Introducing Salesforce1 Lightning

I recently celebrated my nine-year anniversary at Salesforce. And one of the really amazing things about working here over the years is that you get to see the Salesforce1 Platform evolve from humble beginnings into what is today — an amazing force for innovation for our customers. It’s fun to think back to 2003 when the platform was just the ability to create a custom object and a tab and how game-changing that was. I could login to our internal instance of Salesforce, create an object, add some fields, create a tab, and solve someone’s problem. It was a sad day a few years back when I lost my internal admin privileges and wasn’t allowed to do that anymore.  

Every year at Dreamforce we launch a ton of amazing products, but I really believe that this Dreamforce is special. Not just because of Wave and the Analytics Cloud — which is awesome — but because of Salesforce1 Lightning.

I think that Lightning will end up being as impactful to our company, customers, partners, and developers as custom objects, AppExchange, Apex Code, Visualforce, and the Salesforce1 Mobile App have been. To understand why, I want to spend a few minutes explaining what Lightning really is and how it works.

How Lightning Got Its Start

Lightning is the next generation of the Salesforce1 Platform. OK, so what does that really mean? Well, last year in order to launch the Salesforce1 Mobile App, we needed to build a mobile-optimized UI. But in the great tradition of Salesforce, we took a long-term approach to designing something that would scale. First, we built the Lightning framework and then we built all of the UI using Lightning Components. It took us a little while, and a lot of people scratched their heads and wondered why. There are many JavaScript frameworks out there, so why did we build our own?

Well, this is more than JavaScript framework. If you look at Salesforce and blur your eyes a bit, you can see what it really is — a lot of UI components that are laid out on pages designed to work for any screen shape or size. Our internal dev teams built components for the Chatter feed, search bar, charts, record lists, record pages, edit pages, related lists, and on and on. And these components are laid out in different ways all over the application, on different screens and devices and contexts. It’s going to let us and our customers move so much faster. Because now, we don’t have to recode a component every time we want it to appear on a different page or new device form factor. While we’re launching it today, Lightning is not new. It’s what we used to build the Salesforce1 Mobile App and the response from our customers and partners has been overwhelmingly positive.

Opening up the Lightning Framework

Now, a year after the launch of Salesforce1, we are ready open up this framework so that developers can author their own Lightning Components, and modify and extend ours. We are opening up the very fabric of Salesforce and our platform in a way that we have never done before in a SaaS app and platform. What makes this really unique is that we aren’t just limiting this to developers. We are also shipping the Lightning App Builder that will allow non-developers to compose applications from all the components built by Salesforce, our partners, and all of the developers in our ecosystem.

 

A good way to think about all of this a car analogy. A lot of people think that companies such as Toyota manufacture cars. But what they really do is design and assemble cars out of components. It’s this idea that you can build a car out of a bunch of reusable components that makes a car company like Toyota go faster and focus more energy on the design and features of their cars that will differentiate them in the market. This same idea applied to Salesforce and mobile application development is what will help every IT department in the world go faster and deliver more innovation.

We are going to let developers build components and distribute them to our customers via the AppExchange, let our customers author their own components, and then bring it all together with the components we ship inside of the App Builder.

What this Means for Developers

I talk a lot about the cliff in declarative (point-and-click) development. How in Salesforce you can be cruising along building an app with point-and-click and solving problems, and then all of a sudden you need to do something that requires writing some code. It’s like driving your car along and suddenly a cliff appears in front of you and you have to call a developer to build you a bridge. With Lightning, we are moving that cliff a lot further away.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you don't need developers anymore. The key point is that developers can now build components instead of building apps from scratch. This means developers can now go faster and reuse components which will help everyone in our entire ecosystem go faster.

And of course, Lightning is built on top of the Salesforce1 Platform, which means that everything that has ever been done on the Platform can leverage Lightning. There is no upgrade required.

The Power of Lightning

At the Salesforce Admin Keynote at Dreamforce this year we are talking about how Salesforce turns admins into superheroes. It’s one of the coolest presentations I’ve seen us put together because what I have always believed we do is empower people to solve problems. We make things that used to be incredibly hard and complicated, easy — and that’s what makes people feel like a superhero. With Lightning we just gave everyone in our ecosystem of customers and developers a new superpower, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

 

See Salesforce1 Lightning in action.