Google stokes up Firebase to create unified platform for app developers

Google has added a dozen new products to Firebase, its backend services platform for iOS, Android, and web apps.

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The new tools in Firebase are unified by a new and free Firebase analytics platform and dashboard.

Image: Google

Google has channelled its many tools for developers into a revamped version of Firebase, which now becomes a one-stop shop for building, managing, and monetizing Android, iOS, and web apps.

Google acquired Firebase in 2014, as an application cross-platform backend service that included a real-time database, user authentication, and hosting.

The new Firebase, announced at Google's I/O conference, integrates a host of existing Google cloud services with Firebase, such as Google Cloud Messaging, fleshing out Firebase to a platform of 15 products and integrations, all aimed at helping developers build apps, attract users and earn revenue.

With the new Firebase, Google is aiming to improve the experience for its community of mobile app developers, which has grown from 110,000 since 2014 to over 450,000, according to Firebase product manager, James Tamplin.

The new tools in Firebase are unified by a new and free Firebase analytics platform and dashboard that will help developers understand what users are doing with their iOS and Android apps, measure ad performance, and see where users are coming from.

Firebase is similar to Facebook's Parse, but the social network decided in January to retire the hosted service by January 2017, after which developers can self-host their databases. It's also similar to Microsoft's Azure mobile services or AWS's mobile hub.

On the development side of the revamped Firebase, Google is adding storage, cloud messaging, and remote configuration.

Google has integrated Google Cloud Messaging with Firebase and has renamed it Firebase Cloud Messaging. The tool supports messaging on iOS, Android and the web.

Firebase Storage, which is powered by Google Cloud Storage, offers a location to store images, video and other files.

Meanwhile, Firebase Remote Config will let developers customize and tune apps without having to publish a new version.

To help improve the quality of apps, Google is offering Firebase crash reporting and Firebase Test Lab for Android to test apps for bugs before release.

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Once apps are live, Firebase can now help developers acquire new users with dynamic links, invites, and integrated tracking of app installs via AdWords campaigns. Dynamic links let developers pick different destinations of a link based on the type of browser or device.

To help developers re-engage existing users, Firebase notifications allows developers to deliver notifications via Firebase Cloud Messaging and target messages to select audiences in Firebase analytics.

Another re-engagement tool is Firebase App Indexing, formerly, Google App Indexing, which helps expose apps through Google Search and allows users to launch already-installed apps from search results.

Feature-wise, the final element to the new Firebase is the ability to integrate in-app ad services through Google's AdMob.

Further integration between Firebase and other Google products has been enabled by Firebase sharing the same account system as Google Cloud Platform, which means developers can, for example, export Firebase Analytics data to BigQuery.

Finally, Google has changed its pricing for Test Lab, Storage, Realtime Database, and Hosting, which are now broken down to a free plan, a fixed-rate plan, and pay-as-you-go plan.

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