Why are there so many note taking/Roam-alternative applications?

I just took a quick glance on HackerNews and saw that a Roam-alternative called Foam was released. My initial feeling was that: “another Roam alternative ?” which is probably due to the amount of note taking applications springing into existence (or called to my attention).

I haven’t used it yet, and I don’t mean to view it negatively. However I think there’s something underlying this phenomenon that I haven’t ben able to put my finger on.

What are your thoughts on this phenomenon, specifically what’s the motivation for people to keep creating seemingly the same features, and wether or not Obsidian has a competitive advantage that would enable it to be long-lived ? :smile:


Roam hype publicised the advantages of these features. That only took off this year. Combined with lockdown making time available. Some were created for personal use.
Foam is quite interesting. It’s combination of VSCode extensions so not standalone.

If you want to predict which programs will last, the best guide is the track record of the developers. Apart from that, Roam has the hype and the money.

I see Obsidian as one of the thrivers - developers, design and community.


Thanks for sharing Foam! I work in VSCode all day… And I even do my Obsidian files/writing in VSCode (only opening Obsidian for the Graph). And I already have my Obsidian vaults version controlled as GitHub repos.
So FOAM would remove the “Graph” step and the only reason I need Obsidian…

And I agree with the points made by @Dor and will add that an increasingly important aspect, IMHO, is that people have control and ownership of their data. That was the non-starter for me with Roam…along with the weird cult-like vibe and the weird vibe and questionable comments from the founder.


Thanks for pointing out FOAM, it has several appealing aspects - I will check it out.

Note taking is quite personal so there are immediate and important concerns about privacy. As @ShaneRobinson mentioned this has a lot to do with data ownership and avoiding lock in. I think this coupled with the relative ease of creating a simple Markdown editor leads to a lot of alpha/beta quality note taking tools. Overall I think this is great for the community since it generates new ideas about how to take notes and how the interfaces should work.

I dont know but I hope so since I am starting to use it heavily. I think this depends a lot on how the devs monetize and engage the community. I am already more committed to this than a few others I’ve tried because of the community and potential for user written plugins. I think user contributed plugins is a large part of what has made Sublime Text and VS Code so successful


Just from a user perspective and with a little cultural background on that what people drives and what people needs: Notes to me are a very personal thing and if I do not have any device at hand I used to write lots of ideas in my little black Moleskine notebook.
The note-taking tool market was long time in hands of big players which offers lots of functions but also never provide the impression, that your notes are really your notes as soon you have added them into their solution like Evernote, OneNote, Bear, … okay, Bear is a more intimate company, but …
It is the same with NotionHQ, which is a very nice solution if you want to spend the whole day with the solution and play around with all bells & whistles.

The hype you mentioned is also a kind of marketing strategy, means, you do not make marketing a lot for your own product, but you have a kind of grassroot movement, a lot of fans flooding the boards and social media with the great news of a f*cking nice, new and absolute cool new thing.

That works fine, but it also has, in some cases, literally an ideological aftertaste, a religious movement of prophets and early adopters and fanatic disciples.

From a customer’s perspective, it has the impression to me that people have had enough of sharing everything, being transparent, being part of the cloud.
I want to keep my notes to myself and follow the maxim of the German writer Andreas Eschbach that data that you do not have on your own hard drive does not belong to you.
That leads me to Obsidian, and I think I am one of those people who want to adopt something that seems to be promising instead of being on the hunt for the rest of my life :wink: