Lukas Rosenstock's Blog

Lukas Rosenstock's Blog

Airtable, the spreadsheet-database-hybrid and fan favorite of the no-code community, has announced a $185M VC funding round and a set of new features. I’m often concerned about large funding rounds. If a VC-driven company doesn’t live up to their hype, they either fold or end up in a larger tech giant’s portfolio. In the case of Airtable, however, I strongly believe in the product and its potential. I have used Airtable in a client project before to replace a home-grown CRM. It’s part of the phpMAE-driven email handling setup I mentioned in my last post. In another current project, most non-personal data resides in Airtable so that their interface can act as an admin interface, saving implementation time for internal tooling.

So, what are the new features? With Apps, Airtable renamed the existing Blocks feature and opened it to the broader development community. They are HTML- and Javascript-based widgets positioned in the sidebar next to the table, and they provide additional ways to interact with or enhance the data. The features are excellent for internal tools because the apps can fill the gap where the spreadsheet interface is too limited, but a fully-blown frontend isn’t worth developing. I’m looking forward to investigating the possibilities for my projects.

Another feature that was silently launched a few weeks ago but is part of the announcement is Automations. It works like IFTTT or Zapier. Based on a trigger, such as a new row in the table, you can launch an action, such as sending an email. As I just found out, it even works the other way. For example, you can have external triggering events in apps like Google Calendar. I find it a little unusual that there’s no action to post to an arbitrary webhook URL yet. Still, you can run serverless Javascript on their infrastructure to issue a fetch(), which means you can already integrate with everything that has an API.

The third feature is Sync and, as far as I understood it, allows mirroring data between different bases in Airtable. I won’t go into more detail here.

With the combination of Apps and Automations, Airtable fits perfectly into a product development philosophy of minimum coding, or an efficiencer mindset. It shows that developing applications with code and a no-code approach aren’t at odds. First, you start with existing tools and try to map your workflows in them. Then, build iPaaS-style no-code integrations to connect the tools for more advanced workflows. Then, once you reach that stage, write custom code to extend your tools with plugins and set up advanced integrations.

One of the reasons I’m excited about APIs is their role as a bridge between the worlds of software development and no-code app building. I believe this will become increasingly important, and we’re not talking about it enough yet. It will have implications for many stakeholders, including business owners, software engineers, API designers, and technical writers. I’m still searching for ways to understand these developments and articulate my understanding. Every post on this blog is a step in that direction.