with building something from scratch. It’s much faster to get started, and you only have to complete the specific functionality that solves your problem.

You can also share what you create in our new Marketplace, where other teams can benefit from the building blocks developed by Airtable’s passionate and growing community. Marketplace launches today with apps for everything from translating text inside of Airtable, to annotating images, to managing a team’s workload, and we’ll add new apps built by our community in the future.


Automate work to keep your organization running smoothly

We’re also introducing tools so teams can build logic in Airtable and automate their work. Whether it’s a complex workflow involving multiple interrelated steps, or just a simple set of tasks, you can use Airtable Automations to extend your database even further.  

With Automations, you can choose from several common commands so Airtable will automatically send customized emails or message notifications, generate reports, perform repetitive steps, and more. Or you can design a completely custom workflow in seconds using JavaScript, including integrations with apps and services your team uses. For example, men’s grooming retailer Harry’s uses Automations to save hours of manual effort as they manage the production for a wide variety of products and packaging, each with unique requirements. Harry’s built a customized workflow that automatically generates tasks at key moments and estimates the effort required to complete them, helping teams better prioritize and allocate their time.


Create a more interconnected organization

Even as the nature of work changes, organizational silos still get in the way. Data is often stranded on individual islands, each with a specific owner. To be more agile, teams need a single source of truth that they can share and build on top of – where everyone, including those outside the organization, can incorporate the same data into their individual workflows.

We’re introducing Airtable Sync so you can build a collaborative network around your organization’s data. With Sync, teams have better visibility into the information they need to do their jobs. You can adapt to changes in real time, incorporate feedback faster, and reduce mistakes that happen when data is copied in multiple places, creating a more agile workplace. And you control exactly what is shared or hidden so you can improve collaboration while keeping sensitive data out of the wrong hands.


For example, A+E Networks uses Sync to connect their television programming and marketing teams so everyone – from public relations managers to line producers to graphic designers – can easily access production schedules and promotional materials as part of their daily work. Only authorized people can edit release dates or other sensitive information, but everyone can use it, so A+E keeps its source of truth accurate and up to date without sacrificing collaboration.

Our new features will be available worldwide starting today, and we’ve got more to come soon. You can learn more at an upcoming live training, or visit our support center for a deep dive. We're excited to see what you create!

About the author

Howie LiuHowie serves as CEO and is responsible for Airtable’s overall direction and strategy. He co-founded the company in 2013 to share the magic of building software with more people. That original inspiration—formed by his own experience learning to code and building useful applications—continues to drive Airtable today. He remains passionate about pushing the product to serve an increasing expanse of needs across Airtable’s diverse customer base.

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