Manifold vs the world

I may be digging up some past rants here, but some of the posts written by Dimitri Rotow, PM for Manifold(?) just have to be quoted. Howard Butler did a previous post (02/03/05) responding to Dimitri’s letter to GISMonitor which seems to be titled quite fittingly as “off his rocker”.

Some more classics that i stumbled upon on the Manifold user forum posted in March 06… (please visit to get these in context)

From a strategic perspective, as much as I understand the appeal of “open” formats, I don’t recommend buying into OGC. It’s basically a bureaucracy of legacy guys unaquainted with modern technology who end up writing low-performance, inept standards that exclude modern ideas.


My experience is that most people who gush on about OGC (some GIS analysts, for example) don’t have any actual experience with it. I find that once people actually try to *do* anything with OGC, unless it is their job to tinker with never-ending things that don’t have to produce actual results, well, then they very rapidly lose enthusiasm for it. There is a cadre of professional OGC “interop demonstrators” who get paid to cobble up one-of-a-kind interop rallies, and those people are quite understandably happy no matter what practical effect OGC has. But in the real world, once someone actually gets hands-on experience with OGC the enthusiasm usually wanes very rapidly as it gets compared to effective alternatives.

Manifold really appear to be taking a “burn your bridges” approach to its competitors (ESRI & OGC in particular). Everythings crap, expensive, slow, bloated …. except ours!! I am looking into purchasing a v7 license for personal use but comments like that are really off-putting for the wider community.
While not everything Dimitri says is quite as radical, i am quite gobsmacked at the manner at which he tries to get his point across. Taking the “us and them” approach really wont help Manifold establish itself in the industry (nor will continual blog comments/forum replies saying “Manifold is so much better than X” with its basis solely around the price tag).

That said, i will still buy a licence because its a good product (well 6 was) … even if its use will be largely looking at its support of the “inept”, “ancient” OGC standards.

Watch this space.

7 thoughts on “Manifold vs the world”

  1. Ah yes . . . Dmitri does rant on at times and it is rather annoying. I think he goes overboard on his comments and certainly doesn’t make any friends doing so. Manifold is inexpensive and does the work I need it to do but it is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is, in fact, just another GIS with its own strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Hi Chris,

    I see the ESRI Fan Club are still finding it difficult to deal with Manifold. They dismiss it with slurs of “cheap” without knowing anything about the product. Maybe one day they might start learning about alternative products and discussing them based on the *value* they provide for the business situation at hand. I live in hope. :-)

    Dmitri is obviously not an OGC fan, and the way he presents his opinions is complelely over the top and uncalled for. However, I’m starting to think that he does some valid points about the OGC. e.g. I’ve never seen any decent response to the issues raised in this article:


  3. I honestly hadn’t seen that article, probably because of the date. It would be interesting if the author published a followup article covering the same points to see what has changed.

    I’m not sure about your first point though Andrew … are you calling me a part of the ESRI “fan club”?? I like to think of myself as very independant from any vendor … i use and recommend the best tool for the job whatever it is. While this post is a bit of a dig in Dimitri’s practices, i have never doubted the usefulness of Manifold, nor ESRI, Mapinfo, Intergraph, ERMapper, Opensource GIS … in certain situations of course :)

  4. Chris,

    No, I was referring to the reaction to what I thought were your comments about Manifold on James Fee’s weblog. But, on second look, it was Chris C, who made the comments not Chris T. My mistake. Apologies for any confusion caused.


  5. Hi,

    I happened to find this thread during a web crawl aimed at another subject. It’s not usually my habit to reply to comments within the legacy community, but in this case I think it important to help guide GIS people (whatever their origins) into understanding first, that the “wider community” is that vast ecosystem driven by Microsoft economies of scale and second, that it is in everyone’s self-interest to take advantage of the Microsoft ecosystem.

    I take issue with the comment “Manifold really appear to be taking a “burn your bridges” approach to its competitors (ESRI & OGC in particular). Everythings crap, expensive, slow, bloated …. except ours!! I am looking into purchasing a v7 license for personal use but comments like that are really off-putting for the wider community.”

    This is a purely stylistic comment in that it makes no attempt to analyze whether or not legacy alternatives to modern software are in truth “crap, expensive, slow, bloated…” If they are, and that would be a bitter truth for legacy advocates to admit, then failing to point out that the would-be emperor has no clothes would be doing the GIS community a disservice. GIS people like anyone else for the most part appreciate getting high performance, high quality software and don’t like being overcharged for obsolete, unreliable software.

    In point of fact, OGC is indeed slow, bloated and, seen through the eyes of modern computer design as opposed to legacy hacks, “crap” (to use your word). I refer interested parties to the various online dissections of OGC “crap” such the incredibly stupid characteristics of GML (a pinnacle of dolt-ware) and other imbecilities heaved up by OGC.

    In point of fact, ESRI products are indeed overpriced, limited in capability by modern standards and strikingly obsolete. To take just one obvious example, how is it that a company charges tens of thousands of dollars for supposedly Windows products that don’t even run 64-bits, support modern multicore processors or are in tune with the latest .NET technologies from Microsoft? To take another example, People stuck in the 90’s might think it useful to script in AML, Avenue or VBA, but modern developers will laugh at such anachronisms. One could go through ESRI’s product line and cite literally hundreds of such instances.

    As far as “us vs them” or “Manifold vs the world”, the quotation above seems to miss that Manifold itself sees all this as a Microsoft phenomenon, not a Manifold phenomenon. We did not invent the core technologies we use that define the mainstream market. Microsoft did. So it’s not a case of “us against them,” as what we advocate is the Microsoft mainstream and Microsoft ways of approaching markets. Manifold is just a bit player in the vast Microsoft ecosystem.

    Someone who thinks that Manifold is an “us vs them” phenomenon is so disconnected from the mainstream that they don’t realize how immensely big Microsoft’s ecosystem is, or how totally committed to that ecosystem Manifold is. As far as Manifold is concerned, there is no “them” in that legacy GIS vendors don’t really exist compared to the immense size of the mainstream ecosystem. We’ve got our work cut out for us tracking Microsoft to the degree required by mainstream competition.

    This is just a guess, but what may be going on and what legacy GIS people seem to sense at some level is that their complaints are not with Manifold, but with Microsoft. It is precisely the intersection of modern, Microsoft-driven technology and economics that spells the death of ESRI and other living fossils. That’s not our doing, it is Microsoft’s. But I think that somewhere even fanatic legacy GIS guys realize that to rant against Microsoft makes them look marginalized so instead of fulminating about how advances in software and price/performance expectations driven by Microsoft have threatened ESRI they go off and say silly things about Manifold.

    Perhaps the silliest such thing is the title of this thread, as saying it is “Manifold vs the world” is really advocacy of the notion that ESRI and other legacy junk is “the world.” In truth it is ESRI and other legacy junk against “the world”, the world in this case being the Microsoft mainstream. That’s an often repeated phenomenon as legacy industry after legacy industry has rubbed up against the phenomenal drive of the Wintel mainstream. We didn’t invent that, we just accept it.

    The point is that whatever the company, if you are not applying mainstream technologies and economy of scale in GIS or pretty much any other market, you’re going to be eradicated by companies that do. That’s a result of the ecosystem pressures created by Microsoft, not us. [Anyone who doubts my word should research what happened to the minicomputer companies or to the dedicated word processor companies, like Wang.]

    I think it also bugs legacy guys that Manifold doesn’t consider either ESRI or OGC competition. But that’s not our doing, it’s their doing. We play in a market that has over a billion users. The direct candidates for an effective, affordable, Windows GIS range from 5 million to 50 million in number depending on how you approach the market (cheap Borland style it’s 50 million users / more sophisticated approach it’s 5 million users).

    Excluding veneers that no one actually uses, actual OGC uptake seems to be infinitesimal, perhaps only a thousand or so organizations and near-zero desktop users outside of organizations. Perhaps the only numbers at all are achieved in the UK, where the OS put a gun to people’s head and forced them to use GML to import OS data, which is where the use of anything OGC begins and ends.

    ESRI is not in the mainstream because they have priced their products out of the mainstream. Mainstream users won’t drop anywhere from $1500 to $25000 a seat to do GIS. That’s simple economic reality: ESRI’s pricing confines them to a non-mainstream business of selling a very small number of licenses for very high prices. It’s the classic “let’s go sell a $500 hammer to Uncle Sam” business.

    And, indeed ESRI seems to have sold hardly any product by mainstream standards. Counting up all active ESRI GIS licenses you end up with only around 100,000, many of which are legacy users of older ESRI releases who are loath to undertake the expense of migrating to ESRI’s latest products. That’s about 2% of the lower 5 million number and not even on the radar given the higher 50 million number for a GIS mainstream. ESRI’s actual unit sales of their current GIS products are very small.

    So, if you think my remarks are “off putting” to the “wider community” you make two key mistakes:

    1. Legacy GIS is not the “wider community.” It is almost invisible fraction of the mainstream. ESRI is committed to keeping it that way. I am committed to making GIS truly mainstream. That’s good for everyone with GIS skills even if it is not good for ESRI. The true “wider community” is the mainstream Microsoft ecosystem.

    2. The true “wider community” enjoys my comments. They like it when they see some pro-Microsoft person ridiculing a living fossil. Part of being wise guys and fanatically pro-Microsoft is that it is a way for Manifold to make it clear to mainstream people that we are not legacy ESRI dolts. When mainstream people go shopping for GIS, they are bedeviled by imbeciles telling them they should spend tens of thousands of dollars on legacy 1990’s junk, by utopian fools who tell them their aim should be to subsidize “cross platform” development and all sorts of other intrinsically anti-Microsoft guff. Windows people don’t like spending a single penny to subsidize some guy who didn’t have the sense to standardize on Microsoft when they did. They *love* it when they come across people like us, who feel that the Microsoft ecosystem is worth a 100% focus, and that part of such a 100% focus is fulfilling mainstream price/performance expectations. Our somewhat aggressive posture, conflicting though it is with my intrinsically meek nature, helps us stand out from the chaff of non-Microsoft GIS.

    I feel badly that my comments offend some legacy GIS practitioners. But what ESRI and some legacy GIS people are doing is pure evil, in the sense that they telling lies to people. There is no need for individuals and organizations to spend forty times as much and to get less. So in a sense this is a litmus test for integrity and a way to see which side people choose.

    If you are committed to allowing the most possible people to do the best possible GIS you have to consider the entire picture: performance, power, quality and price. If there is a pathway to providing outstanding GIS at prices vastly lower than offered by legacy vendors it is your duty to investigate that and to report it to your peers. Any outrage you feel should be aimed at legacy companies that are raping users and organizations and tax payers by providing out of date software for ten, twenty and forty times or greater prices than can be achieved.

    So where’s the outrage over that?

    Regards to all,


  6. Another classic Dimitri post. “I will reply to your message with 1,000 x the words so people fall asleep and never read my entire post”.

    He also likes to go with “he who writes the most wins by default”.

    Always fun to watch.

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