XPages - are they really that dead, yet?

Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 2:11 PM UTC

Today most of us came across the following Tweet and blog post:

Though some of the statements are true I wanted to outline my point of view.

First of all: I don’t think XPages as a development platform are dead, and here is why:

XPages is a set of tools for rapid web development on Domino. There is currently no comparable toolset on Domino to achieve a similar result. No, I am not talking about forms and web query agents - these are not RAD but just a crutch.

Of course you could utilize the pure servlet approach like Eric McCormick showed a while ago but that’s just half of the story - there is no frontend and rendering involved directly.

Regarding means that help the developer to get a quick and ok-ish result, XPages still rule.

The downside of XPages is that they were outdated even when they were released back in 2008, because the base platform (JSF) was old and still is even older - but it works.

People who say that XPages are dead mean that they could have been updated since several versions and during fix/feature pack updates and that is true. The version of Bootstrap that is shipped with them is not the measure I’d use because Bootstrap never was a part of the XPages itself but of the Extension Library. The Extlib is part of the platform, yes, but this was just a topping since 9.0.0 - and not a native platform feature.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of things I don’t like in XPages, but overall they do their job. If you are completely into modern web development the question should be: „is Domino the right platform to do that?“. The answer is „no“ if you ask me. If you ask for the right database platform my answer would be „yes“. I’d prefer Domino over all the other database around - except when it comes to performance in large environments.

Security-wise Domino is the winner with out-of-the-box settings that protect your data instead of exposing everything until you do „something“.

But back to the XPages platform. I am with those people who ask for a clear roadmap for XPages. Since the times of V10 (even during the beta phase) the focus was on opening Domino for other web platforms such as Node.js. Though I don’t think that I will ever create a complex application on Node.js which interacts with Domino data, I think HCL was right in focusing on that technology instead of „modernizing“ XPages. Keep in mind that HCL only had roughly a year to bring a new major release with completely new features such as DQL.

I guess we will have a roadmap for XPages when V11 is out. The problem with XPages on V10 is that some user complain about unstable behaviour and errors in apps that worked perfectly on 9.0.1. If there are differences then HCL has to react and fix the problems. Otherwise adoption is doubtful.

There are even more important things that have to happen for V10 - and this is language packs. I heard Group 1 languages will be available in the beginning of February 2019 - but let’s see what happens.

My two cents is that saying „XPages is a dead platform“ just because we don’t have roadmap is the same as saying „Domino is a dead platform“ because we didn’t have a roadmap for years a while ago - and look what happened during the past year.

Aveedo, the software I am working on, at and with is based on XPages so my view is a bit biased.

Latest comments to this post

Tom Van Aken wrote on 07.02.2019, 16:11

I have a love-hate relationship with XPages. It is a good RAD tool that allows you to quickly build good looking web applications based upon one of the most secure environments ever existed.
Xpages is also a good platform to develop/configure an application without having to write code all the time. The design view is something you don't have in other IDE (at least not that I know).

This is as long as you use the default controls (extension library included). And for me, that's the painpoint. Most controls are outdated and often do not comply to what people expect in a modern application (eg responsiveness, column width in data views, ...).

As Oliver mentioned: XPages are highly extensible and you could write your own components, but that makes it a lot more complex and a lot less RAD.

We can leave the development to the community, but the community is getting smaller and smaller. And without a boost, XPages won't attract new blood.

I agree with Paul: not talking about the future of Xpages does not mean Xpages is that. But on the other hand, we all know what happened to Notes/Domino when IBM was not clear about its future.

With the JAMS, IBM and HCL have the intention to listen to us. So I think it is up to us - XPage developers - to reach out to them and let them know that XPages is important to us and it is worth investing in it. Discussions like this are certainly a first step.

 Link to this comment
Superfly wrote on 03.02.2019, 19:17

We were once the elite troops in selling the product and fixed where marketing failed. Remember: developers developers developers. If Notes looses support of these users you can bury it straight.

 Link to this comment
Erik Bors wrote on 02.02.2019, 09:58

Hi to all, just few words to the discussion. We are on production with many our project written in Xpages. One project was built 6y ago and still works in government daily used. The app is stable, quick, and still modern. But we are still on Domino 9.0.1 FP9. I dont want to.spent days to fix things what works now. No Domino10, maybe Domino11 if everything is stable and work friendly. On the other side we are working on other projects with other technologies - nodejs, python etc. Honestly  our new projects were build outside Domino. We need some development in the frameworks to make us happy to implement new stuff. I lost that some time ago. With the new frameworks i found that hapinnes again. So 4me Xpages are halfdead. Look around how the world looks like. How the y upgrades their frameworks. This time was with IBM when the Xpaged started. But we never will know what really happened at that time. What went wrong with IBM decissions to let Xpages down. 

Till something new in XPages will happen, ... 

 Link to this comment
Sean Cull wrote on 01.02.2019, 18:47

@Paul " yes I am in production with XPages, my end users are very happy" - have you go V10 in production with happy customers ?

I am relatively happy with XPages as it is in V9 and I need it to be as good in V10 and to continue to be as good. So some maintenance investment but stability is key.  We have not experienced many issues in simple testing but it is the lack of positive feed back and the total opaqueness of known issues ( as opposed to this - https://github.com/dotnet/core/issues ) that is making business decisions about deployment unnecessarily difficult.

In the past many people complained that IBM didn't concentrate on making the existing stuff stable enough although ironically XPages came out of IBM ignoring such requests.

Not an easy situation for customers or HCL. I do think HCL will get there and I hope that we are still interested when they do.

 Link to this comment
Jean Deloitte wrote on 01.02.2019, 18:36

Not the wisest words of mr Oldenburg but nevertheless it demonstrates well the fear in the developer community. What technology can I use and build upon. Killing technology has never been IBM's strength but to begin new at school is for elder developers undesired. I would suggest uplift the jsf in xpages to a 2 version and open it up for other jsf ui frameworks. How hard can this be with these geniuses?

 Link to this comment
Oliver Busse wrote on 01.02.2019, 16:46

Wow, while seeing the comments coming in, I am asking myself, why we didn't have this discussion and argumentation before with let's say LotusScript. There wasn't a roadmap for LotusScript enhancements for decades but nobody said "you didn't give us a roadmap or plans for LotusScript, so it's dead - and if you won't deliver, we will leave". I think that's not the way the discussion should be done.

If you want Bootstrap 4 or whatever: create your own stuff and don't wait for vendors to deliver. XPages are highly extensible - so go ahead and built your own extensions or renderers.

Yes, XPages are based on old technology - what about LotusScript, eh?

Nobody wants to rebuilt their apps on Node.js or whatever if they run fine with existing technology. The focus on Node.js was clear but as I already wrote wouldn't necessarily be mine approach for new stuff for Domino as well.

"If you force me to use Node.js I will search for another platform". Great, but which? Regardless which it will be you will have to get yourself another skill and tool set - except you stay close to XPages with things like Spring, Vaadin or similar. 

I think (at least in my case) the things people are annoyed about XPages is not the technology itself but the way to work with them and develop with - and that's the tool, Domino Designer. It's not the sexiest in the world and people started to get used to slim but smart tools like VS Code with a gazillion of cool plugins that help coding fancy stuff. If DDE would be a little bit more like those tools I think we wouldn't discuss XPages in the way we are doing right now.

 Link to this comment
Patrick Kwinten wrote on 01.02.2019, 16:29

hCL has as IBM had no insights what kind of mature applications run on xpages. I am not going to rewrite existing apps no node.js so I would recommend to move the whole enchellada to a different preffered platform if there wont be an alternative to xpages / upgrade. Like said: cater us or you will loose a considerable client base.

 Link to this comment
Mark Maden wrote on 01.02.2019, 15:59

I find it baffling, develop a great product like XPiNC which provides the answer to so many things missing from standard Notes Forms,  leave it half finished, then spend all the resource they are now spending in further developing the Notes Forms etc. which will never provide the same functionality as XPiNC can.

The combination of traditional Notes Views and XPiNC instead of Forms provides the best of both worlds. I use it in most of my inhouse developments. Biggest bug bear is the speed of XPiNC though, That said, it does work on 10.0.1 for us in our small company. I would hate to lose it.

 Link to this comment
Heiko Voigt wrote on 01.02.2019, 10:31

We are in production with N/D 10.0.1 and Xpages applications and boy, it has been a struggle. Designer is more crippled after the HCL takeover than it has been before and event handling in the old JSF stack changed for whatever reason making it necessary to fix XPages apps that have been running with no changes for 5 years since 9.0. 

A lot of our customers used and use XPages to modernize their Notes apps and shift their notes developers from LotusScript to JavaScript/HTML/Java - a more web compliant stack. I hope that HCL will be able to come up with a roadmap for XPages or they will lose a significant amount of loyal customers in the app space. Currently, all we see in the Node/domino-db arena is not feasable for a company that invested into XPages/Domino so far - it is a rip-and-replace and with that, most customers I talk to will then pull the plug on Domino as well. IMHO,  HCL underestimates the reach that XPages have in the Domino App arena.


 Link to this comment
Hogne B. Pettersen wrote on 01.02.2019, 08:20

I never had any belief, what so ever, in Xpages. However, I now work in a small company that has made lots of Xpages applications. The problem is that a lot of them are running inside the Notes client. And those applications simply don't work in Notes 10. And that is a huge problem, and it doesn't seem like it will be fixed. Which is yet another reason for the customers to consider other platforms. 

 Link to this comment
Paul Withers wrote on 31.01.2019, 23:07

The jams were about asking your customers for feedback on what the future direction should be.

What did the jams say about the future direction of Node.js development? Nothing was said in London, but I don't see any blog posts saying Node.js development on Domino is dead.

What did they say about what we would get under low code? Nothing was said in London, but I don't see anyone saying low code on Domino is being dumped.

Asking for feedback but first telling them what you're doing about one area is not the right way of doing it. That's the way to insult people. Listening requires closing your mouth and concentrating on your ears. It then requires using your brain to process what you've heard, and only then opening your mouth to communicate what you intend to do.

And to add to the discussion, yes I am in production with XPages, my end users are very happy with the modern look and feel, and I have no plans to redevelop those applications. Without some NDA knowledge I'm not party to, I don't think anyone can say what is or isn't in V11. Nothing's been announced, because IBM / HCL are asking for feedback to build V11 with us, not for us.

 Link to this comment
John Detterline wrote on 31.01.2019, 17:10

I agree with Oliver, in particular with his last point.  2017-2018 should have showed us that a lot can happen in a relatively short period of time.  I would suggest reserving judgement on the future of the platform until after Think 2019.  In less than a year HCL went from being a contracted developer of Domino to future owners, that's a heck of lot to process in a short  period of time.  Frankly it wouldn't surprise me if their near term goals changed significantly because they are purchasing the products.  They need to be able to recoup that investment so they must focus on ways to make that happen.  Catering to existing clients can help maintain a revenue stream, but that revenue stream might not be enough to justify the investment long term.  The smart move is to review your competition in the market and make sure you're at least at feature parity asap.  If Mongo and Couch have important features that Domino can't match - who will want to adopt Domino?  Adding those features also benefits existing customers, even if they don't utilize them right away.  Knowing that an upcoming release will add features found elsewhere may prevent existing clients from defecting.  Another important question to ask: Is XPages the best path to the RAD/low/no code goal?  If not, then they need to decide the best way to reach that goal and share it with the community.  I believe that often times many companies don't share information because they are afraid of causing panic, without realizing that not sharing information can have the same effect.  It would benefit HCL and the community if they provided information on the process as it stands right now.  Maybe they don't have an answer for XPages right now, which is fine, just admit it and explain why.  I also think they are resource constrained so they just don't have all the parts they need yet to address all the areas of need, it will take time to get all of that together.  I'm hoping the picture becomes much clearer in the next two weeks.

 Link to this comment
Sven Hasselbach wrote on 31.01.2019, 16:42

For me it is clear that IBM/HCL won't continue anything reagarding XPages. They sayed nothing about it, which is a clear indication that exactly this will happen: Nothing.

Because of this unclear situation I started with other technologies running on top of Domino years ago, and at the moment this seems to be a good decision.

When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount...

If you need assistance / guidiance for other technologies, feel free to contact me. Or look at Jesse's approach with Open Liberty: https://frostillic.us/f.nsf/posts/be9501a07279b40d85258377007b0dfd

 Link to this comment
Johnny Oldenburger wrote on 31.01.2019, 15:33

Are you in production with XPages and Domino 10 ? Furthermore XPages is not only 'dead' because there is no roadmap but also because there is no clarity about the future of XPages given by IBM /HCL and most important there are NO investments in XPages for many years. This year will not be different. For V11 there are also no investments for XPages. XPages is outdated for a very long time. Basic point is to get a mature discussion about the future of XPages and give clarity to the community. At this point for me XPages is dead.

 Link to this comment

Leave a comment right here