2015: A Year of Living Learningly*

By Ruben Daniels02 February 2016

Wow, what a year. First off, I want to send out a big thank you to all of you for believing in Cloud9. Looking back on all that happened in 2015, we see it was a year of great learning (and resulting progress) for us. That learning would not have been possible without the faith and confidence you placed in Cloud9. 2015 was the year you, our treasured users, decided our IDE was the real deal and ready for prime time. With literally zero paid marketing budget, our active monthly usage grew nearly 10% every month (since March, see below) of the year.


Early in 2015 the Cloud9 Engineering team committed to use the same Cloud9 all our customers use for all our development needs. If things didn’t work well, we fixed it. If there were rough edges, we ground them smooth. It’s a powerful dynamic. We now use the entire Cloud9 platform to build Cloud9. And the learning has poured in. One of the biggest lessons? We learned that as soon as we break the mental bonds of thinking of IDEs as heavy and static (as desktop IDEs naturally are), new possibilities appear. When we truly embrace what it means to have a fully-featured, lighting-responsive and light and sharable IDE, it completely changes the game. We discovered options that were not possible before, like having an IDE per branch as a way to freely context switch when reviewing code or switching between tasks.We found the ability to check in a bug with a URL to a working environment replicating that bug, made remediation radically easier. We found collaborative debugging (whether across the room or across the ocean) game-changingly more effective. In short, but wholesale committing, we suddenly found monstrous unexpected productivity benefits waiting for us in the cloud.

Extensibility Really Matters

We’ve not promoted this much, but we built the third generation of Cloud9 (in production today) on top of a plug-in architecture. We designed Cloud9 to be a Lego IDE so that new features, functions, integrations, language tooling, framework support, or whatever, would be trivial to add. In 2015 we released an alpha version of the Cloud9 SDK which would enable third parties to build value-added systems on top of Cloud9 that would be equal citizens to the very Cloud9 they were built upon. And with zero publicity, we saw incredible recognition of the power of that early-access capability:

  • Harvard University molded Cloud9 to meet the special needs of their flagship CS-50 class offered on-campus at Harvard and Yale and on-line through EdX to tens of 1000s of students. Harvard contributed their highly-regarded C++ debugger to the Cloud9 ecosystem (watch this space).

Cloud9 worked with Salesforce.com to build a unique integration launched at Dreamforce 2015 as Cloud9 for Salesforce Developers and drew widespread praise from within and without Salesforce.com. A VP there declared “The fact Cloud9 has killer VIM emulation makes it my favorite thing we've invested in.”

  • Wind River saw the potential of Cloud9 and built Cloud9 into their Helix Device Cloud to create a next generation development platform for their embedded developer community.

  • A large public SaaS vendor leveraged the zero-setup power of Cloud9 together with its ease of extensibility to turn in-house security training upside down. Now security training starts right with the fun stuff and features no required drudgery setting up the thing we’re going to fix together.

Cloud IDE Pricing That Makes Sense

As mentioned in Dogfooding above we noticed that once we thought of IDEs as light or even transitory things, we found ourselves using more and more of them with dramatic results. Turns out our customer-facing pricing made it hard for our users to realize those same benefits. We previously priced our premium plans by cloud resource usage. Whatever we were thinking, that model created an economic incentive for our users to have a bad experience. So we fixed that. In December we launched dramatically simpler pricing giving premium users as many private workspaces as they like and giving our free users a beefy single private workspace with unlimited public workspaces. And you responded turning December into a record-breaking month for new premium users despite the holiday season. Or maybe Cloud9 has become a convenient stocking-stuffer for the devs on people’s holiday shopping lists!

Learning in the Cloud. Literally.

2015 saw widespread adoption of Cloud9 for education purposes across the board. As one, the education community learned that coding in the cloud allows students to immediately–get-to- the-fun-stuff™. A sampling of organizations building curriculums and programs on top of Cloud9 includes: Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, Michael Hartl’s railstutorial.org, and hackathons around the world.

Community Matters

With the tsunami of rising user adoption 2015 brought us, came a corresponding tidal wave of incoming requests for help. Doubling down on our mandate to provide everyone with a great Customer Happiness experience we turned to our growing community to help the newcomers. The emerging dynamic of experienced users guiding and helping new arrivals has been a thing of beauty to watch. Have a look now: Cloud9 community.

Uptime Matters

We learned that if we want our users to depend on us, they have to be able to depend on us. Integral to our commitment to Dogfooding was the realization that to use Cloud9 to build Cloud9 it had to be up: ALL. THE. TIME. Sounds obvious, right? As our users adopt our service in the 10s of 1,000s on a daily basis we needed to look at user experience of our service in deeper and deeper levels of granularity—in EU, Asia and the Americas. With customers coding using our service around the globe 24x7 the idea of scheduled downtime became impossible to think about.

2016 Look Ahead

Expect the extensibility trend to continue in 2016. We’re helping a growing community of exciting partners to deliver a happy onboarding experience to their developer community and looking forward to sharing those with you as they mature. Watch for a robust GA release of the Cloud9 SDK. Early adopters (some mentioned above) have provided amazing feedback to really galvanize the SDK APIs and documentation.
Watch for the ability to view and manage more and more of your workflow from within Cloud9.
We plan to expose to users more than ever the virtue of coding in the cloud in terms of collaboration (on both code and workflow), customization, sharing and collective learning. If you kept your coding down on the ground in 2015, you owe it to yourself to make 2016 the year you move to the cloud. Checkout Cloud9. It’s better up here!

Again, thank you all for the confidence you’ve placed in Cloud9. Have a great 2016.

Happy coding!

*Reference to Peter Weir’s 1982 groundbreaking A Year of Living Dangerously featuring Mel Brooks.

Ruben Daniels

Read more posts by Ruben Daniels.