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Baserow.io – Self-hosted Airtable alternative (baserow.io)
802 points by punnerud 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 225 comments

I am so excited for this software. I have used Airtable extensively, and it's a pile of garbage. Here are just a FEW of the "features" Airtable charges $24/user/mo for:

- Reliable 1-5 hours a month of downtime. There are months where it's literally 1 nine of uptime. Their status page was actually down for a while (I think they forgot to renew it?)

- Simple and obvious bugs in the official API clients have not been fixed for years (for example, Promises in the official JS library throw the string `[object Object]` for all exceptions.)

- The API has no way to query the structure of a table, you have to infer it from the first few records. (The auto-generated API documentation is actually wrong if you don't have a fully-filled-in row somewhere in the first few rows.)

- You can't modify a table configuration by API... except you can _sometimes_ by adding a parameter which is documented to try to convert dates, but actually modifies field definitions for a number of fields. Documentation for which fields is entirely in scattered forum posts from users.

- Booleans in the API are `true` or `undefined`. Seriously.

This is all /barely/ worth it because Google Docs doesn't work when you need a large structured database with many collaborators. But man is it bad software.

> - Booleans in the API are `true` or `undefined`. Seriously.

But why???

Because they are not real boolean datatype, just strings probably.

Wonder what they use underneath; don't most relation dbs implement as int?

When you’re doing dynamic structure in relational dbs (traditionally) options include storing a wide row with all the data types and you choose which column to use, or storing as lowest common denominator (string) and casting in and out at runtime. These days you can work around this stuff with json / schemaless models.

Airtable allow switching data types on a column (from memory). Maybe they store everything as string and then the column definition is for display and allowed operations.

Hubspot do this (poorly) so they’re forever giving you back things like dates as string of a number representing a date.

I’m so glad it’s not just me.

I have been unimpressed with the over-complication and the...lacking API.

Try force.com (fully featured developer account is free with limits), very stable and fully featured PaaS with long tail of features. On a quick review Airtable as a slick/modern UX on less sound architecture than force.com, probably shipping features in a breakneck pace.

salesforce.com? can't tell if you're making a joke, recommending SalesForce, or there's another company called force with a different TLD.

Not a Joke. I am recommending Salesforce.com's PaaS offering (used to licensed as force.com, now called "platform" [0]). Expensive, but it is IMHO the best low code cloud platform there is that has got every aspect (Apps, Identity, Security, ACLs, Workflows and Triggers, APIs) right.

[0] https://www.salesforce.com/editions-pricing/platform/

Just hearing Salesforce should make you run as fast as you can , if you value your sanity as a developer.

Salesforce is unbeatable in marketing and sales strategy, but the products are horrible.

> sanity as a developer Low code is targeted at app building experience for non-developers/citizen coders. Curious if you have personal experience with the Salesforce platform and can provide details on some of your biggest gripes with it. I have used it with great success in building simple “textbox on database” applications that are easy to maintain and change.

> hearing Salesforce alone What do you think about heroku?

I am genuinely interested in alternatives that is cheaper and don’t charge per user.

I have never used a Salesforce app that was not terrible. I'm sure it provides lots of value to the business who use it, but it is awful awful for end users it is thrust upon.

My experience with Salesforce is exactly the promise of low code. Because you can get a lot more done without needing to be a software engineer, it empowers a whole extra set of people to build software without having to think in terms of reusability, performance, scalability, or a coherent data model. And you see the results of that.

I think as a platform it’s really powerful. (I’ve arrived at that after years of looking at it with disdain). But it’s problematic from our perspective exactly because it throws out anything we consider good habits of software development.

Force.com used to be a dedicated domain for salesforce's easy to use enterprise development platform, which is quite popular. Seems like they've rolled it back under salesforce.com as a page.

Can't say if I just got rick-rolled.

I agree that Airtable is expensive, but I've found their custom app development experience to be quite nice.

Just curious - what do you use airtable for exactly?

When do you need a structured database with many collaborators?

Airtable and the like strike me as a database tool for dummies who want 'anyone change anything anytime', which is just a recipe for no one knowing who the hell is changing what and when anymore.

Yeah it's common in business. Normally it's in a spreadsheet on a shared drive, so this is a step up.

Businesses change fast and don't always have internal development resources to create an application to do this sort of thing.

Microsoft Access and Lotus Notes (and to a lesser extent SharePoint) both had these characteristics and are quite popular for the long tail of business processes that aren't covered by dedicated vendors. The only problem is the tech tends to age and it becomes hard to migrate the 1000+ bespoke "apps" that live inside the enterprise.

"anyone change anything anytime" is much better than "hey can you email me that excel file? I'll make a few changes and then email it back to you" "actually I don't have the latest version, Person X has it and they're currently merging someone else's changes, so be patient"

It’s my understanding that the main selling feature of AirTable is the hard coded views that they offer; calendars, kanban style planners, things like that. The slightly more structured nature of relational tables over spreadsheets lets you implement those fairly reliably.

I use the free tier as a collaborative Kanban board for a tiny 5 person team.

Airtable allows me to define arbitrary fields for the Kanban cards, which happens to be a premium/paid feature in all the actual Kanban saas tools (Trello, etc).

It sounds like https://notion.so can do that too, besides being a real-time collaborative document editor, wiki, spreadsheet, etc etc

It isn't on Jira if you're <10 users, but Jira is a whole lot more than just Kanban and a huge beast.

JIRA would not just overkill but a bad fit for us, potentially requiring extensive configuration.

We're an academic research lab that also happens to do contractual work for other labs (mostly internal to the university), mostly designing and building mechanical prototypes and testbeds for other researchers.

It took like 5 minutes to set up an airtable base to track our WIP and all information we use for billing our "customers": hours, material purchased, internal budget reference, etc.

Yeah, most SaaS solutions have this problem. GitLab wants you to pay $80/user/mo to be able to get dependency scanning or vulnerability scanning. While Github gives you that for free. They could at least include it in their $20/user/month tier.

At some point you have to pay a price to maintain a competition in the ecosystem. We all know what happens when there is only a player left. Microsoft can just sink billions in side games like Teams and GitHub at the moment.

Personally, I think these two features should be part of the $20 tier and not the most expensive one. I don't understand why I have to pay $60/user/month more to get some UI integration which I can also get when paying for GitHub Enterprise for similar price as GitLab's $20 tier

I will be using this, and dropping a lot of my paid AirTable bases...and let me please explain why.

Airtable makes it VERY hard to collaborate with people outside my organization. We are a team of 7 people. No longer a scrappy 1-person startup, but not an enterprise client by any-means.

If I want to add a single person to an Airtable base, that's $24 a month please. I have one client with 12 people that want to collaborate on the base by posting comments. I can't justify $288 a month just to keep the comments for all time.I contacted Airtable about this and was told the "Enterprise Plan" would be a perfect fit. Minimum $15k a year commitment.

Why is this happening in the SasS world??? Everyone seems to be either single Pro user, or Enterprise. Do they really think there is nothing in-between?

There’s a few factors at play;

1) There’s customers who will pay 15k for the exact same users/features as you’re willing to pay <3k for. If they offered a cheap package then those customers wouldn’t pay for the expensive package.

2) Sub enterprise customers are a pain, they’re often as expensive as enterprise customers (acquisition, support, etc) but with significantly less revenue and higher churn. When a company decides where to focus it’s going to go where the money is.

I’m small’ish agency and we have clients with lots of stakeholders often that just need to be added to artifact systems like this for formal reasons but they aren't active enough to justify the costs.

I totally get that they need to make money to keep making a good product and stay alive. It’s a difficult problem.

One idea - If small clients are a pain (because of support) then support should be a specific thing that can dialed in a bit. AWS is fantastic here. Noisy people are gonna pay for it... but if I’m small, yet not noisy, then I don’t get hurt and can continue to drink the koolaid.

The simple answer is to charge for support like every enterprise company does

> Everyone seems to be either single Pro user, or Enterprise. Do they really think there is nothing in-between?

Just like GitLab. If you have users that might post one or two issues a year you have to pay for them at dev level prices. $240 / year for idle users that barely participate? No thanks.

And they have the same tone deaf solution; upgrade to Ultimate.

Silicon Valley SaaS bros have lost touch with reality because they have unlimited money to work with.

> Silicon Valley SaaS bros have lost touch with reality because they have unlimited money to work with.

Disagree. The issue is that they don’t want cheap users. It lowers your average user value, impacts your valuation, and usually cheap users are the most demanding to support in relation to their revenue. A user that pays $50/year and has 5 questions to support us very different than 5 questions from a user posting $5000/year

I see the support excuse all the time, but I don't understand why it needs to be that way and I don't really believe it to be honest. Sell me a small business version that includes per-incident support. If someone has a problem and balks at the idea of paying fair value for the support they need, then I agree they're not worth having as a customer.

If the goal is to ignore or be actively hostile towards the bottom 80%, I guess a lot of SaaS companies are succeeding. To me though, they're building poorer quality products that aren't going to capture enough up and coming businesses and the long term impact is going to be a bunch of bloated garbage with a ton of half baked features where everyone is competing for the "enterprise" dollars.

> It lowers your average user value, impacts your valuation

To me, that's what it's really about. It's pump and dump quality SaaS that's built for an IPO, not for the users.

> If the goal is to ignore or be actively hostile towards the bottom 80%, I guess a lot of SaaS companies are succeeding.

Yes, that is the goal. When an org decides to target primarily enterprise, the whole business model changes. You go from self serve to sales, from support chat to SLAs, etc.

You literally become unable to support small customers cost effectively and they are not worth your time.

Happens a lot in the B2B SaaS space when companies realize how much easier it is to have 10 users for $10,000 than 1000 users for $10. Some companies decide to keep focusing on small businesses and indies, which is great.

Ultimately there’s room for both business models in the world. But as a business, you have to make sure you work with businesses where you are [still] the target market.

Significantly damages your brand to do this and you'll defacto turn into a consulting company. Plus places incentives on your org to force things to be incidents since that's what pays. You'll get stuck in a local minimum of being a small-time consulting company.

Or maybe you won't. But that's the reason I wouldn't want to do it.

Besides, there's no way you can only access the no-support users. Google, for instance, offers one of these for their email product and are able to make the product free. In their case, they got brand awareness quite fast. But even though Google has Google One in the US if you want paid response, this forum frequently decries the lack of support.

The problem is the users who occupy the no-support space cannot be selected as consumers. When you try to do that, you will get an army of users who want to not pay but who do want support. They think they want no-support but they don't, and they will retroactively rebrand their reasons to be more than money.

That isn't bitterness or anything (I've always dealt with B2B software) but it's the reality of the thing as I can see.

I deal with a lot of small businesses and to me it feels like that entire sector of the industry is being abandoned. Most small businesses owners are practical and will pay for things when they need them, but they're fairly price sensitive and they expect good value for their money.

Take MS365 as an example. Most small businesses I deal with would be way better off with Exchange than with their current shared hosting email providers, but the value just isn't there for a lot of them. Microsoft thinks they're selling all this awesome stuff like Exchange, OneDrive, Teams, etc. in an ultra valuable bundle, but all small businesses see is Exchange plus a bunch of other bloat they're never going to use but are forced to pay for. They just want Exchange.

Plus, at least for the ones I've dealt with, the partner exclusively interacts with the customer, so bad support gets labelled as having a bad partner, not as Microsoft being bad. That also means Microsoft isn't incurring any cost to be the first point of contact either. In fact, the only time I've ever dealt with MS support for something Exchange related, they sucked. I ended up solving my own problem and closing the support issue by telling them what was wrong. Reputationally, we're the one that recommends it, we're the first point of contact for support, and we're the ones that take the reputation hit if something isn't working. At least that's my experience.

I see lots of small businesses that have 50 mailboxes for $60 / year at a shared hosting provider. That's $.10 per month per user. Guess how they react when you tell them moving to MS365 will be $5 per month per user? Now I'm not saying MS365 isn't worth more, but it's a HARD sell to tell a small business they should pay 50x for something that's currently working fine as far as they're concerned. Then you add in things like backup solutions changing per user per month and all of a sudden you're telling a small business they should pay 75x for the same feature matrix their shared hosting provider is selling them. They don't care about all the stupid value adds. In fact that stuff is negative value because it's unneeded complexity which results in frustration and increased support costs.

I think you answered your question right there. Microsoft does not want the business of a company where 50 mailboxes cost $60 for the whole year. They are happy to leave that market to other lower cost providers

It wouldn’t have to be that cheap though. If they sold Exchange only plans for $1-2 / user / month I could probably convince 10x the users it’s worth it. And they never deal with the customers.

It’s MUCH easier to sell someone another product at that point too. That’s literally the strategy (cross selling) Ballmer used to increase sales so much that he ended up owning part of MS.

even google charges $6+ a month for email. If they can't pay that tiny bit of money maybe they don't need a full featured product and its not a good market segment

Meanwhile MS and Google have thousands of satisfied customers with millions of users paying the $10/mo/user.

Google is making money with users' emails contents and ads displayed in their interface, so that's not like they are doing that for free. In the case of airtable, I'm not sure non paying users are bringing them anything that can be monetized (I may just not be aware of vicious monetization ways though)

Sell me a no or very limited support plan then (or charge extra for the support when it's needed). At least personally, if your docs are halfway decent and I don't run into any major bugs I will almost never make a support request.

That's not quite right. It's not the support. It's the churn metrics. A guy who uses your system episodically can give the appearance of a high churn rate. This is very bad and if you're raising money can imply that your system isn't sticky which lowers your valuations. If you're in the fundraising game that's actually worse than a few extra dollars of revenue.

Goodhart's law - When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

We need another law here... When everybody maintains bad measures despite knowing they don't work. Impact factors in science are another example of that. You can say it is broken and proove it, your jury for grants or positions will still ask you to put the numbers next to your papers, and if you don't they'll do it themselves...

The problem is getting those 5000/month accounts if nobody wants to use your product before they get there.

You’d be surprised. Those users come from sales more than self serve. Very different business model.

Who is going to buy your high touch sales offer if they see no one uses your product?

Is this a thing where all the YC companies buy each other's stuff to prop up the revenue numbers until IPO?

Have you tried buying from salesforce? Very high touch, very expensive, very unfit for small businesses, hugely successful and widely used.

Different audiences, different approaches.

Many successful businesses are such that none of us have ever heard of, but are making millions, sometimes billions. We haven’t heard of them because we’re not the target market and talking to us is a waste of resources.

Ah $240/year, I wish it were that cheap. If you want the security goodies is $1200/year/user. You have to make the impossible choice of getting everyone involved with the tool, or getting all the features. Because you can't afford the features AND the users.

> Just like GitLab. If you have users that might post one or two issues a year you have to pay for them at dev level prices. $240 / year for idle users that barely participate? No thanks.

Google Form linked in your readme, done deal.

> Why is this happening in the SasS world?

Because it works for them. I mean, they likely have customers for that $15k plan. And if they do, why would it be worth their time discussing <$24 plans that require extra dev time with you? (I don't mean it as a complaint - just awareness that for-profit companies will do for-profit things)

> Why is this happening in the SasS world??? Everyone seems to be either single Pro user, or Enterprise. Do they really think there is nothing in-between?

The in-between for some software out there is "Guest access". Services like Notion, Miro and Mural have this figured out, but it is very disappointing that most do not.

80% of the software revenue in the world comes from a few thousand companies. The big software vendors don’t give a shit about chasing that last 20%.

Price discrimination is a hard problem! There's a conflict between soaking your customers for as much as they're willing to pay, and making your product accessible to customers that won't pay that much. Finding a feature set that the first set of customers absolutely needs and will pay extra for, but the second set can live without, is hard.

The problem is that pricing is expected to be the opposite of what it really should be. Companies with 10k users expect a discount, but the reality is they should be paying a lot more because building a product to serve 10k users is much harder than building a product to serve 10 users.

On the flipside, why should I, as a small user, share in the cost of things like scalability, HA, SLAs, etc.? I don't need those things.

Based on what I've seen in larger businesses, those things can be paper features. It doesn't matter if the small business edition has the same scalability and HA as the enterprise edition. Large businesses will still pay for the enterprise edition because they need to be able to show they paid for HA, etc. to cover their own asses if anything every goes wrong.

Charge for scalability and reliability, not features IMO.

Hard disagree. Scalability and reliability, and SSO[0] are basic features any piece of software should have. Even a one-person startup shouldn't have to accept a tool being down for a month or all of their data lost due to a fire in a datacenter. Charging extra for any of these is a very shitty business model.

0 - sso.tax

How much scalability does one person need? And no HA doesn’t mean “down for a month”. It means I have no issue with enduring a few hours of downtime here and there. And HA and backups aren’t even related, so...

One person could still require significant capacity - imagine an API with flight info, and your one person SaaS that does some magic with it by getting the data real time for all flights around the world.

> And no HA doesn’t mean “down for a month”. It means I have no issue with enduring a few hours of downtime here and there

No HA means downtime is expected and frequent ( baring crazy luck, but let's not base business on hope). If your invoicing, or project management, or note taking or whatever SaaS is down and you need it now to do something for a client of yours, how many hours of downtime can you accept?

> And HA and backups aren’t even related, so...

You said scalability and reliability, good backups are a part of reliability. If a SaaS cheaps on backups and HA for small time clients like one-person companies or small startups, and then a fire burns it all ( but not entreprise customers, because their backups are replicated to another DC), is it OK because they were small?

Is it 1000x times harder to server 10K users?

In some cases yes. I worked for a b2b company, which was not designed as multi-tenant and all their customers were under the same db and the same service. Now imagine response time for small business vs enterprises (yes they had a few of those paying premium, lol), sometimes the later was infinite.

It does seem odd for those "low code" tools to not have a way to deal with "external users". For example, it would be logical to create a tool for accepting job candidates. The internal facing piece would be limited to some reasonable number of users, but the outward facing piece would have to allow anyone to submit a record.

I do know that knack.com has a pricing model based on number of records instead of number of users. Might be an option for you, depending on how many records you have.

Airtable does allow you to create a publishable form view so that anyone can submit a new record.

You can also add read-only users to a base without having to pay for them. But giving them any kind of edit access (even just the ability to add comments to records) requires a full-fledged user account.

An enterprise IWMS system I worked on solved this by charging only for enabled accounts. An admin could enable or disable accounts, and every month a report would show how many unique accounts were enabled that month and determined the billing. That shouldn’t be that hard to implement for airtable or any other SaaS, so it is puzzling why that option isn’t offered.

I remember Qlikview (reporting/data discovery software) had a per minute license for this.

There are a lot of inactive users in reporting apps. A lot of people just log in once a month to see a single report and this was a useful way to get more users onboard.

It looked scary at first because you didn't knew beforehand how many minutes you should buy.

Mising standard and by minute license worked great, though

That's ridiculous. Collaborating with clients should almost always be free.

Just out of curiosity, what kind of collaboration are you doing with clients? I'm the CEO of a platform specifically for businesses and their clients, and we loosely compete with Airtable.

Are your tables large enough Office 365 can't handle it for a reasonable price?

Do you mean excel, or has Microsoft come out with an airtable clone?

Excel is a really poor substitute for airtable.

MS has also PowerApps and Power BI. I have never touched them, and I hope I never need to. But they seem to play remotely in the same area.

SharePoint Lists is designed to compete with Airtables.

I mean Excel, and specifically for GP's use case.

"Why is this happening in the SasS world???"

It's the VC-finance industrial complex expecting a drive towards an IPO to exit while offloading the risk and unsustainable fees to the general public via misaligned stock brokers buying/selling to get fees vs. only benefitting long-term if their picks earn profit.

Hello everyone, I am Bram Wiepjes, the founder of Baserow. Baserow is an open source, soon to be open core, no-code database tool and Airtable alternative. Easily create your own relational database in a user friendly way without technical experience.

- Unlimited rows.

- Released under the MIT license.

- Uses popular frameworks like Django and Vue.js.

- Uses PostgreSQL as database backend.

- It can be self hosted.

- Designed to be performant with lots of data, handles 100k+ rows per table easily.

- Headless and API first.

- Supports plugins.

If you have experience with Django and Vue.js, we are hiring full stack developers. More info: https://baserow.io/jobs/experienced-full-stack-developer

Repository: https://gitlab.com/bramw/baserow

I noticed this in your job listing:

> Challenge: Potential candidates will be asked to do a coding challange by picking up a small issue from the open source backlog

The candidates who are fixing the issues, get paid? If so, I think this should be clarified.

Also, there is a typo in the word `challange` should be `challenge`

I made a sample database and found it hard to look up the API - you could make that discoverable/easier from the main UI.

i was surprised to find the field ID's are named like "field_48664" - are you globally autoincrementing your fields?? this is going to be bad news, no?

> € 4,00 per user / month

In the USA and I think all English speaking places we use dot rather than comma to separate decimals from whole number, and comma for thousands, millions etc. So at a glance (before looking closely) this looks like four thousand euros per user per month. I looked a second time and realized that was incorrect but consider fixing for EN- 4K/user/mo is quite shocking to read! :)

Price is in €, not $/£. English language is used as international language, not to designate anglosphere countries as the target market.

    .forEach(lang => console.log(lang + ': ' + new Number('1.23').toLocaleString(lang)))
  en-US: 1.23
  en-IE: 1.23
  en-GB: 1.23
  en-ZA: 1,23
  en-AU: 1.23
  de-DE: 1,23
  es-ES: 1,23
  nl-NL: 1,23
  pl-PL: 1,23
  ru-RU: 1,23
  cs-CZ: 1,23
  sv-SE: 1,23
  fi-FI: 1,23
  lv-LV: 1,23

Apologies, I must be missing your point. If the page is localized to/written in English as this page is, numbers should follow the English style of number formatting. There is an overwhelming consensus amongst English locales in how to format this number.

My goal isn't to be prescriptive, it's to reduce the likelihood confusion on the part of the reader. Writing in English then formatting numbers in a continental style is more confusing than writing in English and formatting numbers in the English style (obscure English locales with relatively minuscule numbers of users notwithstanding).

I've lived in Germany so it was easy for me to understand that €4,00 probably meant €4.00 given the context, but if I were unfamiliar with this style of formatting (as many American's may be), I might reasonably assume that the error was not a comma where there should be a dot, but a missing 0, making the cost €4,000/mo.

If it's your view that writing in English & formatting numbers non-English is more clear than matching the formatting to the language, I'm very interested in hearing that argument.

EDIT: I understand what you mean better now, you're figuring "Price in Euro = European target market." I didn't get that–I assumed the vendor is open to markets worldwide and charges in Euros because that's the vendor's home currency.

better use the user's browser locale + Intl to format the currency for you :)

Easier and better to just omit the decimal part: €4 per user per month.

"Eerly premium"

FYI, a pretty big typo on the front page.

Hey, some things I'd love to see in Baserow:

- Join fields from related table (currently we can only see the id from the joined table field)

- Multi-line select, multi line update.

- Schema support

- Saving views (sort/filter option, hidden fields, joined fields)

I also have a question, are Kanban and Calendar view available in the free self hosted version?

Incredible work!

Would Baserow be a good fit for using as database of subscription-based website? E.g. storing users, etc. You could have just static front-end and use Baserow as the database?

I'll definitely be looking further into it.

Any plan for proper mobile support? Couldn't find a ticket on GitLab.

Nice to see this using Django and VueJS! :D

Would love to talk to you - $hn_username at gmail

There's an interesting trend of open source clones of popular products. Most recent one that comes to mind is Athens [0] which is an open source clone of Roam Research.

The business model is always that people who really want it for free can self host, and people who don't want to deal with the hassle will pay for hosting. Seems like a reasonable strategy to me.

[0] https://github.com/athensresearch/athens

Hey! Founder of Athens here, we just launched on HN 2 weeks ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26316793

Agree with your comment. What we've found is that most people don't actually want to self-host, even technical users who can. But they all want the optionality to self-host, which you don't have with most SaaS's like Notion or Roam. This is doubley important for "second brains", apps where you brain dump your closest thoughts.

As Balaji has said, given the choice, "you'd always pick open source over a comparable proprietary equivalent."


I work at a university, we are legally not allowed to host a lot of our data outside of our country. While I'd love to use tools like Airtable & Roam we can't. As those vendors aren't interested in hosting in a small backwater country like Australia </sarcasm> an open source alternative I can host myself is amazing.

But I'd gladly pay more to have someone else manage hosting...

> an interesting trend of open source clones of popular products

Well, it's a "trend" as old as dirt, really. The "Linux desktop" was, for years, little more than a series of clones of closed-source Windows apps. Arguably even the original GNU programs started as clones of existing Unix tools. It's unsurprising that this would later happen for web-based services too.

> The business model is always that people who really want it for free can self host, and people who don't want to deal with the hassle will pay for hosting.

Again, pretty old news - Wordpress is almost 20 years old at this point.

The problem of this setup, though, is that the commercial version will typically set the roadmap and priorities, while the open version will end up lagging.

I think it's a smart way to make money with open-source projects. Charge for hosting and premium add-ons. For me Gatsby comes to mind. The framework will always be free but they have a build, CI and hosting platform that makes it easy. And i don't mind paying money for.

Plus, some occasional free development from PRs.

The number of times where I would be HAPPY to work on a project for free to fix an issue or add a feature I want - I couldn't count.

Instead, it's always reaching out to support and "Thanks for your feature request - it's not currently on our road map, but I've added it to our list."

Open source as a marketing tool

I've noticed this as well and I really think there's a market for a simple self-hosted cloud server. Many people aren't comfortable with managing a server and all the tech aspects that come with it. What I envision is a bring-your-own server solution that provides recommended specs (or buy from the company as a funding source) and similar to the app store you can download containerized app, let's say from docker, with 0 technical knowledge. Just a nice UI and all the functionality automated so the user doesn't have to do anything but click a button and maybe a settings page for really basic stuff. There can be an open library that just links to docker hub or whatever other platform as well as a curated library. It should all be encrypted and secure by default. It should all serve on localhost with an option screen to specify UI or hookup your own domain to access remotely. Again, UX is key here to abstract everything away from the user and make it stupid simple to use. From what I've seen, people would love to host their own services but either don't have the technical know-how or don't want to deal with managing their own server or AWS or whatever other droplet solution.

You may be interested in https://sandstorm.io/

Is Baserow on Sandstorm.io already? That would be awesome.


Google cloud marketplace allows you to launch all kinds of open source solutions with a click. This includes the setup for databases.

Though it's not a place that a non technical user would think to go, and I expect it's not really as simple as it promises. The devil is always in the details.

> Though it's not a place that a non technical user would think to go, and I expect it's not really as simple as it promises.

Exactly and you also don't own the data or have any expectation of privacy.

Isn't this the PaaS model?

Sort of but not really. On thinking about it some more for the average user, you'd really want to sell a ready-to-go unit so they don't even have to deal with the initial computer setup and platform download/install because I know that's still way more than a lot of people would want to do or feel comfortable doing. They want something that they own, with good privacy, that just works, and is maintenance free.

I imagine this company selling a visually appealing unit similar to how xbox and playstation aim to be more of an elegant accent piece than a clunky electronic box. This way when the user gets the product they just open, plug it in, create an account and password, wait for it to initialize, and then you're good to go and can start immediately downloading apps. Then just download an accompanying app on your phone/desktop/computer and connect to your own personal cloud where you own all your software and data. Could even sell upgradeable units for a premium that have an easy access panel to just swap or plug in additional RAM or SSD modules.

Such a system would be considerably preferable over cloud for things like backup of your phone files and photos (bandwidth), direct sharing of voluminous files (bandwith, no need to wait for upload to complete), videoconferencing (latency)

Sounds a bit like what synology is offering. The only problem is maintenance of that. You now have millions of boxes that will fail randomly for various reasons (bug, bit flipping, hardware error). And now you have a furious user that can't restore from a broken backup and doesnt know how to repair (if even possible)...

I wasn't aware of Athens, thanks! There's also Logseq: https://github.com/logseq/logseq and a few others, but I forgot their names.

More info on Athens and alternatives in this discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26316793

I'm reminded of Jonathan Blow's rant about open source software at the beginning of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLVjSeusPYg

Blow is a great programmer but his criticism makes no sense to me. "It's elitist and undemocratic that someone gets to decide whether they want to ship you code". what??

he was criticizing the idea of pull requests. You could spend a lot of time adding code and submit a pull request and the maintainer of the project gets to decide whether they want your code or not. If they don’t, then you just wasted all your time.

That video's oddly edited; is there some context which makes him seem less... nuts?

I think it's great that it's happening. Sure (for example) Baserow will never be as awesome as Airtable... but for users with extremely small use cases, hobbyists, or tiny startups - it works out. They aren't the niche Airtable wants and they can't afford it either.

There is also Obsidian, which does not compete with Roam Research directly on all features (but comes pretty close), but is locally hosted. Great option for those seeking privacy of their notes and thoughts.

The thing I love about Obsidian is it's just a directory of markdown files. Still totally useful if Obsidian disappeared tomorrow.

I also just setup a cron job to daily check for changes, and if there are git commit and git push and now I can access my notes from any device with a browser.

I wonder if there’s a business model of paid hosting of other companies open source alternatives...

That sounds like Bitnami - https://bitnami.com . For example - https://bitnami.com/stack/redmine

You mean AWS?

AWS is a few layers below that service. You can't tell AWS "give me a domain with baserow installed". Or at least not without going through the layers of describing how it's mapped to actual compute resources and how is deployed.

Yea, but you can tell AWS "give me a domain my (MySQL | Postgres | Elasticsearch | ...) installed, which I think was the parent poster's joke

It requires a lot of work and very low level configuration to go beyond the infrastructure elements. Databases? - sure. Managed apps? - here's a book on vpcs, subnets, and eni attachments in AWS.

Yeah, something like that. But for all these SaaS apps.

Sandstorm kind of tried that (https://sandstorm.io).


This was the promise behind sandstorm.io

anyone know of a GitHub list of open source clones of popular products?

Looks great. I suggest you get rid of the decimal point and two decimals in the pricing so it’s simpler to understand, especially for people outside Europe that use commas in numbers differently.

€4 per user / month

is much easier to read and understand for most people than

€ 4,00 per user / month

The comma made it look a bit odd and like €400 initially when I glanced at it and it just seems like an unnecessary level of precision to include the two decimal points when they are both zero anyway.

A perfect use case for Number.prototype.toLocaleString.


"From € 1.000 p/m" is even worse. I was not even aware of any locale using ',' for decimals and '.' for thousands.

Probably German.

Majority of European countries use a decimal comma.

Finns use a space. It's best to use some library, built-in or otherwise to make sure it's the correct one.

I'm French, where we use a comma for decimals, but a space for thousands.

How good is it at recreating the DabbleDB demo?


DabbleDB was way ahead of its time.

Yup, and it was built in an interesting way, if I remember correctly. Using the continuation-based Smalltalk Seaside framework.

A quote by Avi Bryant regarding continuations in Drabble DB "... in Dabble we essentially don't use continuations although we do use Seaside"

You can read the whole interview on https://www.infoq.com/interviews/bryant-smalltalk-dabbledb/

Looks like Airtable took a lot of 'inspiration' from DabbleDB!

A few years ago there were many Airtables articles on HN and it seemed to me it was promoted as a table/database management of some sort for non-technical people.

But now I see Airtable is used a lot in marketing departments and I caught a glimpse of a screen the other day and my marketing colleague's Airtable dashboard looked like a mix between Trello and messaging.

Can someone explain to me how Airtable is being used by non-technical people ?

And can Baserow fill that role too or is it a database thingy first and foremost ?

edit: does it have anything to do with templates ?

With regards to the airtable question, it has the potential to replace almost any CRUD app in a company. Internally we needed to drastically extend our ERP implementation to handle a large custom project and instead of dedicating a dev team to working on it we were able to build the needs out in airtable and then add a few API hooks here and there to the ERP. It was a great success and probably took 1/20th the time since the people that needed to use it were moderately technical and could define and build the workflow as they went. Now less technical people are being onboarded onto it which has, for the most part, worked well. I think the growth areas are going to come from things like stacker.app that make it easier to wrap Airtable databases up in a simple UI.

In general, you can think of it like a better realized version of Access, it brings relational databases into an Excel like view that semi-technical people can understand, then wraps it up with a few excellent built-in views like a kanban board, a simple form, and a calendar that non-technical people can understand. It has definite limitations but an easy to use API to expand upon it when you need it.

I'm really bullish on it after the project and have moved a bunch of personal stuff that was using external services onto a single airtable instance (contact management/CRM, personal project tracking, etc.)

I do bookkeeping and office backend administration for a small sales company. I use Airtable as a semi-technical person to automate processes we used to drive by hand in a google spreadsheet - the main one being commission calculation.

I was able to put this together in the 10-15 hours per week that remains after I finish my core job responsibilities.

I want to learn how to do things the 'real-code' way but the learning curve is steep! Low code tools like Airtable let me use the limited time I have available to get something up and running. I can add improvements incrementally as my skills expand.

When I first set up the Airtable, I was importing data manually from our CRM and from our accounting software. Now I have an awful Postman collection rigged up that does the importing for me (but I have to click a button everyday to run it).

I discovered Pipedream a few months ago and have used that to set up an email system that queries the Airtable database and returns relevant records. A sales rep enters an opportunity and gets an email with a list of leads tailored to that particular opportunity. This incentivizes the reps to add their data to the system.

My next project is to set up emails to notify our new freight coordinator when a load needs to ship, that will query multiple related records and give her all the info she needs in one email, plus cc'ing the sales rep on the deal so they can coordinate.

Our CRM almost does all of these things but there's always some limitation that holds us back, if we're just trying to use the out-of-the box tools.

As someone who aspires to be a developer but is not there yet skill-wise, I really appreciate the low-code tools that let me stitch together horrible Frankenstein monsters of Javascript to let me automate some of the monkey work that I would otherwise be doing by hand.

This then frees up my time to expand my skill-set and learn better ways of doing things. (Such as node.js on a Heroku server so I can put my javascript all in one place instead of scattered throughout all the little places you can put code in Postman.)

The MMX cad team, is keeping track of some 10.000 parts used in a marble machine instrument being build by Swedish musician Martin Molin.

You can see some clips at the linked timestamp where they use air table. Looks really cool.


It does a lot more, now, too! We're even tracking all the community suggestions and ideas made in Discord in Airtable now.

Something that would be really cool is if there was an open source - self hosted version of notion.so.

I like notion because it’s a hybrid of wiki, table/database, calendar, kanban. You can do a lot more than just tables.

We are going to add Notion like features to Baserow in 2022. You should then be able to create similar documents within the same tool and it is going to work well together with the databases and tables that you already have.

You can try us out when we launch, though for us it is more "assemble your own Notion tool like Lego" rather than an out-of-the-box Notion clone.

Check out anytype.io

This sounds a lot like getoutline.com

The documentation is excellent. It’s so rare to see such well written documentation with just the right learning curve.

Had me at "self-hosted"

Following the repository now, and tried an online demo account. Looks promising but now quite ready.

Will be switching from Airtable when:

1. More field formats are supported ( like Currency, Collaborators, Multiselect )

2. Kanban views are supported

3. Automations are supported

This is self-hosted but I’m pretty sure it’s not Open Source (or even available source) like Baserow

I never see a mention of this even at any of the "awesome" lists but this is really well built and has more features than baserow.

Baserow's mobile support is quite poor but Seatable does it very well and I've been using it for several months and love it.

Seatable doesn't appear to be open source, and for some reason the website is incredibly janky on Firefox

Server component seems proprietary but you can easily run it via docker.


I'm really fond of retool. Is Baserow aimed in the same direction? That would be absolutely great!

Here's a 4min demo video of retool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkcwNwPy7RI

I think retool is so much more than Baserow. You could conceivably build an entire CRM in retool. Or, flesh out a headless API with an interface in retool.

Good. We really need more self-hosted open source alternatives like Baserow.


Does "SaaS" read as "Self as a Service"?

It's both open-source and software-as-a-service if service is required. but it's still open-source if you just want to self host. I see people did not get that.

As a person who literally works on the Airtable API for a living, and founded an Airtable-based startup, I knew this was coming. Airtable deserves to be replaced by a good open-source alternative, for the way they've treated their customers. They built a great product that people love, and then made the pricing inaccessible to small business, ignored the API for years (I've been developing on top of the API since 2015, barely any improvements since then), piled on shit that no one asked for (Apps/Blocks) instead of working on the API that everyone asked for, made certain essential features like the metadata API invite-only, and are generally self-centered and obnoxious in their messaging (just see their blog post describing the launch of Airtable Blocks/Apps - "A half billion apps are about to be created.") Yes, those half-billion apps on top of Airtable will be made, but not on the original Airtable platform, because they've closed their software down and made interoperability a pain, and hid basic features like apps and record colouring behind a paywall. Meanwhile, they don't know how to build an app that can handle more than 50,000 rows and there are feature-request threads that are literally years old. LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS, dammit.

Airtable could've easily been the next Excel if they had just not been so tight-fisted, protective, greedy and aloof. There are plenty ways to monetize such a great product if they had just allowed people to use it. I have a feeling like their leadership was inspired by Steve Jobs, but they blindly applied Apple-esque walled garden philosophies to a domain where it makes no sense, because no one can actually use a cloud product without a proper API (operating systems are a different story).

I complain even though my life literally depends on Airtable. Shameless plug: I'm the founder of Fintable.io, a bootstrapped startup that syncs your bank accounts to Airtable, and I have no other source of income. I love Airtable, but I'm just sick and tired of their shitty castrated API that can't even stay up reliably. Maybe this is the trigger that will cause somebody over there to wake up, because it isn't too late for Airtable to win at this game (and I hope they do).

MIT licence? Haven't they learned from others' mistakes? This sort of stuff should be AGPL licenced.

Can who's who's used this share their experiences with this? Sounds interesting, but it's going to be a hard sell for collaboration work with airtable already.. on the table.

Self hosted Always free

I like that pricing model

Though they’re already laying the groundwork for “premium” features like admin tools, role based permissions, kanban and calendar views which would be paid subscriptions for self-hosted options too.

I always worry that essential features for tools like these will get bumped into one of those paid tiers.

The benefit of having the self hosted always free option is your data isn’t locked into the service.

Price is important, but data sovereignty more so imho. If a vendor is no longer meeting your needs, or the deal becomes less fair (you know the whole “raising prices once your business relies on them”), you can export and bounce.

More of this chef kiss

Right... That's why the vast majority of people using self hosted open source don't pay for it. It's about the money for most people.

You can export and bounce from airtable too, you know.

Even when the service itself does not provide easy export there's often a free third party tool or browser extension to enable data export.

exactly. I get the point that corporations tend to "extort" users by offering supposedly-core features only under premium, but on the other hand this one is a startup and gotta make ends meet somehow. so far I'm fine with that

In their defense, their upcoming 'premium' features are clearly labelled on the Feature Roadmap. I really like that.

Great job OP!

Self hosted and open source alternative is https://directus.io/

They switch from PHP to Node recently

Is there any application that provides similar features but can be integrated into an existing web application. We want our users to be able to do similar things for their internal reporting within our own application. The kind of integration I'm looking for is an iframe embedded into the application ui and APIs for readily accessing common data

Hi nice job, If you could integrate OAuth2 into it, it would be quite comfortable. I hate having to register manually.

“Eerly premium” should be “Early premium” on the front page.

Or “eerily premium”

Thank you for notifying me of that typo. We will update that soon :).

One great way to get this into the mainstream would likely be to clone and adapt `feathers.js` support for `Airtable`:


nice project.. Will add it to my open-source alternatives list gourav.io/clone-wars ps: any particular reason for not choosing GitHub?

Gorgeous landing page. Is it a template or did you handroll that? Kudos either way.

Thanks! It is not a template, I designed it from scratch.

That's impressive. Baserow feels like a labor of love. Will definitely try contributing.

This is very cool. I love airtable and I'm pretty sure I will install Baserow soon just to try it out.

Shameless plug: I just did a quick blog post listing that kind of products open source alternatives: https://www.juliendesrosiers.com/2021/03/13/open-source-self...

It's becoming more common these days to see serious businesses go open source from the start and gaining significant traction. Like Plausible, Gitlab, Bitwarden, etc.

Plausible looks way too simple to be GA alternative.

I loaded up the demo and am impressed with what you'e achieved. However I cannot find any way to add column restraints, or mention of how to do so in any of the documentation.

Is there really no way to mark a column as "not null" or make a unique id that auto generates, or say a date column that gets set on insert?

I don't think these are very advanced features to ask of a SQL database and am confused why they appear to be missing.

FYI if anyone from baserow is reading this, I tried following your docs at https://baserow.io/docs/guides%2Fdemo-environment and can't clone your git repo -- I'm getting permission denied.

Once I looked up the HTTP url it worked fine, so I think you may have a permissions issue in gitlab.

Thanks for notifying me. I was not aware that it is not possible to clone the repo that way without being signed into GitLab. I will change the url in the docs to `https://gitlab.com/bramw/baserow.git`.

No problem! FYI the rest of the demo worked fine, pretty slick!

Looks promising will try out.

Glad to see competition in the space.

After trying it out, this is unabashedly a clone of Airtable, but I couldn't find any apps/add-ons (yet?). To me, the apps, automations, and ability to create custom apps are what make Airtable so powerful. I did see mention of support for third-party plugins on the info site, but not when I tested it out; too early I guess.

A nice API might be all that you need. That and maybe something like https://lowdefy.com to easily put a UI in front of it.

If I use the self hosted software now, how to keep it up to date? Also if they start charging, how will it be different than AirTable? I get the privacy aspect of self hosted solutions but there is a huge overhead cost of maintaining it and updating it. I am not even sure self hosted is safer than SaaS.

You update the software. If they start charging, you don't care, because you can keep your free copy. I don't know about the "huge overhead cost" of running an update now and then.

...but, the data is yours, the software is yours, the solution built on it is yours. Noone can raise the prices, noone can give unrealistic/stupid limits (eg. how many queries can you do per month in your paid/free package,...), and noone can take your data away.

"I don't know about the "huge overhead cost" of running an update now and then."

Clearly you've never had to go to hours and hours of change management meetings for a minor release.

If the 'frontend' stays the same (and i literally mean all frontend, from GUI to APIs), then noone cares.

If something changes, you atleast can delay the change, until you fix other components (or maybe even not update, if it's some internal stuff), because with SaaS, you have no say about it.

Even if the project becomes unsupported, you can still run the old version, until you find 'something new' (or again, keep runing the old for internal stuff).

If you build anything around a SaaS provider, they alway have yu by the balls,... be it with ever changing pricing or killing the project, "just because" [0]

[0] https://killedbygoogle.com/

The moment that a major security bug is discovered in your app, you will need to upgrade it. It's not as simple as just saying that you can still run the old version. That's just one issue of many. There are many, many more hidden costs than you're giving free software credit for.

Of course... if it's outside facing... internal stuff can be delayed (and often is).... but again, that's why you pay admins for. Usually feature updates (api changes) and security updates are kept separate (unless you waited with the feature update, until there was a security issue).... but again, the thing is still yours.

it's like a taxi vs a free car + free parts, and all you need is gas and time to do service.

"but again, that's why you pay admins for"

Yes, that's the exact point I'm making. You have to pay someone to manage something like this. The point (edit: okay, not the point) of this sort of software is to try to minimize those costs, but at the end of the day you still have to pay for them, and often even more.

You still need an admin, even if you use SaaS... someone has to make the SaaS work... this just adds an aditional update every now and then to their workload.

You know (probably) that the binary you download and self host will always run. You can avoid updates, and avoid future paid requirements too.

It’s more work, but if you host something on LAN you eschew many security concerns. You can more easily track what it’s pinging and who it talks to. If it’s open source, you can audit and adjust the code too.

It’s all about priorities.

It depends a little bit on how you are going self host it. There are updating instructions at the bottom of https://baserow.io/docs/guides/installation/install-on-ubunt... and https://baserow.io/docs/guides/installation/install-on-cloud... We are going to make it much easier to self host and update in the future.

You lost me when there wasn't a docker image. I'd strongly encourage having one that can be dropped into a docker-compose config.

There are going to be production ready Docker images soon.

Oh look they appeared. https://baserow.io/docs/guides/demo-environment

Thank you!

I love Airtable but not the monthly invoice that comes with it. Signed up for your email newsletter so please do remind me when you get further along. Things like csv export and all of the pending field types are a necessity before I could even consider switching even my most basic bases.

I really like this trend of self hosted apps that make it possible to avoid shipping sensitive data to third parties.

Baserow looks so polished, very impressive for such an early stage project. Loved how easy it was to get the auto generated API working too!

I just literally searched for Web GUI client for Postgres and I was going through the Google Search results. Just in time noticed this awesome tool came up in HN. Really great man. I would like to become a paid customer once it's live.

Did you come across BaseDash? It was announced on HN a few months ago.


Hourglass on pricing tables makes no sense. I'm not a moron and after scanning the page I have no idea what this means... the only thing I can assume is some kind of feature not ready for production yet?

It means that those features have not been created. I agree with you that it has to clearer. We will add a small description what the hourglass icon means soon.

I would just write "coming soon" and make it very clear. a tiny legend is going to be only marginally better, when it should be clear at the expense of slightly fancy looking.

And would just add complexity for people using a screen reader.

This is good UI advice baserow team.

What is the benefit of using such a solution rather than a standard database like sqlite or posgresql perhaps with some automatic api on top?

So, you ask your designers and managers to check data through phpMyAdmin and let them edit there?

Even by myself as a developer, I handle my to-do list with Seatable and apparently, using a raw db isn't comfortable at all.

That's some poor imagination.

Another alternative (not self-hosted or open source) is Fibery.io More powerful than Airtable, and has some Notion-like capabilities.

What does airtable do that excel can't? curious as to what makes airtable appealing and where this self hosted has advantages

+1 for excellent Cloudron support!

The core of a sustainable software to me is in the ORM layer. This is where Ruby on Rails or similar framework failed terribly.

One classic example is: How do your ORM/libraries provide you tool to define a calculable "name" field, which is equal to "firstName + lastName", with option to store it as a database field ?

This seems ideal for a FOSS project.

What is the market for that? What can it do that good ol excel cannot (or, if so really desired, ms access)

Well, among the many answers you might get to this question, the one that sticks out the most to me is Excel spreadsheets do not have a built in REST API and Websocket service out of the box.

Sure you can pay up for Access or Sharepoint, or whatever offerings Microsoft has that do give REST APIs (I’m honestly not familiar with them). But this is free and open source, and anyone can put it on a web server and start jamming :)

I really never like selling my data to third parties. I usually don't consider using online services unless there's absolutely no good alternatives.

Open source is great. But it's hard for me welcoming something that is almost a 1:1 copy of a concept that somebody else worked on for many years.

You mean things like Linux, LibreOffice, Any browser?

The things that they are copying are themselves also copies of earlier products. Airtable can be traced back to MS Access, DBase and I'm sure there's even older examples.

I just said I'm not welcoming it. But I also distinguish between copying in terms of implementing the same protocol/standard and copying an innovative product that is unique (or was unique when it came out). I don't think in this discussion there is a right or wrong but I think that if you put 10 years of thinking into a concept and another person just copies it it's just not fair.

Low-code database builders have been around for a long time , Airtable did not come up with this concept, just a slick UX/ implementation of one.


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