I have been a big, big fan of Parse. It was one of the best backend-as-a-service providers that was particularly developer-friendly. I started using it several years ago as an indie mobile developer, creating mobile apps for families, kids, and to promote fitness with all kinds of bells and whistles like awards, push notifications, data storage, and user management. I rejoiced in having a solid backend service and told the world about it, helping developers jump on the bandwagon.
Building off of my work with Parse, a friend even started his own backend service, having built a Parse plugin as a first step in the area. Now his solution has been folded into a game development company and is going strong. I’m proud to have played some part in onboarding developers to the concept of BaaS.
But this week’s announcement that Facebook is shuttering Parse set me back on my heels. As Twitter exploded with anger, sadness, and ranting (The #parse hashtag trended for a solid day), I found myself rapidly going through what can be termed a modified twelve step program after realizing that, as an Indie developer, I have been addicted…addicted to FREE.
it’s ok to be snarky, at least for a while
Developers like me who were attracted to Parse, I believe, were initially dismayed by its acquisition by Facebook because we thought it would be swallowed up by Facebook’s APIs and authentication strategies. Instead, something amazing happened…it became FREE, even more free than it had been before (which was pretty free, though there were levels of subscription):
I have since come to the realization that free does not always mean good. If you are such a small shop that you can only use what is free, then it might be best to choose very carefully with whom you partner. Ask yourself: if I choose a free service, does the provider have any incentive to keep it afloat? Why are they free, anyway? What is their monetization strategy that allows them to keep their service or software free?
anger is an understandable reaction
Now, it may seem disingenuous of me, an employee of Telerik whose Telerik Platform competed with Parse, to say that you should by default choose a service that is not free. What I’m saying, actually, is that smaller shops who are attracted to these solutions need to be especially mindful, because we are vulnerable. Below I discuss some other options out there for us.
Sometimes humor can help too
Time to face facts. In a year, Parse will be gone and we will have to have migrated away from it. Do you need a BaaS? There are plenty of choices and they are ready to onboard you:
But again, be careful what you wish for. Who’s to say who will go down next? Choose carefully. Pick a company that can show plainly that it cares about the developer experience, and that onboarding developers helps its own bottom line. Certain social media companies have never been great about demonstrating that – and why should they? It’s not their core business.
Have you ever considered whether you even need to have a BaaS?
For example, looking critically at my own projects on Parse, I see that one uses it for authentication, CDN asset storage, and displaying data in a table. What if I got rid of authentication, found somewhere else to store the assets (40 videos), and stored the user’s data locally?
Take inventory of the app’s basic needs. Hopefully you are using analytics to check on what elements are used and what are not. Do you really need push notifications? Do you need data storage? Do you need authentication? Do you need a backend database? Are you capable of doing it yourself?
I’ll be migrating my remaining app from Parse to Telerik Backend Services over the next few weeks. If you need help or want a sounding board, feel free to contact me.
If you decide that, yes, you need some kind of backend service solution, then it’s time to go shopping. There are a bunch of services out there. Find one that relies on developer buy-in and that has a monetization strategy in place. Maybe you can exist for the time being on its free tier, and can scale up later as your business grows.
But by all means, find a solution that will allow you – as much as possible in this uncertain world – to sleep at night knowing that you’ll be able to wake up the next morning and your app will still be serving your customers. Good luck!
Header image courtesy of Jamie Q Photography