**UPDATE: WATCH MY INTERVIEW WITH 1PASSWORD HERE**
“The world’s most-loved password manager,” says the 1Password website.
Meanwhile, on Reddit: “Delay 1Password 8 and unfuck it! Ditch Electron before your customer base ditches you!”
In fact, if you search Google for ‘1Password 8’, you’ll be hit with a barrage of anger-fuelled Reddit threads that are full of teeth-grinding Mac users.
Something has clearly gone very wrong indeed. And if you’re a 1Password user, you might be reading this in search of an alternative.
Let me shed some light and, hopefully, point you in the right direction.
What has happened to 1Password?
1Password is on the verge of releasing its biggest update in many years.
As explained by 1Password founder Dave Teare in a blog post about the release, 1Password 8 is “the next generation of 1Password for Mac”. He even adds a little heart-eyed emoji to the end of that sentence.
Unfortunately, that love isn’t shared by 1Password’s sizeable Mac user base.
Having spoken to my Eight or Sixteen podcast co-host, Rob, about this on the latest episode of our show (which hits the airwaves tomorrow), I have a fairly decent understanding of what’s happened. Having been a long-term advocate of 1Password himself, Rob is understandably angry about version 8.
The issues are twofold:
- 1Password 8 will become subscription-only, thus removing the option to buy it outright; and
- they’ve moved the app over to something called Electron.
I had no idea what Electron was until I met Rob. Despite this, most of us have used Electron apps – usually without knowing.
What is Electron?
Electron is a software framework that gives developers the ability to convert their web apps into what look like native Mac desktop apps.
Notion is a great example of this. I rely on this brilliant tool for my business, and if I access it either via the developer’s website or their desktop app, I’m essentially using the same thing. Their desktop app is just the web app wearing a different coat.
Slack is another example of an Electron app, as is Discord, Twitch and even Microsoft Teams. The developers behind these platforms haven’t built them from the ground up for macOS; they’ve simply taken their web apps and shoved them into a container.
I’m sure there’s more work involved than that, but you get my point.
Even if you’re unaware that you’re using an Electron app, you’re probably familiar with the side effects. Slowness, weird functionality or the desire to constantly hop back onto the web version are all classic signs of an Electron app. It’s also a known resource hog; run a bunch of Electron apps on your MacBook, and you’ll almost certainly witness a significant hit on battery life.
This isn’t ideal if said Electron app is a password manager that needs to be running constantly in the background.
It’s basically a shortcut to creating a desktop app, and, as you might expect, has a number of technical inefficiencies as a result. I won’t get into those inefficiencies, because I don’t fully understand them, but suffice to say, moving 1Password 8 to Electron has gone down about as nicely as a fart in a crowded lift.
The transition to a subscription-only model is a tough one. We live in a SaaS (software as a service) world; it’s the way most developers are heading. I therefore have sympathy with the 1Password team when it comes to their pricing model – particularly if they have investors breathing down their necks. But I also understand why it has irked some long-term users.
The best 1Password alternative is…
It all sounds a bit grim if you’re a 1Password user. However, it is early days; maybe 1Password 8 won’t be the battery sapping resource hog most expect it to be. Perhaps they’ve done something mightily smart with Electron.
Come on, I’m trying to be positive here.
Given the volume of complaints and negative publicity generated by the news, there’s also the distinct possibility they might change their plans. Yes, it’s unlikely, but they have made an almighty stink which looks set to lose them a shed load of customers.
Regardless, if you’re now looking for a 1Password alternative as a Mac user, I’ve got two solutions for you.
The first is Apple’s very own Keychain. I won’t labour the point here, because I sang its praises recently, but suffice to say it is hands-down the best password manager if you reside solely within the Apple ecosystem.
It’s not as fully-featured as 1Password, but the unsurprisingly deep level of system- and device-wide integration offered by Keychain is unbeatable, and it’s backed up by Apple’s admirable stance on data privacy.
If you want a bit more flexibility and need to stray outside of Safari, I highly recommend NordPass. I’ve used it extensively, and they’ve previously sponsored my YouTube channel (although they’re not sponsoring this blog). Their free tier might be all you need, but there are plenty of affordable plans for password power users, too.
I genuinely feel sorry for long-standing 1Password Mac users. But, equally, I feel for the team behind 1Password, too.
Software development is hard, and it gets harder the bigger you get and the more investors you have to satisfy. They’ve clearly dropped the ball with Electron – of that I have no doubt – but there will have been endless meetings and sleepless nights surrounding that decision. I don’t envy them at all.
If you’re among the people who will be waving a tearful goodbye to Dave Teare (excuse the pun) and co., I hope my 1Password alternatives provide some respite.
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As I developed my own system of multiple passwords, I never used 1Password. For the more demanding password situation I was more than happy to use Keychain and found it meets all my needs.
Not sure of the Electron situation, would like more info on that.
I never upgraded past 1Password 6 and love it. No subscription and works across all my devices by syncing the vault with Dropbox.
KeePass work pretty well for me, never used 1password
When I read this article from the day before your article… newer macOS’s will use SwiftUI, not Electron. That is for older macOS’s. What am I missing? https://blog.1password.com/1password-8-the-story-so-far/
I think Mac users overestimate their impact on the market as a whole. Time to recognize that the “king is naked”.
Ugh… later in the article after the ‘macOS’ section that I jumped to … “Ultimately we made the painful decision to stop work on the SwiftUI Mac app “. Boooo.
I think there is a little hyperbole here… How is the miniscule market share of Mac users going to bring down 1password?
Me thinks you detest too much, sir
When did I suggest that Mac users were going to “bring down” 1Password?! And it’s ‘protest’, mate – not ‘detest’ (although I’m simply commenting on the situation rather than making a significant play in defence of those who can’t stand Electron).
Electron apps are used all over MacOS and generally are not noticeable as far as ‘resource hogging’ and any other of the problems you stated. Slack, Visual Studio Code, Skype, Discord just to name a few. As someone that reviews and talks about tech, I’m surprised at the unfounded and unbacked claims. This is basically spreading disinformation for the sake of readership. At least I know who’s tech reviews NOT to trust.
I’m not convinced my claims are ‘unbacked’ when you look at the weight of opposition against the use of Electron. Have a quick Google search, mate.
Incidentally, I don’t have a massive issue with it – you seem to have mistaken my article for a ‘review’.
There is a timely update to iCloud for Windows to allow Keychain to be used with Edge & Chrome on Windows. https://www.macrumors.com/2021/08/16/apple-releases-icloud-12-5-for-windows/
Your recommended 1Password alternative (NordPass) is also built with Electron.
That article is laughable. Your recommended alternative NordPass is also an Electron app ?
Do you mean ‘this’ article? And yes, pretty funny I recommended an Electron app as an alternative (inadvertently, admittedly) – I agree. My recommendation still stands, though.
the fun part is nord is based on electron to be aware about what you’re talking about.
NordPass is subscription only too.
Indeed it is. Like most software.
I was a 1Password user, but now they’re going subscription I can’t see the benefit. Im an apple only user, and using Keychain plus secure notes for those bits that keychain doesn’t handle works great for me.
I’m a 1Password user. Not sure I like this Electron change so much but I’ll wait until the final version is released to pass judgement. There are good Electron apps (Slack, VSC) and bad Electron apps (Teams). I prefer native but I also realize what a PITA it is to keep separate code bases up to date for the same application on different platforms.
I’m a long-time, happy mSecure user – http://www.msecure.com – which, for a single $20 one-off payment, covers MacOS/iOS/WatchOS & iPadOS and has various options for sync’ing across them (inc. iCloud or your local network). This can be used for all your P&C info. like Passport details inc. a pic etc etc. Recommended.