With the release of Obsidian 1.0.0, and as an avid and devoted obsidian user, I would like to share some thoughts on where I hope obsidian might head next.
First, some context. For the last couple of years, functionality and software have worked in pairs. Each use-case/tool had its own corresponding program or app. You wanted to write text? use a text editor. You wanted to write code? use a code editor. Want to browse the web? A browser is what you need. etc… This makes a lot of sense considering regular development cycles. Teams of devs would specialize in a given application and would produce a tool optimized for it.
Lately, however, a number of programs widely adopted as standards have started to give us a glimpse of what might come next. Your browser allows you to take simple notes (most chrome-based os); for crypto fans, it is also your wallet; and with the rise of web apps, the browser effectively becomes a one-program does-it-all. You can write notes, code, and create diagrams in your text editor (vscode). Obsidian lets you not only write notes, but also manage a database of information, write with a pen, manage a calendar and todos, run short code snippets… Yet another great example is Blender. With a single program, it is now possible to do everything from 3d modeling to soundtrack design, special effects, animation, and video/image treatment. All in one place.
This paradigm is also clearly visible in the mobile app market. Notably, in Asia, super-apps (of the likes of Alipay, WeChat etc…) gathering functionality and services all in one place are every day growing in popularity. And the reason for this trend is simple; it is more streamlined, and as a result often more convenient.
Focusing back on the non-mobile examples. One of the key aspects all of those systems have in common is plugins. Plugins allow users to expand the capabilities of a piece of software to add just the desired features/behaviors, and as time passes by, more and more plugins cover larger and larger use cases. This popularity of plugins is a clear demonstration of the desire of people to expand functionality within certain contexts.
Which brings me to the super-program paradigm. While the term is not coined like super-apps are, I strongly believe that with the likes of Obsidian, VScode, and other major modular frameworks gaining in popularity, we are slowly trending toward a world where we will use fewer programs that do a lot more.
While it makes sense to centralize functionality within a few limited programs, not all functionality makes sense together. Image editing software added to vscode would not make sense (for now), but it naturally fits better within the Blender ecosystem. Similarly, there is no point in integrating Netflix into blender, as this belongs more to the entertainment category.
Obsidian however sits at a fascinating crossroads. Being a knowledge management tool, it gains from allowing for maximum compatibility with other forms of information. And it in fact has already started to head in this direction shyly. As mentioned earlier, it is now possible to insert and run code snippets, and iframes allows for creating tight windows to the internet.
I believe however that what could represent a truly massive next step would be to fully embrace this paradigm. The following features I think could represent the next major steps:
Obsidian allows for the organization and storage of information. It is only natural to consider better integrating into it the greatest source of knowledge ever created by mankind; the internet.
And this goal is not far away. A few core aspects would have to be introduced:
- The ability to navigate the web just like in an “old school” browser. Tabs just got implemented, all this requires is for the back/forward arrows to be mapped to interact with the tab’s web content, and obsidian’s UI is already the browser with the most flexible user interface and the best notetaking integration on the market by far.
- The ability to display search results from notes in the vault directly with the web search results
- A bookmark bar, combining links to webpages and to notes. This in combination with MOCs in the sidebars would enable a fantastic navigation and customization level.
- Support for web-oriented plugins (such as chrome plugins), self-explanatory.
A notable example of that is the upcoming Beam browser
Obsidian is a fantastic text editor. Opening it up further to code development would allow for simultaneously coding and documenting in a fascinating symbiosis (being able to link to notes in my code comments? Where do I pay XD??).
One place, where notes, web pages, and code scripts coexist peacefully and cooperate in the tabs…
It is built on electron, giving it a powerful base to build on. It has now reached a level of polish putting it on par with some of the most established apps and programs out there, the toughest part of the journey has been completed. I look forward to where the devs will now take the development and hope to see the creation of not just another (very fancy) note-taking app, but a full-on framework for knowledge creation, gathering, and management down the line.
P.S. I already know that a lot of answers are going to be that some users are happy with keeping obsidian as a note-taking app, and I strongly believe that this should be one of the strongest aspects of this ethos, the ability to fit the program to one’s needs.