Firebase is development software for building mobile and web applications. When Google acquired it in 2014, the tech giant made it their flagship platform for cloud development. The platform provides a real-time, multi-node, and key-value database at the core to synchronize data between user devices and centralized cloud storage.
Developers usually deal with data, and Firebase takes the burden off their shoulders so they can focus on writing codes instead of pulling data from multiple sources.
In this definition...
How Firebase works
As a mobile backend-as-a-service platform, Firebase ensures data stays consistent and in sync through the entire system despite changes in version or location. It creates copies of datasets and their bits, splitting them across multiple machines, and it makes the data stored in a mobile phone a local version of the cloud database. In a way, the user’s mobile phone becomes part of the cloud. To ensure consistency, Firebase transfers copies of locally stored data to the cloud, and then, it replicates in the local storage all the changes made on the cloud.
Databases and web development
Web development goes hand in hand with managing databases. Replicating data across multiple machines and databases has been a long-time problem for developers. Managing changes in data and ensuring consistency between a local device and the main server tend to be costly.
Firebase’s ability to integrate datasets both locally and in the cloud makes the work of developers easier.
Firebase’s key features
Build offers developers backend support to their projects, including Cloud Firestore (serverless cloud data storage), real-time database, remote configuration, machine learning, cloud functions, authentication, and cloud messaging. It also comes with extensions for resizing images and running subscription payments and sending invoices via Stripe.
Release and monitor
Release and monitor are features involving product testing, roll out, monitoring, troubleshooting, etc. They include Crashlytics (tracking and analyzing app stability), Google Analytics, remote configuration, performance monitoring, test lab (for spotting errors simulating actual environments), and app distribution. Extended capabilities are Export to BigQuery and a distributed counter that writes data for Cloud Firestore.
Engage is designed for understanding users and optimizing user experience. It includes remote configuration, Google Analytics, predicting future trends through machine learning, running experiments to test ideas, authentication, cloud messaging, analyzing stability, dynamic linking, and in-app messaging. It also has email integration with Mailchimp Firebase Sync.
Some Firebase use cases
Firebase is particularly useful in:
- Solving the challenges that app developers commonly encounter
- Improving user experience with trackable onboarding flow
- Customizing and personalizing UX based on user preferences, usage history, location, and language
- Launching the app and rolling out new features
- Tracking user journey across devices
- Syncing in-app and cloud messaging
- Optimizing marketing and ads based on user behavior
- Enhancing user engagement by enabling them to share and resize photos, etc.
Pros and cons of Firebase
One of the advantages of Firebase is it has a wide range of features, services, and products. Setting it up is simple, and its documentation is concise. Plus, it has a simple user interface and integrates APIs and applications easily.
However, since it’s part of Google’s products, Firebase favors Android more than iOS. It also struggles with data migration, especially when using SQL, as it uses JSON.
Alternatives to Firebase
- AWS Aurora