Created by Berlin-based developer Jan Oberhauser in 2019, n8n presents itself as “a free and open workflow automation tool”. Think of it as a locally hosted Zapier on steroids.
n8n’s deployment model gives developers access to the underlying code, which makes it a better candidate for debuggable integration, including integrating it with your in-house tools (for example, a proprietary CRM). Yet, despite its focus on extensibility for power users, n8n’s interface is also user-friendly:
Considering the amount of controversy that initially surrounded it, it’s worth including a disclaimer here: n8n isn’t open-source in the stricter sense of the term, as it is currently licensed under Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause.
This is in line with Jan’s launch of Fair Code, a software model that works to combine “the benefits of an open source approach while preventing big tech from strip-mining the underlying source code.”
This approach has also been helpful for n8n’s path as a startup: while it started out as a part-time project for Oberhauser, it is now a venture-backed company, having raised a $1.5 million seed round from Sequoia, firstminute Capital and others earlier this year.
n8n also announced the imminent launch of its hosted version, the fully-managed n8n.cloud - click here to learn more about it and request early access.