- I am Adarsh, Product lead for Forge. I recently joined the Forge team having spent 4+ years building Atlassian Identity platform. Thanks @tobitheo and team for exploring Forge in depth and sharing back your findings with the community. This thread has a ton of great feedback for the Forge team and we are already actioning on some of them. Post like this is great for us to understand the challenges faced by developers and helps us immensely to prioritise the right things to build and ship to make Forge better.
Let me attempt to share some of our thoughts on key items in the feedback;
UI Kit vs Custom UI vs Connect
When we embarked on building Forge, we created UI kit to support apps natively within our products. It was designed to be declarative and closer to products compared to what we have today in iframes. We know UI kit is limited in it’s current form, that’s why we still have the beta label. Over the last year we reduced our investment into UI kit to focus on the launch of Custom UI which was an essential piece in unlocking Forge for real world usage. We knew that we needed to do this first, before continuing on our longer term goals for UI kit.
Interactivity in UI kit is a known point of friction for both developers and end users. We’re not focusing on increasing the 10 second restriction. We believe that 10 seconds is too long for a user to wait for UI. What we are beginning to focus on is how to solve interactivity on the whole. The main area we are currently exploring is a client side runtime for apps. Rather than requiring a FaaS roundtrip invocation for every button press, we’re exploring what it would look like to execute your apps code within the browser. One question we are looking to answer is what it would mean to use real React, instead of our React inspired syntax. There are some obvious challenges in doing this, but we are seeing promising results and are evaluating next steps.
It’s likely that UI kit will change significantly. We’re just not sure exactly how this looks yet.
On Custom UI:
- In regards to templates, yes, we use create-react-app. Our main reason for this is to keep the templates simple and for the developer to have a starting point. React is our choice here as this is what Atlaskit is built on. Longer term, we have some ideas on how to improve templates, not only for Custom UI. Ideally a developer could build their own based on what they select. For example, typescript + vue.js or vanilla js + react + webpack. We’re a little a while away from working in this area, but that’s some insight into our longer term thinking.
- Custom UI is capable of calling external services, see fetch.client in the permissions section of Forge docs https://developer.atlassian.com/platform/forge/manifest-reference/permissions/#client.
- In terms of only being able to use index.html, that’s interesting feedback. I’ve passed this back to the team.
- We are intentional in not providing allow-popups and allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation to Forge iframes. This is so that we can control linking behaviour and ensure it aligns with our egress rules. As you mentioned, this is possible via the router in the bridge.
Tooling & Templates
Thank you for your feedback on the Forge tunnel. This feedback has been passed on to the team.
Templates & Documentation
As you’ve correctly surmised, we’re huge fans of Typescript at Atlassian. In Ecosystem Platform we haven’t used Node.js for any new services for quite some time. And our preference would be that Marketplace Partners are using Typescript too, due to the increased productivity and almost certainly lower number of runtime errors that will bite our mutual customers!
The reason the majority of the templates are vanilla Node.js is that we decided we wanted our templates to be usable by as broader base as possible. A Typescript developer will have no problems understanding a Node.js template—even if the lack of type-safety is deeply distasteful —whereas a Node.js developer unfamiliar with Typescript may have a hard time following one.
Ideally we’d have TS / JS variants of each, but as you’ve seen our current templates are rapidly outdated as we improve the Forge platform. We are planning on figuring out a more sustainable way to maintain these, as they are a pretty key aspect of our onboarding experience.
I love the BYOT idea! And thank you for your contributions (and the to-the-point license ). We’ll see if we can sneak that into an upcoming CLI release.
As for cryptographic operations, we have found that jsrsasign works well for us
Thanks for the report around the conflict between crypto and snapshotting, and the tip about jsrasign as a workaround. We’ll investigate the bug and resolve it if technically feasible, or at least improve the error and document the limitation if there are fundamental issues with snapshotting the crypto package.
Regarding the reset of variables between function calls, that is by design and put there to prevent cross tenant data leakage. The same Forge function is executed for multiple customers. I.e. If your App is installed by multiple customers, all the invocations for those customers go to this single Forge function (although this will scale dependant on load). To prevent the case where an App accidentally stores customer data in a variable outside the function (i.e. global), Forge resets all state, and thus those variables.
Forge App Storage
Great feedback on Forge’s storage API!
You’re right – it is currently a relatively simple key/value store. The good news is we have work underway that will enable Forge developers to specify schemas for their data, so we can offer validation before persisting. You can expect to see this land in the medium term. We have other types of storage on our longer term radar – in particular blob storage and relational data storage – but those are less concrete at the moment. We’re very keen to hear about cases where the current datastore is a blocker in practice – this will help us tune those future plans.
On the topic of storing secrets, it looks like this has been covered in the discussion already, but in short: the reason we don’t recommend storing secrets is that we don’t yet offer all the features you’d need to do so easily and safely. If you choose to store secrets, you’ll need to take on the responsibility of encrypting the data before persisting, and having a solution in place for rotating your encryption keys. So it’s doable today, but is more complex and risky for developers than we’d like, hence our recommendation to hold off for now if possible.
We believe one of the primary use cases for needing to store credentials is to make authenticated calls to external sites. The good news here is that, as you say, we’re currently working on a feature for calling out to OAuth 2.0 sites (expected within the next few months) and will subsequently look at solutions for other forms of outbound auth.
No Support for Jira Service Management
A lot of things related to Jira Service Management projects right now are broken: There are no events for those projects and its data can not be accessed via REST API. This is apparently due to Forge not supporting any of the scopes necessary to use JSM projects.
We want to support JSM on Forge, we are investigating this internally and will updates the thread once we have more details.
Thanks for your ideas on scoping! They’re timely, as we’re currently undertaking some design and security explorations into how administrators and users perceive scopes, and how developers use them. It’s encouraging to hear that we’re on the right track! We are investigating making them more granular though—but we’ll strive to not go overboard and maintain our balance between customer privacy and developer convenience.
This is a well known problem to us regarding Forge, and one that we’re looking to rectify, as there are certainly plenty of use-cases for impersonating users in a non-UI context. Invoking a REST request as a user isn’t supported in non-UI contexts because we don’t currently have a way to consistently ask the triggering user for consent. ACT_AS_USER in Connect does not require end-user consent, and therefore does not suffer from this problem. There are certainly ways to solve this, and we’re have considered evolving our auth model to support impersonating users in more contexts. The jury is still out at this stage on user selection, as it’s a fairly powerful feature that’s ripe for abuse. It may be something that we can protect with an additional scope though.
Limited Selection, For Now
We are glad that you align with the simplified approach we have taken towards modules in Forge. The difficulty surrounding the use of web items as you have mentioned was one of the main reasons for designing Forge in this way.
Although less flexibility in the immediate-term comes as a result of making this decision, in the long term, we will not only improve Forge’s module-parity with Connect, but also introduce new extensibility options that would not have been possible on the Connect platform (even through web items and web panels). Recently, we have done an extensive study in an effort to narrow the extensibility gap by prioritising Forge equivalents of Connect modules that have the highest usage - we just shared an update on Forge modules that have equivalent modules in the Connect framework. Also keep an eye out for a blog post on this on our Developer Blog in the coming week with more details.
Connect on Forge
Atlassian has not yet found a proper solution to migrate a Connect app to Forge app with the same key on the Marketplace
We’ve specced out a solution to this problems outlined in the feedback and we will soon be reaching out to community to gather feedback.
Dynamic modules are not yet supported.
Not yet, but they’re on the harmonisation roadmap to be shipped in the initial quarters of next calendar year
Connect on Forge is not allowed to impersonate a user and make requests on the Jira API. In other words, ACT_AS_USER permission scope cannot be used.
Not yet, but scheduled to be replaced with similar functionality around Q3.
Big Thank you
Thanks for providing detailed feedback on Forge, post like this re-instates the belief we have in our developer mission and help us to the build a platform, that is valuable for our customers, developers and all partners. We have multiple teams actively working on features across various parts of App development and this post acts as a benchmark for us to report back on all the progress we make in coming months. With this continued support and love from community, we will continue to learn, iterate and ship high priority features to ensure all builders choose to build their next App on Forge .