Web AppBuilder is Heading into Retirement, but Fear Not!

On February 27th, Esri released a blog post that revealed a detailed timeline of Web AppBuilder’s retirement plan this news seemed inevitable and was probably unsurprising to many. Since 2014, Esri’s Web AppBuilder has been an extremely useful tool that has allowed users to create mapping applications for the web with absolutely no coding required. Now that it’s expected to retire within the next few years, what will users do? Will they still be able to bring their web map application dreams to life without the stress of needing to code out complex workflows? Absolutely! Then you may be wondering why Web AppBuilder is being sent into retirement if it works so well? Let’s get into it… 

Retiring?! But why?  

Web AppBuilder’s underlying technology – the ArcGIS API for JavaScript (3.x) – is scheduled to retire in July 2024. As the foundation has grown and improved into what we now know as ArcGIS Maps SDK for JavaScript, new technologies and tools have been introduced to provide users with the same capabilities as Web AppBuilder, plus some.  

What should we use now? 

Technically, ArcGIS Experience Builder (ExB) is the new equivalent and offers even more functionality that users may not have noticed they were missing. ExB offers a wide range of new and improved templates to build web apps. If you have your heart set on a style offered in WAB, you’ll be happy to hear that ExB has an entire template section dedicated to the classic Web AppBuilder themes – but they can be customized even further if desired! This gives users impressive flexibility to build more complex, customized web apps compared to what was available in WAB.  

WebAppBuilder Classic Themes in Experience Builder

Keep in mind – with increased flexibility in ExB also introduces a bit more of a learning curve. Once you get the hang of building code-free web mapping applications in Experience Builder, you’ll see that the possibilities are endless.  

To learn more about what to expect when building apps in ExB versus WAB, Esri has put together a functionality matrix for Web AppBuilder and Experience Builder. This document should be updated regularly by Esri, so users can use it to get a handle on the best route for migrating their existing web apps, as well as seeing what aspects are shared in both tools. 

As Web AppBuilder makes its exit over the next few years, users should know that Experience Builder isn’t the only option for building new web mapping applications. Esri has multiple user-friendly tools to easily create apps that don’t require code, including ArcGIS Dashboard, StoryMaps, and Instant Apps. Each of these tools is different, so depending on your audience, data, and the goal(s) of your mapping application, some may be a better fit than others.  

ArcGIS Online Instant Apps

What about our apps?  

If you have a lot of existing web apps that were built in WAB, don’t stress! Just because WAB is technically considered deprecated as of now, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Users should note that after the official retirement in 2025, existing apps will continue to work, but there are some important details to keep in mind. After retirement, WAB in AGOL and the developer edition will no longer receive bug fixes or have the available technical support we all know and love – which may lead to functional inconsistencies and possibly security issues as browsers are updated. As for ArcGIS Enterprise, WAB will still receive critical updates and be supported per the ArcGIS Enterprise product lifecycle, but will not receive any major functional improvements.  

With that being said, users may want to consider migrating their existing Web AppBuilder apps into one of the many other ArcGIS application platforms such as Experience Builder, Dashboards, StoryMaps, or Instant Apps. And, if Web AppBuilder is the main platform you use to build web apps, I would highly recommend getting more familiar with the other mentioned ArcGIS application platforms.  el


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