Last year, USV invested in Firebase. Albert wrote a blog post about Firebase back when we invested.
Yesterday Firebase announced a hosted version of their product so you don’t have to use it alongside S3 or some other host.
I wandered by Hacker News to see what the developer crowd thought about Firebase and the new hosting service and was pleasantly surprised to see one of the most positive threads on Hacker News that I have seen in a long time.
The top voted comment describes the power of Firebase really well:
I’ve been using Firebase for a couple of months now for an iOS app I’m building for a client, and it has been a fantastic experience.
“What about merge conflicts?” was my first question, but luckily it has transactions on an individual node (and its subtree) that perform an “optimistic-concurrency transactional update” which basically means a compare-and-swap where you review the current value in a callback and decide whether to try to commit that value (or a new value, say, for a counter) or give up. For most other writes, you’re usually just saving status updates where there is little or no danger of being rejected or encountering merge conflicts. If in doubt, it’s possible to get a callback with the final value.
So when it’s all said and done, I can totally see writing a full-featured app using it without a single line of server-side code. I used their hosting while it was in development to store images (like a CDN) and it’s very simple to use from the console, so if you have a build script, it could push to production with a single call. After an exhausting ordeal battling iCloud for a different project, Firebase is so profoundly better that I will never go back.
That’s the kind of unsolicited customer testimonial that most companies would die for. It’s a real tribute to the Firebase team that they have built something that developers love. We have been involved with a few companies that make products developers love (Stack, Twilio, Mongo for example) and these have all been fantastic investments for us. Looks like its time to add Firebase to that list.
the “top voted comment” link is behind a username/ password wall.
ughi will take that link out. thanks
the link immediately above it works fine.
Is Firebase primarily for premium / paid-for apps and services? I’m not sure how pricing compares to S3, etc.. It could fill some major pain points that I’ll eventually have to develop for, though initial cost at a low-level of course is a factor when you have a low low budget (talking about more than 50 free connection amounts too).
[Firebase co-founder] Hi Matt – As you probably saw, we have a free plan that gives you 100 MB of storage (that’s *a lot* of JSON), 5GB of bandwidth and 50 concurrent connections (eg 50 users in a chat room). Using this any indie dev should be able to build a good sized app before having to upgrade to our paid plans.We roll our hosting pricing in with our core offering, so comparing with S3 is a little difficult. If we offered it independently would that be appealing to you?
I wonder how many people read that and think “I can store data for 50 of my users at a time.”Are you suggesting providing the Firebase service but the developer using their own S3 account or alternative key – value backing store?I agree with Larry (LE) that more information targeted both to business and developers would make the offering more clear. Most of what I’ve heard about Firebase comes from stories and comments on HN.
Hi. Thanks for responding.I am valuing the concurrent connection as the most valuable piece to what you are offering – though I’d see it as a value-add to the hosting. Your hosting would hopefully be as competitive as. I understand hosting prices might be hard to compete with when you’re a smaller size company at this point.I might not be the target market, mostly as the primary usage for me would be concurrent connections for chat/messaging.The animated gif example you give on your homepage of an updating stream on desktop and mobile, along with message notifications as an example: 10,000 active users who are interacting would be great, though unless the price comes down dramatically as scaling then it’s not feasible unless it’s a paid-for service.At your 10,000 connections price point of $1,499 – that’s 15 cents per month per user. For paid services, that can work fine – though any freemium model I don’t think would have a chance of scaling using your service.I do realize not all users will be active or using a connection 100% of the time but I imagine that’d be the goal for some businesses to have them using their service as much as possible.It would be interesting to see some data relating to how many concurrent connections there are to the number unique users services are supporting. Maybe it’s 100,000 and then cost is reduced to 1.5 cents per user per month? Etc.. It’s hard for me to visualize I guess. I wish I had a budget to start on the stage of where I could use Firebase as a quick way to launch and iterate – I do see the value there – and for scaling, though I’m a long-term / long-tail / holistic thinker and make my decisions based on what is able to be apparent.I wonder too how something like Firebase compares to Meteor, or React+Node, etc.. Are you primarily trying to target the developer for quickly launching new applications? I can imagine you’d preferably want to keep their app with you long-term though too. What happens when I scale to 100,000 or a million concurrent users or more? If that’s only a conversation that happens once that point is reached then I think my fear of uncertainty would prevent me from using Firebase for long. :)I might not be your target market.Thanks again for your reply.
love posts like this.Lets me Learn about something out of my comfort zone
I looked at Firebase for a project when it first came out, didn’t know you were behind it (but should have).I love the concept of BaaS (backend-as-a-service). As APIs have devolved to REST, and the number of actions and permutations that can be taken is limited – essentially the 4-5 REST verbs plus, in some cases, logic to correlate – POST to this means automatically update that without having to do a PUT or PATCH – the whole idea of needing a custom backend for many apps starts to go away. It is a logical evolution:My own data centre -> my own servers in colo centre -> leased servers -> IaaS -> PaaS -> BaaSThey were missing some authentication and other logic pieces, so I had to use a custom backend, but it turned into a library that largely provided a similar concept. Firebase appear to have added a lot of the missing pieces. I am very glad to see them move ahead.
1. That HackerNews thread is a perfect example of Advocates swarming in to support a product, via powerful and genuine testimonials. That’s the future of marketing. Let your customers say it for you.2. I like that Firebase has built-in “burstable billing”. We had to write special scripts for AWS to get that.
That has always been the core of marketing William.Been around since the first product was loved by the first customer and the first marketer had the aha that community is the most efficient form for markets to build on.
Agreed. But online amplifies this even more & makes it more visible and effective via compression of time to reach prospects, via these advocates.Every company has 3 key constituents: Customers, Prospects and Advocates.So I was over dramatizing this point because most companies don’t manage or exploit the power of their advocates as much as they should.
Actually I think that most companies think that they will win because of community but don’t understand the why of it and worse, don’t understand that this in and of itself, is no strategy at all.
There are differences between online communities and advocates:http://influitive.com/blog/…
This is the stuff of academics and pundits in my opinion.No one in the real world parses and executes with these hard and fast distinctions in mind.Are the behaviors pertinent–of course and they are worth understanding.But this approaches it from the top down, thinking of advocates as tools of the company rather than ambassadors and voices into segments of groups and communities they touch.Look to fitness brands as the very best examples of how to make this effective.
I’m not sure I agree with that, Arnold. I’m speaking from real experience and seeing this first hand when I was at Influitive. Most Advocates don’t hang out in these online communities that some companies have. There have different motivations.
Possibly you got the harsh end of my witless comment after a brutal few days. If so I apologize.I’ll reread the post as if anyone can change my perspective it is you. If there are real world examples of this, do share. It will take that to change my view.
Every company and its online community also has people who are against them. How would they be defined? Reluctants, Cynics and Saboteurs?One of the challenges for companies must be to somehow find and give voice to the Customers, Prospects and Advocates so it’s their message that spreads rather than the negatives’ voice?
Never seen a market strategy that was built on anything other than giving voice to those that supported you.This is not done to counteract anything in my experience, it’s built on the knowledge that positive information spreads through your customers networks not your own.Build a great product and let the naysayers do what they will. Build crap, communicate poorly and you are toast.
it’s built on the knowledge that positive information spreads through your customers networks not your own.Well there are definitely cases of that but there are plenty of cases where companies do traditional marketing (and advertising) that equals and/or trumps that.I just bought a gift for my wife at Coach as a result of marketing and customer experience (hand written thank you cards as well as being treated very nicely in the store) that had nothing to do with anything any other customer had said (that I ever read or care about).Likewise in the 90’s we paid “spiff” money to guys in the computer retail channel so they would push our products out the door.Part of the problem with relying on customer feedback is always a “live by the sword die by the sword” situation. What the community has given it can take away very quickly. Hero to zero.Lastly, if you deal with a big enough customer base you were almost certainly encounter some wack jobs who are almost impossible to please and can tarnish your image unjustly. I see this on tripadvisor from time to time. If you have a small customer base this is less of a problem.
I definitely believe in marketing done well and the breadth of approaches.I don’t consider advertising a core piece of marketing. A tool but by no means in most mixes, especially in developing brands.
Some of the big techco build products that are comparatively “good”, backed by $ millions in positive marketing etc. and yet can still be derailed by the naysayers.Derailed in the sense that the product doesn’t get the traction it should rather than entirely become toast. My point is that in the marketing plan there needs to be some reputation management because not every person is going to be an Advocate.You wrote something above which is true: “I do say (often) that product is not what you build it is what people think about it.”The perception piece matters more than the functionality / utility of the product itself.I think that’s why Apple’s products SEEM magical whilst others’ seem utilitarian.
1% of customers care enough to share their thoughts. If you get that be happy.I’ve personally never had a line item, a slide or a discussion whose headline or topic was ‘reputation management’.Can’t think of an example of where a good product, built by a strong brand with coherent communications channels was brought down by the corner case hater.Bad reviews are one thing.Protecting yourself against haters, seems like cycles wasted and insurance not worth having.
Say something like Google Plus or MS Surface.Your experiences and observations are interesting because it’s good to know your benchmark for marketing success (“1% of customers caring enough to share their thoughts”).There are PR and communication consultancy firms out there like Citigate Dew Rogerson, Maitland, Bell Pottinger which market themselves as “reputation crisis mgmt” specialists and I’m wondering — since it’s clear you believe “marketing at its best is part of the (product) process from day 1” — whether that form of PR & comms (the managing reputation bit) is included in that or not.It would seem not — if you’re saying you haven’t seen any line items or slides to warrant investing time in that area.By the way, I do agree with you about product & marketing being done in tandem from the outset.
G+ failed cause it had no soul and Google, while brilliant, doesn’t understand social nor community.People didn’t use it cause it was a poor solution shoved down the throats of the industry with a not very veiled threat that if they didn’t play your natural search rankings would suffer.People didn’t play and interestingly natural search as a business strategy has become less prime.
and Google, while brilliant, doesn’t understand social nor community.I dispute that Google is brilliant if they lack common sense understanding that even the local hardware store owner has.To many eggheads.To much book smart knowledge.No ability, in general, to understand how the common man using their services think. Can’t even hire people to hire people to understand what they are doing wrong.Imagine having all that money and fucking up like that.All of this (and I always harp on this) flows from the top.It’s an arrogance stemming from people who think that they have the market cornered on what brilliant is.
There are “advocate marketing” software platforms that facilitate how you orchestrate these efforts. (e.g. Influitive)
Thanks, I’ll add that to my list of marketing platforms.
And to answer your first point, typically advocates will defend you (often on their own initiative) when there are adverse voices that are working against you.
“Advocates” are connectors.Connectors (Gladwell talks about this) are people who enjoy putting together people that they know about who can help each other. They get value and a party in their brain from doing that. Or suggesting something they saw that they think could be of help to someone (with nothing to gain tangible in return from doing so).
I’m starting to realize this. Product really is 2nd. But you still need good product. I “knew” this before, but realization hitting me.
I didn’t say that product is 2nd, I do say (often) that product is not what you build it is what people think about it.That’s why marketing at its best is part of the process from day 1.
Sorry if it sounded like you had said product is 2nd – that was my own observation – but I love your nuanced view more that product is what people think about it.
Could also subsitute the word ‘product’ with ‘brand’. Your brand isn’t what you say it is….
You might enjoy this post:Brands…customer perception personified http://awe.sm/q6bvu
Great post, Thanks !
Glad you liked it.Been blogging about marketing, the web, community and brands for almost 6 years now.It’s also what I do for a living as an advisor.
Word of mouth marketing. Back when we knew people called us from the yellow pages ad we had (incorporated a tagged phone number) we would still always ask them “hey – who referred you to us” (implying that it was word of mouth).They would always laugh and say “actually it was the yellow pages!” seemingly very pleased that they thought they were telling us something we didn’t already know.
> Word of mouth marketing.So, the growth rate is proportional to both (1) the number of current customers talking and (2) the number of potential customers listening. So, we have a differential equation! For details,http://avc.com/2014/03/foll…
“optimistic-concurrency transactional update”Funny. I was just dreaming about that last night.
great example of how the usv theme of investing extends to things other than tumblr and twitter
Neat. Sounds like a working version of what iCloud should be. 😉
I’d be afraid if Apple bought Firebase. :/
I’d be pretty excited!
I love the concept of Firebase…but I hate the dependency/commitment that it locks you into (especially the price).It has some great features, but when push came to shove, I ended up just writing my own lightweight version of the basic features I needed for the fubnub app and http://fubnub.com (and had I not, I would be losing money on the app month-after-month right now)
@falicon:disqus can you elaborate on the dependency/commitment? Do you mean that you are embedding their lib into your app, and now you are dependent on them? Or that the data is on their platform?
I just mean that if you commit to using the service, you are committed to paying for it…possibly forever. That makes the following question *super* important:What’s the shelf-life of an app?If there’s such as a thing as “life time value of a customer” then there’s also got to be such a thing as “life time cost of a service/app”. A lot of these services (especially mobile related ones) make good financial sense early on in the product development/life, but I’m not so sure what the long term world (after initial app sales/installs flattens out) looks like for them (since so far advertising and month-to-month passive revenue to cover costs has not really been cracked).Ultimately, if your app relies on a web service (in-house or out), you are going to have to figure out how long you can support that cost and what you will do if/when you can’t (the app may still be installed/available/used on some devices but will break [without warning]).In my specific case, I was throwing together a simple little note taking app…there are a million of them out there already and so the chances of mine breaking out were slim. Still, for the few fans that do go with my option, I wanted to be able to ensure that I could/would keep the service running for them for years…something I would likely lose a lot of money on year-after-year if I had to pay for a support service throughout. As is, I’ll technically lose money year-after-year with my own in-house version too (because I still have to pay for the server that it runs on)…but I can use that server for more than just that one site/service and so I can manage that cost/line-item a lot better over the years to come (vs. a monthly bill for a specific service tied to a specific app — even if it’s a great service).Does that make sense? Again – just my personal dev. thinking/approach…which I continue to prove over and over to be “questionable” at best 😉
I hear 2 things here:1- Longevity of the service provider – you are worried they will disappear on you, or get too expensive (Vonage?) once you are dependent.2- The sheer cost of the service. Sure, it is cheap compared to a server, but that server does lots of things, so it isn’t Firebase vs server, but Firebase+other+other2+…+othern vs server.For the former, some good architecture that abstracts it out goes a long way. These are known design patterns. And in any case, it might be like optimizing too early. You first need to be successful enough to make it worthwhile to worry about that.For the latter, there are 2 things. First, as @Charlie Crystle:disqus said, what is the value of your time? Can you afford the time to build this on your own? Second, I assume that Firebase+other1+…+othern are each more reliable and secure and better serviced and supported than you can build on your own, especially on a single server/instance, or even 2 of them. If you don’t need all of that security/reliability/support/service, then you are probably not their target market. Which is fine, of course, just good to know.
Personally I’m not so much worried about #1…it’s def. more #2.In my case, I don’t need the value meal…I just want the burger, and I’m old enough to know that what I really want is the Momma’s burger ( https://www.youtube.com/wat… )
Still, for the few fans that do go with my option, I wanted to be able to ensure that I could/would keep the service running for them for years…something I would likely lose a lot of money on year-after-year if I had to pay for a support service throughout.See that’s the problem. Many of the things that come out today aren’t built by people who either a) know or think of the future or b) give a shit about what happens if the service goes out or they go out of business.Not a concern of theirs at all.Nor is it a concern of the VC’s or angels that are investing in them.Because they are removed from the front line of fire of the end users and their pain. My guess is that you are the type of person that looses sleep over and thinks about this.Also one of the reasons that large corporations can be so arbitrary and dick like. The execs can make decisions and they don’t actually interface with the angry end users and customers when something goes wrong. They are not a direct target (they hear about it of course but that’s like hearing about the fight that your friend had with his wife vs. experiencing the fight, right?)
“I just mean that if you commit to using the service, you are committed to paying for it…possibly forever.”Maybe their target market is freelancers who will use it to speed up/simplify projects — and then pass the lifetime costs onto their clients to deal with once they are no longer involved 🙂
that would be an excellent usecase..plus you can have the freelancers upcharge
Hi Kevin. Thanks for raising this issue and I agree that its an important one. Firebase has a free tier so that side projects need not be expensive. If it turns into a real business I think developers will be happy to pay
I’m sure lots will pay (it’s a good service). I don’t know many devs that are ever *happy* to pay though (that’s the biz guys that are happy to pay for things) ;-)The free tier is a great idea/hook…it was just at the price point/level where I did have to seriously consider it (with much angst) before ultimately making my decision.The only other uphill battle that people will likely have with Firebase is really the privacy issue and how well they can guarantee that data access/analysis is restricted to only the account owner (they will likely do a better job of that because it will be *way* more important to their business than each of us on our own).
Hi Avi! 🙂
Hi Yoga Matt. Hey, cool, you are a Yoga Matt!
Oohh.. I likey! How easy would it be for me to copy/paste the notes into a Google Docs Spreadsheet? Manually would be fine …
Thanks – right now the best option would be to email the notes (or use the web associated version) and copy/paste into a spreadsheet…but if you play with it and find it a pain, let me know and I will add in support for straight to a spreadsheet format (I have code that does that for another project already so porting/including it should be pretty simple)
Got to spend some time on your blog this morning. Good stuff!
The genius of software development was the use of libraries and frameworks as a tool for making coding a level playing field.
Picks and Shovels
Well, if everyone’s buying picks and shovels and you can make a better pick and shovel …
Who you callin’ a tool?
all you guys
Oh, boy. I shouldn’t have axed.
My wife has a relative that has a masters degree and is a tenured high school (or maybe it’s middle school?) teacher on Staten Island.She regularly uses the word “axed” in conversation.We are in between a rock and a hard place on whether we should say something to her about that.Would make good reality show viewing.That is the basis of great reality shows of course. People say things they would never say to friends and family (drop the social graces and say what is really on your mind). It makes for terrific entertainment.
I use “axed” every now and then.
You mean “all yiz guys”.
I wonder at the extent to which potential-user input was incorporated into the design phase. This kind of success is typically seen when users outside of the developer team have input in the design stage. I’m thinking QFD?????????
We solicit feedback extensively from our users at every step of the product design. Every piece of our new hosting product (core feature set, command line tool, user interface) was put in front of multiple devs on video to gather feedback. We do this for all of our products both before and after launch of them. And yes, this has been a big key to our success!
I saw the firebase site yesterday (for the first time) after reading the HN thread.The first thought that came to my mind (before seeing USV was an investor) was “why should I trust these people with my data”. They were doing a version of the “we’ve got this all figured out” that I’ve been seeing since the mid 90’s.What’s missing, to start to go in the direction of answering those questions, is bios of some of the founders. I don’t see that on the site and I wonder why it isn’t there.I’m also not seeing anything about their infrastructure which allows me to understand why they are so reliable at doing what they are doing.The marketing on the site looks very nice of course (good on graphics and presentation) but is lacking critical information and ad copy that would make it attractive to either a biz guy that was driving by (and might refer it to his dev’s) or an up and coming developer who might not understand exactly where all of this fits into the picture of what they are learning in school. Or on codecademy. Why not take advantage of those opportunities buy speaking to them directly?
Ownership, control, security, and rights of the data are very important points.
Hi Le, Firebase co-founder here, sorry about the lack of bios, they’re actually there in the code, but we updated our about page recently and need to put them back in.I’ll do that this week.Thanks for the feedback on wanting information on our infrastructure. We’ll get some of that up.
Unsolicited testimonials are the best
Decided to a late afternoon early evening drive by and saw the “Stop the Slow Lane” prior to page load.
Images aren’t being uploaded when using drag and drop.Curious if that WP code for the slow lane broke something.
amazing job on the website intro!
“What about combine conflicts?” was my first query, but fortunately it has dealings on an personal node (and its subtree) that execute an “optimistic-concurrency transactional update” which generally indicates a compare-and-swap where you evaluation the present value in a callback and choose whether to try to make that value (or a new value, say, for a counter) or quit. For most other creates, you are usually just preserving position up-dates where there is little or no risk of being refused or experiencing combine disputes. If in query, it’s possible to get a callback with the ultimate value.Incinerador de Grasa
If you ask most of the parents I deal with (in coaching/scouts/etc.)…very very very little 😉
Seriously though – this is a really tough question around this topic…it depends on a lot of variables.In my specific case, I could write the bits of Firebase that I was actually going to use in about one day (I wrote the whole mobile app, supporting web site, and the backend supporting services for fubnub in about two weeks total — a big part of the project for me was to keep it lightweight and simple).I also almost always have more than one use-case involved in everything I do…so a lot of the things I put into fubnub were really just lightweight tests for bigger features that are going into the Coach Wizard mobile efforts (you need to keep notes on players, plays, teams, etc.)…so it was as much a learning/design/testing experience for me as it was an attempt to make a good product/service (hence my willingness to commit two weeks to a project most likely destined for very limited success).The time Firebase would have saved me on this specific app would have probably been negative actually…one I would not have learned as much about what I do/don’t want to do for the Coach Wizard version…and two I would have spent at least a few hours learning the ins-and-outs of their implementation (which I hear is actually great btw)…once I learned their system, that would either be throw away knowledge *or* it would cost me money to keep reusing (because each app I added them into means more subscription fees for me to pay *forever*).I love all the services Fred mentioned…but Mongo, the only one without a required subscription tier is the only one I actually commit to.Outside of AWS, the only dev. related services I subscribe to right now are github and mailgun…both of which I love and both of which I question month-after-month as to why I continue to pay for them (I could replace both with in-house code/services that would cost me a few days up front and a few hours of maint. each quarter — so they are *right* at the cusp of extravagant; github especially as the maint. would basically be nil)…but I’m also mostly a one-man team, run small bootstrapped services, and have enough skills/experience to service my needs via hacks and duct-tape…my reality is prob. not the norm…
Think of why you play guitar and possibly write music instead of buying someone else’s music. Because you enjoy doing it. Time doesn’t enter into it, does it?The buzz and good feelings you get from creating a good piece of software yourself that solves some problem (or makes you money) is definitely, in my opinion and experience even on the level that I do it, better than sex (or any material goods).I spent the good part of Sunday perfecting a routine that takes all of the things that I print on my printer, moves them to another machine (so I can view them “in the cloud”) decides what the file format they are (so I can click and view if I want). All automatically (using rsync iim) and shell scripts. A ton of fun. Solves an problem and it doesn’t matter if it took hours or not (and also worked on it during the week for that matter). Not even done yet. Still enhancing “the system”. It’s like building a playhouse from scratch that you keep adding onto.
Actually, i think the opposite.Because you have so little left past family, it is worth more.
Sometimes developers want to customise little bits of the stack even when there’s a convenient solution simply to set themselves a challenge.Other times, it’s because of economics; the cost of cobbling something together is less than the utility derived from the off-the-shelf offering.
Not to mention the fact that you get tremendous enjoyment from writing it yourself and almost certainly less enjoyment from “a few hours learning the ins-and-outs of their implementation”. In that case the payload of the time is much greater.Two hours spent writing something yourself is not the same as two hours spent reading and setting up from someone else’s documentation unless the solutions solves some problem that would have created tremendous time and trouble for you to do yourself. In other words avoidance of some pain.
For the record, I think it’s awesome too (which is why I say that I love the concept of Firebase)…I’m just too poor/cheap to add awesome toys to my sandbox.p.s. You are too kind with regards to my dev skills. Thank you 😉
I gots lots of knowledge in college, including the witnessing of scenes from the aforementioned movie, filmed on campus.
I can’t find a link but this dates back (iirc I may be wrong but definitely remember something like this) to Jobs telling Gates that Woz could “just build a basic interpreter over a weekend”. Or was it Gates and Paul Allen and a similar story.
Implemented as a printer driver? That’s a great idea, kind of an insurance policy for “I forgot my paper on the printer.” Something like Dropbox or Google Drive has the original file, but you have to worry about whether the computer your borrowing has the program and version you need to open it. With your virtual printer you can pull up a readable version in practically any browser with PDF.js and print an exact copy. You also have an extended print queue/history accessible anywhere.I assume your use case is around correspondence or legal documents? As a premium offering you could add OCR, financial software integration and simple analytics.
Really much simpler. You just scoop up any files that are used by cups the printing utility under Mac OSX. If you don’t want to actually print (say you are remote) you simply create a fake printer and print to that instead. They you scoop up that file, analyze etc.
Just to let you know that that last line hit me like a brick this AM when I read it. And I had a discussion with my wife about it as well.I guess the core is at what point does something that you like to do that is also helpful, (or can be justified as helpful) get in the way of business and the point of being in business. And at what point does it become a crutch to prevent action on something more important.(Say in the case of music mixing old songs instead of writing new songs).Really great point you raised will definitely cause me to think more about this.