At Google’s I/O 2017 developer conference today, the company announced new features for Firebase, its service for helping developers build apps for Android, iOS, and the web. At the same time, Google also started open-sourcing Firebase’s software development kits (SDKs). “We believe in open source software, not only because transparency is an important goal, but also because we know that the greatest innovation happens when we all collaborate,” the team declared.
Google acquired Firebase in October 2014. Since then, the backend-as-a-service has grown from 110,000 developers to over 1 million. Last year at I/O, the company expanded Firebase into a full mobile development platform. But even since then, it has continued to add more functionality.
Speaking of acquisitions, Google bought Twitter’s mobile developer platform, Fabric, back in January, with plans to add the group to the Firebase team. I/O seems like a fitting time for an update, and indeed we got one: Fabric’s Crashlytics will become the primary crash reporting product in Firebase.
Furthermore, the Firebase-swallowing-Fabric process has already born fruit: The Digits team has brought phone number authentication to the platform. Developers can now let users sign in with their phone numbers, in addition to using traditional email/password or identity providers like Facebook. As you might expect, the Fabric team will be retiring the Digits name and SDK. If you use Digits, you’ll soon be able to link your account with Firebase and swap in the Firebase SDK for the Digits SDK.
Next up, Firebase is launching a free performance-monitoring tool in beta. Poor app performance and stability are the top reasons users leave bad ratings and uninstall apps, so Firebase Performance Monitoring helps developers understand when user experience is impacted by poorly performing code or challenging network conditions.
Firebase is also getting some analytics improvements. Firebase Analytics is now called Google Analytics for Firebase, since the reports are available across both the Firebase console and the Google Analytics interface. Semantics aside, Firebase now shares data with AdMob, for those using the service to monetize their app, helping developers understand the true lifetime value (LTV) of their users. Developers can now also register up to 50 custom event parameters and see details in their Analytics reports.
Firebase is also getting expanded platform and vertical support. Since Swift has become the preferred language for many iOS developers, the SDK now handles Swift language nuances. Firebase Cloud Messaging has gained support for token-based authentication for APNs, and the client SDK has received simpler connection and registration logic. For game developers, Game Loop support and frames per second (FPS) monitoring has been built into Test Lab for Android, allowing developers to evaluate their game’s frame rate before deployment.
The most recent Firebase update was in March: Cloud Functions arrived to let developers run custom backend code in response to events triggered by Firebase features and HTTP requests. Firebase Hosting now integrates with Cloud Functions so developers can serve dynamic content. If you are building a Progressive Web App, for example, Firebase Hosting plus Cloud Functions allows you to go completely serverless.
Finally, there is now a Firebase Alpha program, which lets developers test the cutting edge version of the service. Developers who want to play with fire, *ahem*, can fill out the Firebase Alpha form.