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Does EXT JS 6 Mean the End of Sencha Touch for Single Developers?

Originally published April 17, 2015 Time 6 mins

There’s been uncertainty over the future of Sencha Touch recently, and outrage from developers at recent licensing changes for EXT JS. During SenchaCon this April, EXT JS 6 was announced which will unify both EXT JS and Touch under a single framework and license… the EXT JS license (if you don’t know why that is bad news, keep reading).

Usually articles with titles like this one are over exaggerated attention grabbers, but with the recent clarification from Sencha I can confidently say:

Sencha Touch is dead for single developers.

I don’t make statements like that lightly. I’ve been a huge fan of Sencha Touch over the years and have had a lot of success with it. In fact I have written two eBooks about it and it was originally the sole focus of this blog.

I still think it is one of the most powerful frameworks available for HTML5 mobile development today, and this new unified framework will only serve to improve it even further. But unless there is drastic licensing changes, I will not be using it anymore.

Why is Sencha Touch “dead” for Single Developers?

The reason I think that Sencha Touch is dead for single developers is the licensing costs. In a very unpopular move Sencha recently made a change to the licensing for EXT JS to require purchasing 5 developer licenses at once, instead of just 1. This means if you want to use EXT JS, even as a single developer, you need to fork out a massive $3,225 upfront. Even the single developer pricing would be enough to turn many smaller developers away, but the 5 developer pack is prohibitively expensive for smaller developers.

The new unified framework approach will keep the EXT JS licensing, so if you want to continue down the Sencha Touch path you will eventually need to pay thousands of dollars to use it. Sencha have stated that Sencha Touch will remain free, but that doesn’t mean much if it is to become unmaintained and outdated in favour of the new unified framework.

With other free options that are just as capable as Sencha Touch available (like Ionic), it doesn’t make much sense for a single developer to use the Sencha Touch framework anymore (unless they already have paying clients or projects dependent on Sencha Touch that could justify the cost).

If anybody from Sencha is listening, please revisit your licensing options for single developers. I think Sencha Touch is worth paying for, and if it was priced reasonably for smaller developers and startup companies I would gladly continue using it. I think a reasonable approach for the unified frameworks licensing would be to have a discounted price for 1 – 3 developers at $99-$300 per developer, and if your company requires more licenses than that you can jump up to the enterprise pricing.

I understand focusing on enterprise, but it doesn’t mean smaller developers need to be thrown under the bus.

Why is Sencha doing this?

As it is with most businesses, Sencha’s goal is to make money. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this.

They’ve remained very tight lipped and vague about the licensing changes (in a 120+ page forum thread on the official forums about the issue not a single employee has responded, nor has any official response been made), but one can assume from reading between the lines that Sencha is making way more money off of enterprise customers than smaller developers, so they are focusing their efforts there.

They removed the single developer license in favour of the 5 developer pack license under the guise of ”simplifying licensing”, but I think it’s almost insulting to paint this move as anything other than a money grab.

This will likely cause a huge blow to their audience and good will, it’s not often a company is bold enough to essentially change one of their most popular products from being free to several thousand dollars. A lot of the people who will stop using Sencha Touch though are probably people like you and me who are either not paying them any money or not nearly as much as the enterprise customers are.

Angry developers have taken to using the term ‘$encha’ akin to the often used ‘Micro$oft’. Not all business decisions are going to be popular, but it might be the best decision for the company – despite what people might see as the company being “greedy”, Microsoft for example is still one of the most successful companies today. Maybe they are making a poor decision, but I’m a developer not a business analyst.

In the end, everybody is looking out for themselves. It’s what Sencha is doing, and it is what you should do too. Fortunately, you should have a reasonable amount of time to transition away from Sencha Touch if that is what you decide is best for you – there certainly isn’t a lack of viable options.

What do you do if you’re a Sencha Touch developer?

You can still continue using Sencha Touch under the free commercial license as you always have. Sencha Touch will likely continue to be supported for a while, but eventually you would have to make the switch to EXT JS 6 to make use of any new features. If the tone of this article hasn’t made this clear already, I’d recommend abandoning ship now.

The biggest concern most developers will have will be the time invested into learning Sencha Touch, and the time investment required to learn something else. It takes a while to get proficient with any new skill, and to have that taken away is extremely frustrating.

I highly recommend giving Ionic a go. If you’re already using Sencha Touch you should find the transition a lot easier than learning a mobile framework for the first time. A lot of the concepts are very similar, just done in a slightly different way. Sencha Touch is a much harder framework to learn than Ionic is, so if you can learn Sencha Touch you can learn Ionic.

I’ve already started investing time into the Ionic framework and I love it. Given the path Sencha is going down now, I will be transitioning completely from Sencha Touch to Ionic over the coming months.

If you want to start preparing for the ”Sencha-Touch-pocalypse” (now that’s sensationalised!) I’d recommend reading through my Learning the Ionic Framework as a Sencha Touch Developer series and checking out my new course.

Are you angry or frustrated about these recent developments? Or are you excited for EXT JS 6 and what it means for the future of Sencha? Please leave your comments below, and try to keep any harsh criticism PG 🙂

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