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



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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 Sencha have stated that Sencha Touch will remain free, but that doesn’t mean much if it is to become unmaintained and outdated in favour of the new unified framework.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.

BONUS CONTENT: Join me in switching from Sencha Touch to Ionic by reading my Learning Ionic as a Sencha Touch Developer series and signing up for my new Mobile Development for Web Developers course.

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 🙂

  • Simon

    Hey,

    Hey Josh…great blog by the way I enjoy reading every post. How do you explain this comment on the forums then?

    https://www.sencha.com/forum/showthread.php?300091-free-version-of-ExtJS-6

    Don mentions this:

    ‘Rest easy. There will be a GPL version of Ext JS 6 released with the GA.

    During the beta period we have a “beta” licence that we apply since the product is not deemed “GA” quality. A disclaimer basically. Which means we don’t release a separate GPL version during beta since the license is the only difference anyway.

    Hopefully that clears things up?’

    And this post too that talks about the GPL license:

    https://www.sencha.com/forum/showthread.php?300138-Can-I-build-an-ExtJS-6-app-and-publish-to-Apple

    Thoughts?

    • Josh Morony

      Hi Simon, thanks for commenting. There was a separate GPL license available with Sencha Touch as well, but as far as I’m aware (and Don seems to clarify) using the GPL version means you need to make the source code of your application publicly available / open source:

      “The GPL requires your users to have access to the source code of the application.”

      So for a lot of developers, this isn’t really an option.

  • gkatz

    Sencha has given me 2+ years of happiness and so I fond myself in an odd situation. Should I be mad or thankful?
    I will tell you this much. If what u describe is the end result they are simply destroying the floor on which people like me stand on. I am a single developer and I don’t have a cent to put on anything. That’s why I never used ST charts for example.
    I hate the fact that they are vague about future support.
    Let’s hope for the best as I really don’t want to make any transition.

  • Back in February on your blog I commented to say “I imagine that it wont be long before Sencha stop giving Touch away for free. Probably this will happen by merging ExtJS and Touch into a single framework, which will then have the same licensing policy as ExtJS.” and lo and behold that’s exactly what’s happened. My other prediction was that due to the short term outlook of Sencha, trying to maximize profits whilst shedding individual developers, that eventually there’ll be no new blood coming to use ExtJS\Sencha Touch and no one will be recommending its use. Therefore, as you suggest, I think this new announcement is the death knell for the Sencha products.

    I’m with you in thinking that the time has come to jump ship and Ionic sounds good as an alternative to Sencha Touch for mobile development. However, I’m looking for something that will can be used for desktop \ responsive development (ExtJS 6 would have been perfect if it had a reasonable license) – can Ionic be used for non-mobile applications?

    • Josh Morony

      Good call Steve! As far as I’m aware Ionic is purely for hybrid mobile application development, but it’s heavily integrated with AngularJS which can be used more generically. If you learn Ionic or Angular then you’ll basically already know how to use the other.

  • Anon

    On the flip side, the benefit of merging the frameworks is a single code base for desktop and mobile. I like their component set and the different UIs, I don’t always like the way people do responsive. Talking to Sencha at SenchaCon about their platform and see their demos, I think it’s a huge win. It’s obvious they aren’t caring about the smaller companies, if they haven’t reversed that decision then just move on. The $3k is fine with me but guess my projects are large enough that I can handle the cost.

  • Zdeno

    It isnt fully true – $3k is price for new licenses. As single developer and keeper of Sencha’s Complete bundle you can still renew license for old price. GPL is still peace of shit because mostly you dont want share your code with others and with GPL license you simply have to share it. Take a look at https://www.sencha.com/forum/showthread.php?300138-Can-I-build-an-ExtJS-6-app-and-publish-to-Apple

  • bhutten

    I must admit I don’t understand all the complaining about $3K for ExtJS. For any professional programmer (working in North America or Europe at least) this is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for a tool which is the foundation of what you do every day. I don’t find it a deal breaker at all…

    • Josh Morony

      Without considering other factors I think it’s a reasonable price as you say for something which could be the core of your business, especially if you’re developing desktop + mobile applications. For me, the reasons I find this change to be unreasonable are that:

      1. Sencha Touch was free, and (although it still technically is free) now it has effectively gone up in price $3,000

      2. There are other options that are just as good as Sencha Touch available (for mobile development) that are free (Ionic) or a lot cheaper and offer single developer licenses (Kendo UI)

  • Lex

    the enterprise still needs to support form factors other the 100% mobile like ionic. There is no right or wrong choose the right tool for the job depending on your requirements. I spent 8 years doing flash and now flash is dead. Our software careers are always in danger of these disruptions. We don’t have a choose but to move on, sencha has made their choose and we will make ours

  • Lex

    Also I feel there are other solutions like react native that are picking up traction and supporting more platforms soon. Ionic may soon not be the cool kid on the block. The web is moving too slow and react native allows you to use native features NOW using javascript

    • Josh Morony

      React native definitely looks like a promising option, I’d like to have a play around with it when I find some time. Titanium is similar and has been around for a while, but never picked up much traction. I’m curious why you think the web is moving too slow though, there’s certainly a way to go before it could be on par with native, but I have the impression that the web has been improving (JavaScript performance especially) at a very fast pace recently.

  • I think I’ll just carry on using the latest touch release and patch myself as needed. I’m too pot committed on my projects to switch frameworks but I’d think very carefully before going with sencha on a new project.

    I feel like React and Ionic have some maturing to do but excited to see where those go in the next few years.

    I have lost all enthusiasm for supporting Sencha products through the community. I can’t bring myself to write any more blog posts because I don’t want to contribute to a community that is treated so poorly be Sencha.

    • Josh Morony

      Hi Simon, good to hear from you. It would be good if we could maintain a small group of community members willing to help and share patches for the last free version of Sencha Touch.

  • Hey Josh, yes that was my thought exactly. I’m not sure of implications of licensing with that – I guess we can share code in the way we might for custom plugins? Or might it be different for actual alterations for the library… if we can legally do this then that’s a plan. What’s your take on the maturity of Ionic and how it could handle super complex apps? Stuff like sqlite support, large code base etc. Thanks!

    • Josh Morony

      I haven’t got into the more advanced stuff with Ionic yet, so it’s hard for me to say. It does strike me as being a pretty mature framework, but the data system doesn’t seem to be as fleshed out as Sencha Touch’s is (e.g writing to local storage is more or less a manual process of writing and reading JSON strings).

  • Scott Eade

    After 124 pages (1239 posts made by 222 participants) Sencha CEO Art Iandro has finally added a comment to the “Is Sencha screwing single developers?” thread and closed it (https://www.sencha.com/forum/showthread.php?292734-Is-Sencha-********-single-developers&p=1098376&viewfull=1#post1098376). The tldr; comes in the last sentence “it is time to move on in the direction you think is best for your business” – he is effectively saying “go use other solutions” and by closing the thread “and shut up”.

    It certainly adds clarity for those that have not already decided to move on.

    • Josh Morony

      Thanks for that update Scott, I definitely agree with your sentiment. Whether this is the right decision for Sencha as a business or not, the way they have handled the situation is shocking. I would not feel comfortable investing into a company that is willing to make such drastic and sweeping changes with little to no regard to their user base (wouldn’t it be a surprise to wake up one day and find they’ve decided to go with a “All-in-one” developer pack for $10,000 to “simplify licensing”).

      I don’t like sounding bitter, but yes this change has impacted me and left me in the dark for too long. If they had been upfront and explained everything properly from the start I would have respected the decision a lot more.

      At least we finally have a (somewhat) clear statement that confirms the situation. Unless you’re an enterprise customer / developer, or already heavily invested into Sencha it’s time to move on. Which is a shame because it’s great tech and with better licensing options could be used by developers and companies of all sizes.

  • Tim Baker

    What happens to Ionic if Google stops supporting Angular as they’ve done with many pet projects? That would be my concern with switching. While Sencha is a case study in how not to do PR, they have one core focus, build great products, and seem financially stable (haven’t had to raise money in 4 years now which is an eternity for a startup).

    • Josh Morony

      There’s no safe bet I guess, but I’d bet on Angular before anything else. It’s by far the most popular JavaScript framework: https://www.airpair.com/js/javascript-framework-comparison and there’s so many websites and apps built on it that I doubt it would ever be dropped. I would think Sencha would go bankrupt before Angular died.

  • Dawesi

    There’s nothing stopping you from teaming up to buy a 5 person licence. Create a sole trader company under your own name and then buy a 5 licence pack for 5 people at 5 companies. The developer is then licenced. (remember it’s developer based licencing, not company based licencing.

  • Stefan

    So we have to have work arounds for licensing now? Great. ExtJS has always been a love hate relationship for me. The framework per se is pretty good, just the whole thing supporting it has become a painful mess over the last 2 years.

  • shepsii

    Hey Josh, thought you’d be interested in my latest thoughts after attending the Sencha Roadshow in London earlier in the week: http://senchatouchdev.com/wordpress/2015/05/21/sencha-roadshow-london-extjs-6-x-thoughts/

    Thanks, Simon

    • Hey Simon, thanks for the write up – I was originally going to do a talk at the roadshow in Melbourne but ended up pulling out (partly because I was a bit jaded on this licensing issue). Also sorry to you and the other commenters on this article, I’ve just recently switched to Disqus so all the comments that were here are gone.

      I’m still unsure whether I’ll continue using Sencha products or not, but most likely not. Really enjoying Ionic still – seems to have a much more active community and the only real downside I see is Ionics reliance on third party tools (e.g I’m going to be using Pouch DB as a solution for local / remote data storage and retrieval) opposed to Sencha which is an all in one supported package.

      It is good to hear there will be at least some maintenance on Sencha Touch.

  • Alon Amir

    Ionic/Angular for the win (Angular2 + Typescript support added to ionic, it gets even better).

    As much as I liked Sencha Touch, or how excited I was about Ext JS 6 merging both frameworks together, I just feel morally obligated to ditch Sencha because of their aforementioned license modifications (not that their license options were that appealing before).

    Having Angular2+Ionic supporting typescript, and being free, the only option I see myself coming back to Sencha is:
    1. They ease up their license on Ext.JS 6 (The one with the unified Desktop and Mobile support)
    2. Support typescript officially, it has an immense amount of added value for large scale apps, The Ext class system is no match compared to what typescript offers.

    • dawesi

      you also should add the question count from the Sencha forums (where 90% of questions are asked)… just to have a real comparison..

      • Alon Amir

        Another comparison can be done looking at online job sites, for example elance:
        Searching for the term “Angular” gives 13,248 results, while Sencha gives 1,672.

        You can do the same search on other sites and see that you always get much more results for Angular.

        Again, I’m not saying that using Sencha is bad, I actually have used their Touch framework and really liked it about 2 years ago, and I think it remains one of the top choices for SPA development as of today as well, it’s just that it has become certainly too pricey for independent developers who would like to have both desktop and mobile web apps, and even for some startups IMHO.

        And with the rising of other competing free technologies that are more popular, it will become harder for development teams to convince their team leaders to adopt Sencha for their new Apps (from personal experience).

  • Dave

    Free! Everything should be free! Free I say, free! I will not pay for anything! I also will never do another open source project, cause free does nothing for my mortgage, and, I don’t have time for another job and open source! I also don’t have time to develop around open source to attract “open source”, and paying customers! Let’s see, I either need to develop open source large enough and complex enough to force users into buying support and consulting services, or I need to develop more products and sell them! Programmers are a bunch of self defeating socialists / communists!

    • Silicon valley bytes

      We made you happen and you know it. So consider this when you go on the rant…

    • Tony BenBrahim

      No one is asking for free, just to be able to buy 1 or 2 if I just need 1 or 2, not force me to buy 5.
      But since you mention open source, I find open source much more stable than commercial products. I already got screwed with Sencha GXT 2, the total redesign of GXT 3 made migrating several 100k LOC codebase unfeasable. Jquery has been around 3 times as long, and code written 7 years ago still works on the latest JQuery.

      • dawesi

        If you already have a license you can upgrade it in 1,2,3,4 or 5 developers… nothing changes… and extjs modern (the new sencha touch) is pretty much the same as touch.

        At the end of the day, open source, closed source both cost a ‘lot’ of money. At least with a framework you can get to the bottom of a bug and know it’s from one code base…although I do use some microframeworks, it’s a lot better than some of the 30-50 microframework messes I’ve seen out there.

        I’d rather pay for it and get support from one place… much, much easier… and you know a year from now it will be supported and the developer will still be actively updating the code…

      • Tony BenBrahim

        Again, I am not arguing against frameworks, or paying for supported products. I decided to go with Kendo UI, where they will sell you 2 developer licenses for $700 each. Why Sencha could not do the same is a mystery to me, but I am sure their competition is loving it. I do not have any Sencha ExtJs licenses, only Sencha GXT licenses, so I would have been forced to buy 5 licenses where I only needed 2. At the end of the day, it is not a smart decision for Sencha. I used to attend SenchaCon with my team, until Sencha forgot that GXT existed. That revenue is gone. I used to pay maintenance for 2 licenses of GXT. I will not renew in July, when the maintenance expires, as there has been no updates to the 2.x branch. And now Sencha does not get new revenue and recurring maintenance for another one of their products. Sure, it is small potatoes, but multiply by hundreds or thousands of potential customers, and it starts to add up.
        At some point it is not about the money, it is the perception that some companies disdain their potential small customers and try to take advantage of them. I work for a Global 300 firm, but the development teams are every spread out throughout the company, so the argument about “large” customers does not hold much water either, and is not an excuse to waste your employer’s money, especially when you participate in profit sharing.Now if ExtJs was 2.5 times better than Kendo UI, it might make sense, but it really is not worth the $1700 per license they asking for for 2 licenses, especially for an Angular shop, so it is a moot point.
        I wish Sencha the best, they are not the first company that dumped small developers for so called Enterprise customers, Borland did that a few years back, and ended up in bankruptcy liquidation. Whatever you might think of Steve Ballmer, he did understand one thing: developers, developers, developers (they are the ones who get your company’s products in the door, and keep it there).

        PS: Google extjs pricing, see the second link, epic…

  • dawesi

    I think frameworks like Sencha Touch were never for small-time developers. Either way if you’re making 10-40k off each mobile project, the licence fee is really not that big of a deal… considering you’re probably paying devs a lot of money anyway.

    As for Sencha Touch, I’m glad it’s part of ExtJS now, that’s where it should have always been, and it sits very comfortably there, and it’s a perfect fit. As for licencing , I already had extjs licences so, the support is $300/year which is nothing.

    Now I can develop apps for desktop (pc/laptop/touchscreen) + mobile(tablet/phone/supertablet/) in one code base and I couldn’t be happier. For that (which is what extjs developers ASKED for when touch was created). Sure I don’t like the 5 licence issue, but Sencha are a startup looking for an owner, so it’s to be expected they would position themself as an enterprise framework and enterprise dev toolkits don’t want individual devs, so that’s life.

    There is one way to get a single licence, and that’s to create a company, but a 5+ pack and give out one license to a pool of devs. Sencha don’t care then as they think you are larger. So get 10 people together and get yourselves a discount. 🙂 The only loophole that I could find that is feasable.

    • Salman Ahmed

      Sounds like you are a sencha employee!

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  • Michael Hayden

    Sencha is doing the responsible thing. I program for money. I need a framework that is backed by real money. I program for Multi Billion Dollar Corporations. Out of respect for the money they provide me to feed my family, I give them the best development I can provide. Jquery, BackBone, Angular, Ember, etc is just not going to cut it. The only free alternative I can suggest is DOJO.

    In regards to the learning curve……you do need to know how to do OOP and MVC in a Javascript environment or you will have a hard time.
    Also, don’t look at Sencha Documentation code as best practice code. You need to establish a design pattern or you are going to loose you mind.
    20 years of programming specifically in Javascript. I do not mind dropping dollars on Sencha. They have been feeding my family for a long, long time.

    • Why is it that you don’t think Angular cuts it? Having developed extensively with both Sencha and Angular / Ionic, I think they are both great frameworks for mobile development, but I think Angular / Ionic are doing a better job, especially with Angular 2 which has been built from the ground up specifically for mobile performance.

      I certainly wouldn’t criticise someone for choosing to build with Sencha products, but I don’t think the expense means that it is any better or more stable. Every company obviously needs money to survive – Sencha is doing that through licenses / support, Ionic is backed by big investment money and will make money through their own services / support (not to mention that Angular is backed by Google).

      Im my opinion, the only thing I think Sencha does better than Ionic / Angular is that it has more inbuilt components, but this has never really been an issue for me.

    • Rick Li

      I don’t need to know how to OOP and MVC, I only need to know RFP, HOC, etc. You will have a hard time if you don’t know how to FP in Javascript.

  • Michael Hayden

    Josh, let me first say thank you for facilitating this conversation.

    I agree with you, Ionic and Angular are great and yes they are backed by economically strong companies with a lot of very smart people. Everything that can be done with ExtJs can be done with those frameworks. Today, the main focus is on responsive design for the sake of using same code to render both Mobile and desktop browser web applications. Based on your opinion I will take some time to look at Ionic and Angular again.

    With that being said, here is a basic breakdown of my 20+ years of development (I started professionally building web applications in 1993):
    C#, Java, Python, Ruby, and PHP development
    YUI
    DOJO (ESRI GIS Environment)
    NodeJs development
    ActionsScript Development (ESRI GIS Environment)
    ExtJs
    Backbone
    Angular
    JQuery (of course right?)

    ExtJs is my favorite because I can build the whole application using Javascript (reminding me of how I use to develop with actionscript which was my favorite environment to develop in ). I can Unit Test UI and Business Logic with Javascript “headlessly” (Siesta Unit Test Framework). When I hire developers to work on building Web Applications, I tend to hire Java developers (mainly because there are so many Java developers available) who have a serious interest in transitioning to Front-end Web Application development and they get immediate traction using ExtJs (because of it’s class based structure and MVC support). So really, ExtJs saves me and my clients money on the development end. With 2 or 3 developers I can rapidly deliver a full stack solution that is highly scalable, handling Multi-Tenet and Multi/Compound User Roles (many times using NodeJs as a proxy for security and ease of clustering). The reason it is rapid is because of a Dynamic Modular Design Pattern I use, allowing a lot of code reuse across projects. The most interesting part of using ExtJs is how it allows me to use any other javascript libraries (JQuery, D3.js, vis.js, etc) within the classes I create using ExtJs.

  • Great article. Thanks for putting this together.Looking forward to more of this.I found an interesting article regarding software development here you can find it http://bit.ly/28ZgHVH

  • Tetzschner

    Hope a lot of developers will lose their faith in Sencha after this. This will give small companies, like ours, a heavy burden. Tools like Sencha Touch should be a help to developers, not a burden. Since Xamarin now is a free part of Microsoft (and Visual Studio) this is definitely the way we would choose. Bye bye Sencha… Hello Xamarin