If you were interested in the library and are sad that this pivot means it won't be supported, I want to mention there is ongoing work in the OSS community outside the company supporting the pre-pivot vision.
I've personally been working on a fork called samsaraJS (http://samsaraJS.org), and there is another community effort at infamous.io.
These are both early stage labors of love, and always looking for contributors!
I'm kidding--how could that be true when Famo.us was started by essentially a non-coder who touted his jQuery skills to falsely (and naively) present as though he was a coder. Did Steve even write a line of code. A startup this technical needs a super coder at the helm. In short, it should have been obvious to us outsiders that Famo.us was about nothing more than its unsuccessfully self-referential and self-serving name, "Fame."
The fact that Steve was more concerned about money and making one of those type of startups, rather than hunker down with a small team and get a focused job done like the Meteor team has, astounds me. It's basically an outrage. How about hire a smaller team and not send them on wild goose hunts building stuff beyond the core vision. It's typical startup nonsense where inexperienced non-technical founders want to build the world and don't grasp the importance of focusing on a true MVP. I don't care that he was--i think--the #3 guy at Powerset, or that he kinda can code. From the looks of how busy he was at all the Famo.us marketing side of things, there's no way that guy was leading an engineering team--i.e. the only way this sort of grand vision could ever be accomplished.
The messed up part is that what they finally released at the end seemed to be on point with what we need. The interface is on point. It's a great start at least. Had they been more focused they could have arrived their earlier. And then they could have stuck to their guns and stuck it out until their framework got an actual following. But they never got a following, and therefore (combined with his needs for Fame and Money) Steve felt the need to pivot. Had they had any semblance of a following/userbase, this wouldn't have happened. Seen this happen so many times. You know, get that fire burning under your initial small group of passionate customers like kindling, like Paul Graham always says. They certainly had the perfect marketing pitch to do it.
All they had to do was take the vision to the bitter end like I hope Infamous.io or SamsaraJS does. For a while, as an outsider, I just figured they were suffering because the technology wasn't in fact possible. I.e. they couldn't truly get the performance needed for production apps. That they fell apart for any other reason is scandalous.
I wish the best to anyone picking up their codebase. We still need this stuff!
I watched the video in the article, and I can't believe that people are throwing money at someone with a pitch like that.
I feel like everything about Famo.us is all the wrong things that were described in the Reconsider article that was posted the other day https://medium.com/@dhh/reconsider-41adf356857f
The problem, though, is that building a new platform is really, really, really hard, and they didn't succeed. One of the biggest problems that I see that people underestimate is that most (not all, but most) great native mobile app engineers _don't_ want to build cross-platform apps. They tend to be "platform partisans", either loving Apple or Android, but not usually both. They always want to become experts in the latest and greatest platform technology. Perhaps more importantly, Apple and Google aren't particularly interested in cross-platform technology either. If you want to be featured in the App or Play Stores, you've got to have a native app that uses the latest iOS or Android features.
I see lots and lots of cross-platform mobile solutions on HN, but I rarely see people considering the incentives of both Apple and Google, and the mobile developers, when it comes to evaluating these solutions.
Yes. We bought into it and did a proof of concept app with Famous. We did get it to work, but it cost way too much effort, there were way too many bugs, and it ran on way too few browsers.
We decided to not use Famous again. The proof-of-concept app lingers around, it's still cool and we're hoping for a new chance if a community version of (in)famous becomes somewhat more mature.
Of course this applies to developers whose goal is to create software, as opposed to those whose goal is to bill hourly.
Hold on, it's not that we don't want to build cross-platform apps, at least not universally. In my case, it's because I believe the contortions involved in abstracting out multiple wildly-divergent APIs built for different languages to a common system runtime necessarily lowers fidelity and quality for both.
"Write once run anywhere" ends up being a lot harder than "Learn once write anywhere" - I'm hopeful that React Native will demonstrate the success of this approach on mobile (even though, personally, I wish there were a non-JS option).
Ah, the problem with generalizations about large companies. http://flutter.io/, by Google.
I agree, though, that Google has somewhat more of an incentive to build stuff cross platform than Apple does. Google wants you to access their services from any device, while Apple makes almost all their money from the devices themselves.
Though that's probably not really worth that much since they're a close second, unlike everyone else.
It mostly sounds like they got sick of writing the same app twice internally though, which I could definitely see happening to people who just want to ship product and aren't platform partisans (it would be a bit weird to me for iOS partisans to go work at google?).
They don't care if you are on Android or on mobile web, so cannibalization here isn't an issue; both lead to Google searches.
Now, it might get momentum and eventually get more attention and more resources from Google leadership; but it also might not.
You do get some neat demos, but not a lot else.
I won't discount the possibility that there will be some future problem that will be solved by a 3D GUI, perhaps astrogation.
When they launched, though, it was just lackluster and had some major rendering bugs. It felt like the air got let out of the tires and everybody just moved on. So looking at it now, it's definitely difficult to see what all the hype was about.
Look at how this Famo.us office tour showcases the waste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imc1p_laIt4
The only thing you might find objectionable is the expensive SF location, which the article notes they got on the cheap at below-market rates, or the printer (the printer is probably only 1-2 thousand dollars, less than a Macbook).
I find it hard to believe any of what this former employee wrote.
Just because you said there's nothing wrong or particularly wasteful with the office doesn't mean others agree. Outside of bubbleland, most people are going to struggle to understand why the CEO of a company that almost certainly doesn't have a cent of profit spent any time whatsoever thinking about how he could avoid "boring noise panels."
"Why not make this a piece of art as well on the ceiling?" Really?
When will folks learn?
My broader point is people are just trying to find any excuse to uncharitably interpret anything just so they can to crap on the company.
Bottom line: this company crapped on itself. You're deluding yourself if you truly believe office managers are driving decisions to waste time and money on stupid sh*t like beautiful noise panels.
On second thought, it appears that the office is going to be pretty quiet soon enough.
And why on earth would I finance ceiling tile purchases for some random company? There's something wrong with you.
ps -- while it's fine to be surprised at companies lighting money on fire, gloating about a company laying people off is all class.
When you run an unprofitable company that subsists on investor money, every single hour of leadership's time is invaluable.
> I dunno, should their office be a hovel?
So the choice for startups is a) a swagged-out office in one of the most expensive commercial real estate markets or b) hovel? What world do you live in?
> Because you appear to have some sort of issue with this founder outside his attempt to make their office a nice place to work.
You're free to believe this office represents a modest attempt at creating "a nice place to work," but outside of bubbleland, most people will see excess.
By the way, "a nice place to work" is just as much about how people are treated and interact with each other than it is about all of the "stuff" that gets put in the office. Unfortunately, leadership teams at many early-stage startups today don't seem to recognize this.
> And why on earth would I finance ceiling tile purchases for some random company?
It's only "THOUSANDS!!!" of dollars. You seemed genuinely concerned by the noise levels.
> while it's fine to be surprised at companies lighting money on fire, gloating about a company laying people off is all class.
I started my career at a dot bomb in the first boom/bust, so I have been on the other side. It taught me one of the best and most profitable lessons of my life: don't work for people who seem better at spending money than making it. Hopefully some of the younger folks who get laid off for the first time in this cycle will come away with lessons of their own that will help them avoid being fooled again in the future.
Finally, you seem to be missing the fact that lots of people are not surprised startups today are lighting money on fire. We see it every day, and many of us frequently point it out. What baffles me is that folks like you are surprised at where this leads and indignant when somebody points out that a bad outcome was more than likely. Shouldn't your indignation be directed at the people who are responsible for the incompetence, excess and waste?
There's plenty of counterexamples (including several I've worked for) who have somehow succeeded despite spending relatively modest amounts of money to make the office a pleasant place instead of a loud dump with sawhorse desks and 20 year old carpeting. If you're complaining about sfbay rates, well, that's what office space costs here.
Believing spending well under one engineer's annual salary made a bad outcome more or less likely is nothing other than dumb.
Now you're being obtuse. It is the cumulative effects of leadership having out-of-whack priorities that can lead a company to the deadpool. Get it?
In any case, I'll take being Common Sense Dumb and having a successful, profitable business over being Silicon Valley Smart and handing out pink slips any day of the week.
Even the TV host said it right in the video "This is crazy!"
It totally makes sense.
> Newcomb himself admits it was a “divergent brainstorming process,” saying “We tried everything…we tried everything so we could create a business model around open source. And at the end of the day, we just couldn’t do it.”
What a load of shit. This has nothing to do with open source.
Recently, there were a few other attempts at reimplementing most of the web in WebGL, I think Flipboard had an article.
Let me point out, this is hard. You wind up with some of the features HTML/CSS already has that's faster, but a ton of missing stuff you end up needing at some point.
For example in WebGL, layout is non trivial, rendering text correctly is non trivial, events are non trivial. These things are an afterthought when working with HTML/CSS.
People love to shit on HTML/CSS and blame it for their problems, but at the end of the day, the grass really isn't greener on the other side.
Don't blame open source because it can't rescue your product. Great products and care for the community foster great open source communities, not the other way around.
Static sites working better and better (and are way way faster than firefox).
However I think that servo is the right step, however I just think that it should have more people so that the Innovation could be faster.
Cool, thanks for helping out! I hope you're helping them by reporting bugs when you find them.
> it will take a long time until this will be stable
Sure, it's a WIP. That's to be expected. Expecting otherwise is unrealistic.
> It's not ACID1, ACID2, ACID3 compliant
> I just think that it should have more people so that the Innovation could be faster
Check out the top story on proggit:
also on acid2 i get different results every day/week. sometimes i'm good somtimes not.
Yeah servo gets more support, i still think it takes at least another year (or more) to ship it.
Huh? Servo has passed Acid1 and Acid2 for, like, a year now. Servo doesn't pass Acid3, of course (although neither does Firefox anymore!).
I mean, I'm not going to claim that Servo is by any means Web compatible yet, primarily due to a long list of bugs and incompletely-implemented features. In terms of feature checklists, though, there's a lot done.
That doesn't mean thats bad.
And Firefox is passing Acid3. And always did.
I mean ACID1 and ACID2 failures are mostly regression that getting fixed a day after but still its not roughly stable.
Acid1 and Acid2 are reftests. The CI system ensures they continue to pass on every commit. Commits are not merged if they break the Acid tests.
> And Firefox is passing Acid3. And always did.
No, it didn't always pass it. Acid3 didn't even exist when Firefox first came on the scene.
Firefox scores 99/100 for me.
I'm more bullish on WebGL. To meet the desire to do VR, gaming, and data visualization on the web, a lot to be done. We went all in for the data side, and surprise, people with data problems are happy to pay for you to help them finally see it ;-)
I dove in because i try to get a balanced view of things before I make up my mind about things, and there was some stuff in there that I really liked.
I tried building something with it, and it didn't really work out.
But even worse was the way that they interacted with their open source community.
It was completely cathedral-style, for a long time. And just as they became more bazaar-like everything dries up from them.
Nobody was on irc, nothing on the issue queues. The only thing we heard was more promises for x integration, and y integration.
Eventually the community got fed up and called them out on it, to which they finally admitted that
they had started a complete rewrite behind closed doors to use 'mixed mode' css3d and webgl rendering. 6 months later, they released their new 'engine' rewrite, and an additional 'framework' on top of it, which really did not seem fully baked.
They subsequently made a really big deal of helping found the jquery foundation, and organized
a jquerySF conference that had them on stage promising to replace major jquery widgets with drop-in famo.us ones.
And then nothing. Commits stopped, feedback stopped, slack channel was closed. News started filtering out of devs working there leaving one after the other.
The entire thing did teach me some important life lessons, though =)
At least there's a few mistakes i won't make again.
Yikes. If ever I wanted a paragraph printed on a poster to scare me into working harder, this is probably the one.
[buzzword translator activated]
"It's now building another Squarespace."
I got reprimanded by HR after they found this poster I put up in one of the interview rooms: http://i.imgur.com/dzk0YcA.jpg
HR was interviewing someone who was seeking H1-B and noticed this poster hanging on the wall during the interview...
Anyway bold move, my office need a couple to lighten things up.
> Newcomb describes it as “one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to
> make because it meant letting go of some people.” Stressing the firings
> weren’t easy for him. “Before I made the decision, I drove scar from San
> Francisco to Baltimore and back to think it through,” he explains. “I took
> eight days.”
He either knew he was bullshitting, or he didn't have enough technical understanding to actually understand his own platform, and if pushed on anything remotely technical, he'd basically just throw his cofounder into the ring to overwhelm everyone with the (admittedly very clever) optimizations they were doing at their rendering layer.
I ran _fast_ the other direction, the whole thing gave off a horrible vibe.
The platform they built is really amazing, but there was no sense of how they could start making money in any reasonable period of time considering their costs. I'm sure everyone who was working there will be fine as they had some tremendously talented engineers.
Compare to what ionic did, and i'm not a big fan of it, but the ionic team demonstrated the usefulness of their framework quite fast with concrete apps.
As for making money obviously, you make money with consulting, cloud services,tools for professionals and co, but you need a community at first place. Famo.us never had a one.
That said, they were in fact making an effort to increase adoption with initiatives like Famous University, famous-angular and various project demos and usable widgets.
The answer to why they struggled to increase adoption so much isn't that clear to me, but what I do know is that they had a lavish office in an expensive part of SF, free food and a relatively large, well-paid staff.
I have no idea how they could have raised $31M on that.
This could have been an amazing framework built by the open source community instead it's now just another growth before revenue scheme that went wrong.
I predicted they would not do good - easy to verify comment history.
Of course, Famo.us' employees seemed to get a lot less equity, but let's be honest: I'd rather make $175,000/year and get 0.05% of nothing than $75,000/year and 1% of nothing
Oooh... that's going to be a tough argument to sell to people.
Just ... not ... gonna ... happen (for any reasonable definition of "app").
Will it take over like they said it would ten years ago? Hell no. Will it gain more market shares as people apply it to the right problems? I think so.
First time I heard of 5 years runway....
I also think it's deplorable that Steve Newcomb went straight to investors for this without putting any of his own money into paying employees. It's one thing to sell snake oil, it's another not to even try to build a working snake oil prototype on your own time without taking someone else's money and burning it.
Almost none of the comments I saw on HN were positive about this, which should be more of a red flag than usual given that developers are their target audience.
But whatever, I have no sympathy for VCs who have no idea what they're doing.
2) You are conflating difficult to monetize with inherently impossible to monetize. They are not the same thing. Just because it's challenging and failure-prone, doesn't mean it's impossible.
I don't hate thin fonts - for example in bigger sizes it looks good - but the thin an small combination is a bad choice. In Chrome it's a little bit better but I still won't read it.
It was an exciting place to work, for all it's ups and downs. Besides the product itself, the office, albeit ungodly expensive given it's location and size, was the perfect place to be productive and push yourself well into the night. There were spots you could work collaboratively next to others as well as little nooks you could "hide" and get some comfy undisturbed privacy. The ambiance of the place worked beautifully to be both creative and technical, together or individually. In the grand scheme of things, I think it's an expense that easily justified the potential reward.
On the other hand, the social culture that Steve crafted, often reinforced by his example, didn't sit right with me personally, nor did it sit well with many others. "Toxic" was an unfortunate word thrown around quite a bit while I was there. I do hope he takes time off to honestly...subjectively... reflect back on how he chose to treat people he calculated could be useful to him in the moment as opposed to those who were not.
On the flip side, when child-like dreamer Steve came through, speaking about his passions and what inspires him to do what he does, he was, in those moments, a really enjoyable guy and motivational figure to work for. I'll be casting an unpopular opinion here, but I do think the guy has it in him to lead another company to success, as long as he takes a cold, hard, unbiased, and honest look at himself to fully understand why famo.us, not just the product, but more the culture he crafted, failed with him at the helm.
The most important takeaway from my stint there was working with the incredible team and crafting the friendships I did. The level of talent that many of the original engineers had and the amazing personalities behind said talent gives me no worries that those who were let go will move on to something far greater and hopefully, personally rewarding. I already know that quite a few have! :)
http://www.thefamousgroup.com - Dat logo, though.
The folks focusing on the techcrunch cribs video and drawing damning conclusions from it are, rather predictably, chasing a red herring.
For what it's worth I actually felt more productive, focused, and relaxed (in a good way) in that office than in any I've ever worked in before or since. The high ceilings made a remarkable difference. The mix of open and private spaces worked. Going to work in a place that felt like a higher-class version of your home but where you could collaborate with your coworkers was pretty amazing. It was basically what co-working spaces always try to be but can never fully pull off. It doesn't make sense to complain about the damage open plan offices are doing to productivity and then get angry at someone who does the opposite. Granted, you don't need a semi-luxury penthouse. :) But I think the office was an under-appreciated reason why they were able to get (and retain) a lot of great engineers. It was in general a very sane, reasonable environment to do good work in, in contrast to most offices.
jondubois, aikah, and others are on the right track. Making money off a front-end framework is a long shot. The monetization plan (to the extent there was one) was always heavy on optimism and reliant on a lot of things going very very right.
That's not to say it was impossible, though.
The reasons famo.us failed are the reasons most startups fail:
1. They didn't do nearly enough to truly understand their users and meet their needs
2. They didn't communicate or collaborate well or consistently enough internally.
I could say more about both 1 and 2, but I'll wrap it up there. The real narrative of what went wrong is one that's familiar and pretty generic. The subplots of what they were trying to build and who was involved just makes it all a bit more interesting to speculate about.
p.s. dmvaldman is the man – you should check out his framework and say hi.
Also the frontend space is insanely competitive.
There are a lot of really good frontend frameworks that most people have never heard of.
I think they're exploiting their relationship with HN, and their need should be re-evaluated.
I found that a bit strange.
The domain has a value of ~$25,000 (-99.8% return on investment).
In all seriousness, to me a framework is just an opinoited way of doing things that makes a bunch of decisions for you so you have less to think about. It hinges on the fact someone has uncovered some useful abstractions that make the act of coding less tedious.
I checked out their demo and while it looked fancy, I didn't see any compeling reason to use it over plain html/css or three.js if you need fancy 3d stuff.
Also, calling your product "shitty" isn't the best strategy. Geeks see self-deprecation as a sign of weakness.