In fact I heard a rumor that the entirety of Notion runs on a single unsharded database. If true, combined with the fact that this API took so long to ship, I have to assume that there is a crippling amount of tech debt in their stack. Hopefully it’s growing pains and they’re sorting it out, but it doesn’t make me feel confident about the security of my (most sensitive) data.
It’s maybe also a cautionary tale about what happens when you dismiss too many early decisions as “premature optimization.” You ship fast in the beginning but a few years later you’re buried in all the debt you generated.
Granted, it’s a good problem to have. If the choice is between a profitable, popular company buried in tech debt, or the perfect stack with no customers, I’ll take the debt.
We shared a bit more in the past about how most of our user content was stored in a single database instance (see more here: https://www.notion.so/notion/Focus-on-performance-reliabilit...). That is no longer true and we recently re-architected this database to scale horizontally.
Totally understand that you want more options for how to host your data. Unfortunately, we don't have any plans on that front at the moment.
We ultimately decided to not go enterprise since it offers little value over their existing plan and keep sensitive data out of Notion.
I hope Notion gets to a point where they can offer stronger guarantees to their customers. If they pull it off they’ll easily be mission critical software.
In the meantime, we end up using tools with a little bit less good UX, but we just can't share that data publicly. UX can't win over security, and I hate having to choose.
That seems exactly like what customers want — just when you share things publicly it goes to a separate public sandbox? It should be fairly trivial to obfuscate
- Roman Muradov: https://www.bluebed.net/
- Iris Chiang: https://irischiangart.com
This is unfortunate. I tried Notion a few months back, and almost loved it enough to pay for a subscription. Once I saw that, I refunded the subscription and went back to markdown and git. I love your software, but the lock-in is frustrating.
I think people forget this part of the math.
"Lock in" is not a part of our strategy. We try to offer data portability via import and export; you can export your entire workspace as HTML (most metadata, pages link to each other and can be browsed offline), PDF, or Markdown (most easily editable). Given an HTML export and a few hours of scripting, I think you could migrate to any API-accessible document storage strategy.
Don't get me wrong. We love Notion. But we also need our data to be portable and backed up to not be liable.
Allowing me to host my data myself should not reduce your profits as long as your product is still the best.
If you’re focused on (relative) short term profits to get paid and retire on a beach, and you succeed, good for you. I’m totally jealous and wish I was you.
Unfortunately, I’m also not your target customer.
You could make it *more* expensive to use the self hosted version. It's straightforward to justify if you consider the additional development overhead, and if you include some kind of a support package.
My question is genuine. I see strange justifications like this often when it comes to self hosted versions of X, Y, or Z product. What exactly is the risk to profit here? I can see extra engineering overhead as a possible risk, but that's a solvable problem. There are many ways to handle software updates. Spinning up new backend environments is often done on devs machines daily when developing. I don't see any novel problem that hasn't been solved.
The "we have no plans for this", or "we are looking into it" are all often used ways of avoiding the question of "why aren't you doing this?" There are plenty of companies out there that for one reason or another, need to control the environment where their data lives. Why give up that business? Why do people who work at those places have to often settle for worse products because of this? Why not give businesses *choice* of storing their data or having someone else deal with the complexity?
Is it that the presumed market for this is too small? And why is nobody being transparent about this?
Curious what you'd be willing to pay for this, as it's exclusively an enterprise feature. My guess is an absolute minimum of $50k/year contract value, or 250-350 users at an enterprise per-seat price (just guessing).
Aside from going fully on prem, the idea of strictly dedicated storage is interesting -- like "bring your own S3 bucket" simplicity. I don't see that often outside of $10 desktop apps.
The only possibility left is "dedicated storage". That works for static ressources. But the `page` content itself is dynamic and changes often, so you will need more than "bring your own S3" and something like "bring your rds" but that starts to be pretty complicated. Quip though still offer on prem AFAIK.
At the end of the day, the issue with collaborative tools, is that you can't e2e encrypt easily, and almost impossible if you offer full text search. The best solution is to trust your provider for data security. And use maybe some daily backups in your own network.
What's going to end up happening if more vendors decide you can only use their service from their cloud is the largest enterprises and governments are going to exclusively use Microsoft and AWS since they're more than willing to just build you your own cloud that meets whatever security and disconnection requirements you have, no matter how stringent. Already no new government projects that still have a choice are going with Atlassian tooling.
We'll see how it goes for them, I guess. Maybe they don't need governments and Fortune 500s and can get by selling exclusively to startups with no real security or lock-in avoidance requirements.
The idea of using their cloud service (Atlassians) wouldn't be that daunting if it wasn't for the consistent feed back I see here and else where that performantly, it absolutely sucks.
Time would be better spent contributing to an open source alternative like Athens!
Are you suggesting privacy and data ownership concerns are only limited to enterprises?
These factors make sense to me. Note that Gitlab believes the opposite so on prem is also free.
It would be nice if AWS could deliver a smooth OAuth experience so that in a few clicks, a user could provision an S3 bucket and share it with a service provider as easily as they can grant access to a GitHub repository.
Sounds like an opportunity ;)
Starting or rearchitecting a project gives you the rare chance to make decisions that your competitors never even had available to them. You can leverage new tech to move faster, and you can learn from their mistakes to avoid their most costly traps.
“Bring your own S3 bucket” actually sounds pretty awesome and I wish more companies would do this. Everybody wants to be a middleman controlling the transaction, but they’re missing a whole class of customers by not offering self-directed storage options.
This is a great example of a decision Notion could make now, that Asana would have a hard time adapting to. As long as they’re rearchitecting, they should keep an eye out for opportunities like that.
As for how much I’d pay – if I’m the only party with access to my raw data, and I can run the software locally even if Notion goes out of business – for a team of 5-10, I would pay $50-75 per user per month.
Open source Notion clone that you can host locally.
We completed our sharding migration almost a month ago (https://twitter.com/jitl/status/1383235281457876993?s=21), and are now using >1 primaries. The project took a long time and really made the “changing the engine while the car is doing 200MPH” analogy true for me.
I hope I didn’t come off as too critical. I do love Notion as a product and my org is a paid member. I just wish there were more options around data hosting.
None of these problems are the mark of bad engineers, either. It’s just what happens when you ship fast and grow fast. Like I said, good problem to have :)
All of your data is locally stored markdown text files with no lock in.
All of the amazing benefits of linked note taking without the downsides.
You can query Markdown files with the (third-party) Dataview plugin. Wrote about it here, very simple query syntax. Only tables and lists, but tables is the one I've used by far the most in Notion.
> no nice templates
Well you can always create your own. There's a first-party templates plugin and a similar third-party one that also allows custom variables and has a showcase (think: you can curl the weather and add it to your journal).
Having wrote that, your "a lot of custom configuration" definitely applies.
Single reason we didn't adopt notion is lack of ability to self host.
I wanted notion to get out of document hell. Legacy business with many spreadsheets and word documents. With notion it wasn't the cloud being the issue, we run all in house software & DBs in AWS.
But some startup from San Fransisco offering a platform with notable downtime / performance issues and no direct ownership of DBs was an issue for something like a wiki where you want to be able to publish sensitive information, ip etc. We're in a regulated industry so compliance & security input is ultra relevant.
Sharepoint is a fucking abomination, it's what was previously used. Notion makes a perfect wiki solution.
If it had a self hosted option we'd have adopted it. It was turned down, and fairly so, by our ops team for the hosting situation. There's no reason for something as *simple* as a wiki should be completely outsourced. Portability is a factor too.
We chose wikiJS in the end. Great wiki but terrible writing experience. Tend to write everything in an external markdown editor and just copy it in.
Of course they could _try_ to get an agreeable contract in place with Google, but Microsoft is Enterprise-friendly and can make this happen much more readily.
Microsoft has been deeply embedded in the org for years and they can certainly give stronger contractual assurances than Notion can.
I’d be curious to read more about what their architecture looks like now and how they’re planning to evolve it to fit their priorities.
For example, https://www.authelia.com/ is open-source.
You can't magically put 2FA in front of some third-party public site. (You could from within your own network.. but that's perhaps worse than pointless!)
Yikes, no 2FA or SSO isn't good..
As a consumer, I want my software on-prem. But as a producer, I want to deploy as frequently as possible, so that I could iterate without friction, and I would try to avoid platforms/techs that are not hot upgradable.
As a consumer, I want no data tracking. But as a producer, I want data-driven growth, so that I could understand where I did wrong and how to improve it. And data comes from tracking.
This paradox is not just limited to the software industry: For example as a consumer, I prefer reading texts. But as a producer, I found videos are easier to monetize because of the attractive/addictive nature.
More often than not, the formers which benefit consumers are not justifiable in pure economic senses compared to the latters, thus the reality we are living in nowadays.
Compared to you, they don't care about tracking, don't want the hassle to set-up on-prem and don't mind or prefer videos over text.
In this case I’m not even asking for self-hostable. I mostly want single tenant. Yes, self-hostable or “bring your own storage” would be cool, but provider-managed single-tenancy at least eliminates a whole class of data security bugs. This way, even if an application-layer dumps all the rows in the database to the client, at least they’re only my rows.
If there is an on-prem option, the release, the update/migration, the installation environment, and the documentation on deployment should be carefully crafted. All of these not only require more effort, but also require people to keep in mind not to stomp on things. And even worse, they have to search for potential problems with their imagination because they don't have access to the data with edge cases they're dealing with. If people are not careful, it's very easy to seriously screw things and lost some customers forever. On top of that, if fixes are required, the team usually needs to fix multiple versions over and over, of which the codebase might have drastically changed. The teams are usually less and less "brave" as time goes by.
For most SaaS without on-prem options, people can just focus on the functionalities and deploy many, many times a day. For non-critical issues, people don't need to worry about them, just debug what's going on and respond fast, and the issues are very likely fixed in hours. Plus they can use components like Kafka, Elastic Search, or even other SaaS as needed, without having to choose between re-invent things or ask everybody to install a zoo of components in their on-prem solutions.
That's one of the key reasons why web application is so popular nowadays compared to what we've done in the 90s desktop applications. Because it enables the "move fast and break things" mentality because more things are fixable in web applications. On-prem is like 90s desktop applications in disguise. Just try to imagine how horrifying if someone breaks the upgrade functionality. Or if one needs to fix a bug in Windows 10, they also need to fix it from like Windows Vista to Windows 10, where the codebases are drastically different.
In conclusion, on-prem sounds applaudable to the audiences on HN, but the reality is it doesn't work well for most for-profit businesses.
I'm keeping an eye on AnyType
You mean a broken wiki and slow project management tool is better than specialized open source tools which are way better at the same thing
I felt pretty burned by it and killed my subscription. Hopefully this turns out well for the people who've been waiting for it, but that experience left a terrible taste in my mouth.
Notion makes a decent tool for a personal/organizational wiki but it’s too slow/unresponsive/janky to use for many other purposes IMO.
I’ve been using it for a couple years and I used to hold out hope that the performance could be optimized, but at this point I think it must be some fundamental issue with their tech stack (or some other organizational issue). It just feels bad to use. The pages take forever to load, the search is slow, and the actual page editing feels sluggish.
It’s a shame because otherwise I really like the core ideas of how Notion works. If someone released a tool that was “Notion but fast”, I’d switch in an instant.
I found it very difficult to figure out how to use the tools beyond very narrow use-cases they provided in examples.
And I found the docs were almost useless in explaining the overarching design. As a result, despite a lot of time spent, I kept bumping into unexpected limitations or design corners with no way out other than to scrap the document type I was trying to construct.
I went back to Trello for project management, Todoist for to-do's, and my Dropbox-backed markdown files for notes.
It's a shame because with more attention to the user experience and better docs, I think they'd have a killer product.
It has been great so far as a lightweight CRM, and a collaborative meeting note—taking tool with backlinks into CRM. Also documenting our internal processes.
Project management and ToDos haven’t stuck.
We also use a Notion database with various views for tracking customers, sales pipeline, rewards, and a lot more.
When we bring on a new customer, we quickly create (from a template) a personalized welcome page for them with an embedded copy of their service agreement and a few other things. Notion can generate a public link so we send this right away and it makes a nice impression.
Performance isn't great but it is so useful for us that I don't mind. I do hope they provide an offline version soon as that is my biggest wish right for it right now.
* I'm not affiliated with the company, just a pleased customer.
You’d have to shoehorn project management into their database paradigm, which definitely seems subpar compared to a purpose-built task/project manager. But the “personal wiki” aspect of it is fantastic.
Happy the thing is released finally, it is a big improvement on Google docs.
That said, Notion is a really good product.
Indeed, I think that honesty works better; underpromising and overdelivering is a great way to build trust among your initial customer base. Trust that you need to carry people through the inevitable bumps and anticipations of an early-adopter experience.
* No read-only mode. I like to have documents default to a read-only mode so I don't accidentally typo random characters, or delete something when try copying. etc.
* No floating table of contents. There is a ToC block but it's at a fixed position, where it's not terribly usable especially for long documents having a giant ToC at the top isn't great. I've tried using columns but it just squishes the rest of the document way too much
* Floating heads. When you have multiple collaborators the avatars zooming up and down the left side of the document is incredibly distracting. I'd love a way to disable this completely. I don't care where in a document other people are reading.
* Database/Table horizontal scrollbar. Almost every database in our documents end up with this giant scrollbar that spans edge to edge, looking like a horizontal rule, breaking up the visual flow of the page significantly. I keep thinking it's some kind of page break.
These are just some of my initial impressions. I do think it's a very visually nice product and has a lot of neat features but I'm pretty surprised by some basic QoL stuff missing and hope to see it further refined.
I built a browser extension which does this plus many more customizations like full width for all pages, scroll to top button etc.
Notion Boost: https://gourav.io/notion-boost
I can't remember which, but either making the page full width or locking the page gets rid of them.
- The team building the API has been super responsive and respectful, very good collaboration on their Dev slack and I had a great time testing things
- The documentation has been updated with the feedback from the community who had access, it's in a MUCH better status now than when it started
- The API speed has increased, it was really slow, now its a bit faster :)
Looking forward to see how other companies are using the Notion API, whether natively or through other integrations, I've seen a lot of activity from the folks at Integromat and Typeform :) (which are awesome tools btw!)
It has the same basic trigger (new item), actions (create/update item), and search (find item) as every other CRM integration. It is missing a trigger for item getting updated - still excited to see how folks are using it though.
* I can write Markdown notes. I've only wanted to write markdown notes.
* The syncing is incredibly fast because it's using an existing technology purpose-built for syncing (CouchDB)
* I can bring my own CouchDB and not have my data locked in
* Has a mobile app that works well
* There is a "vim mode" and that makes me happy.
Tables can have wiki notes, which can have tables. The recursive nature works very well for organizing your knowledgebase and having an entire org work together.
The things I hate about notion.
1) pressing / anywhere opens the menu. So annoying.
2) It's live collaboration on code is awful. We end up using codesandbox and then copy-pasting back.
3) It looses and new edits every now and then. Their sync needs work.
4) No way to proper version control documents and have a pull-request/suggestion like model for editing authoritative docs.
The other player in the same market is https://coda.io. They go quite a bit further than notion in terms of formulas and reference tables.
With both Coda and Notion, I feel I seldom have to use google docs.
So what does it do that something like gitlab or phabricator cannot do ?
And if you are willing to consider different products for different things then you have dokuwiki/xwiki/wikijs/bookstack for wiki and multiple popular project management tools like kanboard/focalboard.
Gitlab is great. Their wiki is absolute shit.
Notion just has a mostly really great user experience for writing notes, adding some tables or screenshots, moving them around, etc.
For example, Vercel reverse-engineered the internal API and made a super awesome demo here when introducing "Serverless Pre-Rendering". 
There's a video demo and code of how they did it.
Overall, I think Notion API can open up many, many possibilities, since it can become a really good CMS, besides already being a great note-taking tool, and a team app. Notion has millions of users, and it's a huge market already.
Btw, if you're interested in running your blog on Notion, I would love to hear from you! 
- Demo: https://pipedream.com/apps/notion
- Workflow Example: https://pipedream.com/@tod/p_D1C3LlN
I wish these things were also taken into account
I hope they will release an OpenAPI specification file soon so that code maintenance between different clients is kept to a minimum. :)
You’re forced to have a name column, and your table has to have a title (you can make the title a space but that feels like a hack).
There’s just lots of chrome. Even if you lock the table, you still have the lock icon and the new row button that will never go away.
These things may all seem minor, but they really do make tables not look or feel “simple”.
To be clear, I’m absolutely fine with the existing tables for certain purposes, and I don’t want them changed… I just wish there was a “Simple Table” block type as well.
I'll probably try to resist the urge to build a massive, poorly-written project management tool on top of the notion api. Probably.
Hoping for the best to the team, you’ve grown so fast it’s incredible!
For example markdown support for read/write would make it much easier to use it as CMS or sync the data, instead of working on the custom block types.
The problem with the current beta is the limits of the API. E.g. code block are not supported, so you can't really use it to generate a technical blog.
Looking forward to the GA :)
I'll have to see if this API is complete enough to do what I want with Notion.
Slack's bot extensibility make it great for:
- As a universal notification system (calendar events, github notifications, sms for the idiot apps that insist on it -- all sms go to my slack instead of my phone, alerts about my 3D printer e.g. print complete, alerts about low battery on any of my devices or robots, automatic google maps links of businesses I have visited, just about everything really)
- Expanding upon references to things, e.g. if I tag a bot and type the name of a hiking trail it can fetch the alltrails page for it and link it; if I tag a bot and type the name of a restaurant it can fetch the yelp page and link it
- If I paste code it can run it in a sandboxed environment and show the results much like a Jupyter notebook
- As a text interface to Google Assistant (the implementation is convoluted; I have to TTS the text and feed the audio result into Google's ConverseRequest endpoint. I couldn't figure out a way to feed text directly to Google)
- I have all my IOT devices linked to Slack, I can turn on/off lights, set thermostat, pause/unpause my 3D printer, request a snapshot from any camera in my house, everything right from Slack
- Slack is also great because I can upload arbitrary files, pictures, videos, sounds with ease.
The best part is that it is available on all my devices with data synced through the cloud and native mobile apps so it makes all of the above conveniently available on my phone and e-reader.
The biggest downsides are Slack's sucky search, and editing prior messages isn't the best experience.
They said in Twitter that stylus support is a priority, but no plans yet for a Linux client.
And, the Android app is quite clunky, not as good as Android native Notes apps.
So, yes, since they are using electron they might as well provide a Linux one too, but I don't see why the lack of one would hold you back.
But it seems like in the meantime people have started to move on (I have). Let's hope this can bring back some momentum for them.
I learned after spending an hour to transfer notes that they have a “limit” on the number of “blocks” (aka notes) that I can have.
Absolutely terrible user experience and turned me off from ever using Notion.
I ended up going open source with vimwiki (and obsidian as a visualization layer, although as comments pointed out it’s not open source). much more robust and less impervious to scummy growth tactics or companies shutting down due to acquisitions/pivots in strategy.
Obsidian is not open source. I'm hesitant to dump my stuff into Obsidian because their markdown has plenty of nonstandard features. You can't run a directory of Obsidian notes through Pandoc and copy the output to your website. I think someone did write a partial converter at some point. This is kind of an issue with all the recent notes apps like Dendron, Logseq, and Athens.
The main thing I use obsidian for at this point is visualizing connections between my notes
Both Obsidian.md and vimwiki look really cool though. Do you use Obsidian and vimwiki together, or for separate purposes?
That's a bold statement.
So in the event that they don’t survive or enact policies I disagree with, nothing changes for me
Also, at the end of the day, it's still just plain text. You won't lose any of your data if you no longer use Obsidian.
Went with vimwiki. I just store my notes in a private Github repository. It's simple and effective. So far I've been happy with this setup.
Unlikely that vimwiki or markdown will be going away, can’t say the same thing about Notion.
That doesn't exist in Joplin.
Just recently I tried using it again for a small project (3-4 people) and it quickly got chaotic and messy (used for simple task board, wiki, blogpost drafts).
Right now, I recommend:
- Craft (http://craft.do/) for collaborating on documents, information sharing, knowledge (can't do tables and other fancy things yet, but is native and veeeery nice)
- Obsidian (https://obsidian.md/) for personal knowledge database (although it's also electron...)
- DEVONthink (https://www.devontechnologies.com/) for digital office
I'm fearful of lock-in, and just use markdown plain text, sync'd with dropbox, and then use different markdown apps on different OSes.
Putting together a Christmas list? Create a list and start adding stuff. Ahh crap, I know I want a new TV but I don't know any specifics. So I just open up the TV item in the list and dive into my research. Create a database inside there for prospective options, a separate view for finalists. Copy in images, links to articles and reviews without "losing my place."
I don't have to spend any mental energy thinking about how to organize my notes because I can just pick a direction and go without being stopped by anything. Everything lives where it's most relevant I guess it how I'd say it.
I get hooked 3 months ago by one of the Notion's ambassador August Bradley who make an incredible system and course avalaible for free on Youtube.
I'm excited about the API and all automations i will make by scripting for my own use cases (like an easy way to add a new item on a certain database from my CLI, or a mail adresse hooked to a database).
But all your comments freak me out. As a developer, i dont't know if i have to do my own markdown system hosted locally. Notion is a great product, and guys like August Bradley open my eyes for everything i can do with it.
Collaborative Notes just went live, making it a lighter, more focused alternative to Notion.
Tried FSNotes - extremely immature and it doesn’t seem to have any direction at all - it’s all over, Standard Notes - visibly none native and offers no exportable local storage (by design). Decided to stay away.
Hope to see some solid and simple new native apps around Notion API.
 Fast enough, not cluttered, and have native apps (I’ve realised after years of trial and use that my note taking app has to be native and that’s non-negotiable)
IT departments should be able to setup whichever backed storage they want; s3 buckets to postgres.
I’m so done with propping up every wannabe unicorn. This app will never be a thing at my company.
Two or three devs could make a living off this UX as a standalone client. This isn’t a Google scale engineering need.
(I work at Notion, but not on the API team)
Though, based on some of the comments in this thread, maybe I _shouldn't_ and should try Obsidian instead.
This is a promising start, but so far it's read & append it looks like -- no updating (of blocks at least).
Updating page properties can take it a way, but looking forward to seeing it expand a little.
I thought it was a scam when I tried Notion 3 years ago.
@rubyist5eva You can learn more about Focalboard - the open-source alternative to Trello, Asana and Notion - at https://focalboard.com/.
After they've updated it, they click a special link that triggers a Vercel build, which converts Notion into JSON for the site to build into static pages. I'm using this as my backbone: https://github.com/benborgers/potion and it's a lot more powerful than the Notion API... this reads tables and lets you show image attachments and more
- tv, movie and actors from trakt.tv;
- books from gooodreads
- anime and manga from anilist
The reason is that: I can make better notes, I can add extra data/properties, easier to organize in a kanban or other visualizations. But now, if I add more movies on my trakt, I run a script to export to CSV, and then have to import the new rows into Notion. With this, now my exports can add the new rows and update the data.
Along with stylus support.
What are the use-cases here? What's Notion being used for that this new API functionality will help in? How are you using it either personally or professionally?
Then someone at the company decided to turn our notion workspace into an ERP+CRM+Project Management tool.
Now I hate it and moved the docs all back to Gitlab.
Never logged back in.
Distributed, open source and aiming for public beta in the summer.
What makes the Notion illustrations so appealing and effective to me is not their style, though I love the way they look, it is that they are created for the need at hand. They are individually made to a purpose.
Side note: I manage several illustrators for a team that produces educational media and one of the hardest things we have to communicate to users is what an illustration is good for.
I have users come to me with an image and say, "I want an illustration that looks like this."
And we ask them, "But what do you want the illustration to do."
And they answer, "We want it to look like this."
They don't have any particular purpose for the illustration, it's just wallpaper for their website. A way to break up a page. A function of general art direction, rather than a working part of the content.
We end up doing a lot of what amounts to custom clip art, because that's what users often want. And it really does help a website or a video, or a document to have consistent art direction. But by far the the most compelling and engaging content we work on isn't from when a user asks for a set of stock images and icons, all in the same style, but it's when they comes to us and says, "We have this problem explaining this idea, or telling this story. Can you help us with that?"