TextMate 2

As I mentioned yesterday, there has finally been official word that TextMate 2 is apparently not dead after all.

If you look at the official post you’ll see lots of supportive comments and not too many references to Vim and Emacs. If you head over to the Reddit article you’ll see a lot more such references.

A common thread seems to be that many TextMate users migrated away due to frustration at the glacial pace of development, and furthermore, that once they’d gone there was no way they could be won back.

This is an interesting phenomenon, and one that can’t be explained away by recourse to mere stubbornness or vengefulness. Embracing Vim (or Emacs) really does seem to be a pseudo-religious experience in that it is akin to "seeing the light" or "being born again". Once you’ve experienced it it’s awfully hard to contemplate going back to your former state.

I personally won’t be going back for three reasons:

  1. My experience with Vim has convinced me that its modal editing paradigm is the most efficient and pleasant one available.
  2. Even if TextMate 2 shipped with a special modal "Vim compatibility" mode, it would lack the nearly infinite configurability that Vim (and of course Emacs) offers.
  3. TextMate’s closed source model is fundamentally broken compared to the open source one of Vim and Emacs; the latter products will never suffer from frustrated userbases leaving in droves due to lack of development. Being open source, if people are frustrated about a missing feature then there is nothing stopping them from implementing it themselves. (In any case, going back to point #2 again, actually hacking on the source is seldom required because these products are so much more customizable by nature.)

TextMate 2 can certainly be a great commercial success, it can provide an ideal editing experience for many kinds of users, and it can also be a proving ground for whatever brilliant new ideas Allan Odgaard might have floating around in his head, but as long as it remains closed source I think it’s doomed to (relative) failure in the long term.