App development is becoming increasingly complex. Developers have to build for different platforms and a growing number of form factors. They have to meet more and more requirements for security and scalability, all while meeting growing customer expectations. To help developers handle it all, Google is rolling out a series of new updates to Firebase, its backend app development program.
"We're investing in helping developers solve problems that don't always necessarily differentiate their products, like building backend infrastructure and scaling it, things like security, or having to integrate with third-party APIs," Firebase Product Lead Francis Ma said to ZDNet. That way, he said, developers can stay focused on what they "need to do to keep pace with consumer expectations and to reach users where they are."
The updates, announced at the Google I/O conference on Wednesday, largely focus on making Firebase work better with some of Google's most popular developer products, as well as with a broader open ecosystem of tools. The updates will impact the ore than 3 million developers who use Firebase.
Here are some of the highlights:
To give developers a simpler workflow, Google is integrating the Firebase tool Crashlytics directly into Android Studio, Google's integrated development environment (IDE) for the Android operating system.
Crashlytics is a crash reporting tool within Firebase that helps developers track the performance of their app after it launches. Developers can track crashes, errors and feedback from users, so they can make improvements in the next release of their apps.
However, up to this point, developers would need to switch between Crashlytics and their IDE to fix those problems. Now, Google is bring the Crashlytics experience directly into Android Studio with a feature called the App Quality Insights Window. Developer will be able to automatically see crashes and pinpoint the specific line of code that caused the errors. They can both recognize and fix issues while staying inside the editor.
"We all know developers love being in the flow and being productive," Ma said.
Developers often use modern frameworks like Angular, Vue, Next.js, Nuxt to build and deploy web apps. However, this can add more complexity in terms of managing the deployment of apps. Some frameworks may be for front-end deployments, while others are for back-end deployments, and developers have to orchestrate it all.
Now, developers can deploy modern web apps with a single command: firebase deploy. Google automatically figures out all the dependencies and and deploys it across Firebase hosting and backend services.
Developers often use a number of third-party APIs in their apps --typically anywhere from 20 up to as many as 40 APIs. They may, for instance, be using a popular provider like Stripe for processing payments or Twilio for managing email communications.
Two years ago, Google introduced Firebase Extensions, which offers pre-packaged solutions and integrations so developers can easily deploy them. Now, Google is introducing the concept of Extensions Events, giving developers the ability to deploy pre-packaged APIs while further customizing them.
For instance, a developer can already deploy a Stripe extension to manage a subscription payment. Now with Extensions Events, they could further customize the workflow. If a user cancels their subscription, for example, the developer could now send back a discount offer to try to win back the user.
Google also announced the release of third-party extensions for marketing, search, and payment processing. Two new extensions from Snap, for instance, allow users to log in with Snap and promote their products in their stories.
To improve security for app developers, Google is bringing a project called App Check into general availability. App Check verifies that incoming traffic is, in fact, coming from a developer's app on a legitimate device, and blocking traffic that doesn't have valid credentials. This helps protect the app from threats like billing fraud, phishing, app impersonation, and data theft and poisoning. Additionally, App Check now integrates with the Play Integrity API.
Flutter is Google's open source UI framework that allows developers to build multi-platform apps from a single codebase. Now, all of the Firebase plugins for Flutter have moved to general availability, and Google has added official Flutter documentation, snippets, and customer support to make it easier to use Flutter and Firebase together.