About one year ago, I posted a crude analysis of the forum participation numbers here, along with a brief analysis of what this might mean in terms of Manifold’s future business development. I argued that Manifold as a company was stuck in a limbo with stagnating growth while supposed release dates for the new Version 9 were coming and going.
One year on, I reran the analysis on forum participation, and to my regret, not much has changed with a continued fall in user form posts. Forum contribution numbers have now in March 2011 reached the level of mid-2006. 2006 of course marked the release of Manifold 7.0, which first introduced significant entreprise level features into the product, and which the graph reflected in an impressive spike in forum participation numbers.
Apart from the near stasis in which Manifold 8.0 now is, with some intermittent bug fix updates still provided, other developments have also impacted community participation. Significantly, after a period in January 2011 of intense discussion on the forum, Manifold introduced a new set of forum posting rules that effectively now limit the discussion on technical issues, precluding any discussion of Manifold’s business practices and company developments. Also, copyright infringement claims were logged against various individuals that set up independent Manifold community hubs on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn (disclosure: I am the administrator of the LinkedIn Manifold user group), resulting in the closure of the Facebook page.
These tightening of business practices interestingly coincided with the apparent transferral of Manifold’s business address from CDA International, based in Carson City, Nevada, to a new company, Manifold Software Limited, with headquarters in Hong-Kong.
What can be a conclusion from all this? As it stands, not much has changed, and although Manifold 8.0 is still as good a product as four years ago, one can only wonder if there will ever be another significant update? Manifold’s competitors are also catching up, and significantly offering new developments in web-based services, an area which Manifold has left to third-party developers to further develop so far. Also some of the key technical advantages of Manifold are eroding, for example true 64bit operation in ESRI’s ArcGIS 10.1, weakening Manifold’s claims of technical superiority.
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