“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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