Google’s Firebase is a pretty comprehensive set of development tools. Its goal is to make app development and maintenance easier, with features like detailed crash reporting, user analytics, authentication, and storage. And Google is constantly working to make Firebase better.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting millions of workers to work-from-home status, demand for remote collaboration and testing tools has grown dramatically. Google says that over 2.5 million monthly active apps now use Firebase every month — up from 2 million apps this time last year. To help developers get started with Firebase, Google adapted developer meetups and community events to be virtual; they also hosted a 5-part series of talks and tutorials earlier this year to answer frequently asked questions, share knowledge, and improve productivity.
Today, Firebase is introducing a host of new features to further accelerate app development, get actionable insights, and tailor the tools to fit your needs. Here are the highlights from Firebase Summit 2020.
A while back, Firebase introduced the Emulator Suite. This feature allows developers to locally emulate various online Firebase features, such as storage or hosting. This can be useful if you need to test an online feature, but want to avoid doing it in a production environment. However, up until today, it didn’t fully support the entire online set of features in Firebase. While most functions worked, Authentication was missing.
Now, the Emulator Suite will fully support all of Firebase’s online functions, including Hosting, Realtime Database, Firestore, Cloud Functions, Cloud Pub/Sub, and Firebase Authentication.
Hosting Preview Channels
Firebase Hosting is exactly what it sounds like. Developers can use it to host web pages and web applications that are then deployed over Google’s CDN. Testing changes to your site using Hosting could be tricky, however. Firebase previously had no easy way to preview or view changes before going live. That’s a big problem if an entire development team is working remotely, making it much more difficult to coordinate testing. Thankfully, Firebase is now adding a new feature to let developers publish changes to preview channels.
When publishing to a preview channel, developers can generate a unique URL to share with teammates or testers, and view a fully-functional version of their changes, without having to push to production or test off-site.
An important part of analytics is to divide users into segments, based on common characteristics. This allows developers to target messages, new updates, notifications, etc., to specific groups of people. For a while now, Firebase has allowed developers to export analytics data from Firebase to other analytics services like BigQuery, but the reverse wasn’t possible. If you had a data source that wasn’t Firebase, you would have to manually create segments based on that data.
Now, however, Firebase has added the ability to import custom user segments. If you have multiple data sources for analytics, you can now import it all into Firebase to manage your users in one place.
That’s a high-level overview of the major new features, but this isn’t all that Google is rolling out. There’s also a new Extension called Detect Online Presence that shows you which users or devices are currently online, a redesigned Performance Monitoring dashboard that makes it clearer if a critical metric needs attention, semantic versioning support for Remote Config, and three new Google Analytics APIs.
For more details on these features, and to learn more about what else is coming, be sure to check out Google’s blog post or watch the live stream for yourself on YouTube.