A Brief History of Lightning: Dreamforce 2013-2016

The unified Lightning vision as we know it today has been rolled out in fits and starts. To understand how we arrived at the current vision for Lightning, we can look back on prior Dreamforce events as milestones in the history of Lightning.

Dreamforce 2013

At Dreamforce ’13, Salesforce recognized that the world was moving to a “moble first” mindset and rebranded their mobile application as Salesforce1.

With Salesforce1 they also tried to sell the vision of a unified customer experience for the first time. According to a press release for Dreamforce ’13, “Salesforce1 is a new social, mobile and cloud customer platform built to transform sales, service and marketing apps for the Internet of Customers.”

The vision was too ambitious at the time, the messaging was too confusing, and the platform was nowhere close to being ready to support any type of unified experience.

Dreamforce 2014

Lightning emerged as a platform at Dreamforce ’14. Branded as Salesforce1 Lightning, Salesforce opened up the underlying Aura JavaScript UI framework to developers for the first time, enabling the development of custom components for the Salesforce1 mobile application using the same technology that Salesforce had used to develop the Salesforce1 mobile application.

The press release for Dreamforce ’14 hinted at what was in store for Lightning, “Now customers, developers and Salesforce partners can take advantage of the new Lightning Framework to quickly build engaging apps across every device. The same framework Salesforce’s internal development team uses to build apps can now be used to build custom Lightning Components and create any user experience.”

At this point, Salesforce was still using the Salesforce1 branding for the unified end-to-end experience across Salesforce products and platforms, but we now officially had the Lightning Framework to work with.

Dreamforce 2015

Dreamforce ’15 may have been the official coming out party for Lightning, but in an unprecedented move for Salesforce, the company held a special pre-Dreamforce “Meet the New Salesforce” event on August 25, 2015 to announce the new Lightning Experience user interface as well as a complete rebranding of the end-to-end experience to “Lightning.”

The Dreamforce event focused on strengthening the branding and educating developers, admins, and end users on what this unified experience meant for the future of Salesforce. Since then, Salesforce has been all Lightning, all the time.

Dreamforce 2016

With Dreamforce ’16 and the Winter ’17 release of Salesforce, Lightning had finally arrived as a stable, optimized, enterprise-ready platform.

Dreamforce ’16 was less about hype and more about driving Lightning adoption. Sessions focused on design patterns and best practices rather than selling the platform to developers. New tooling was introduced to make the Lightning development experience something that Salesforce developers could get excited about.

With Winter ’17, Lightning Experience felt like a true unified end-to-end experience instead of a patchwork of functionality. The Winter ’17 release notes were packed with enhancements that would get many organizations off of the fence about Lightning and shift the adoption bell curve from towards an early majority from the early adopter state that it had been lingering in while Salesforce filled in the gaps in the platform.

This is the Lightning we had been waiting for.

Mike Topalovich
Hi, I’m Mike. I help companies like yours do business in new ways with Salesforce.

I am a freelance Salesforce Developer, Architect, and CTO as well as a part time instructor for Salesforce University.

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