Facebook Is Creating A House Of Cards

Yesterday afternoon, Facebook shocked the developer community by announcing that they would be shuttering the once developer-darling Parse service.

Facebook acquired Parse in 2013 for 85 million. Many saw this as a strategic move by Facebook to provide a richer developer experience, or to become the "Heroku of mobile". After all, Facebook is a platform and platforms need developers. Just ask Windows Phone how relevant your otherwise excellent platform is without developers.

Last year, the development community applauded when Facebook announced significant price reductions for usage of Parse. To me, this indicated Facebook was not concerned with Parse as a revenue generating line of business, rather as a way to strengthen their mobile platform. Makes sense, as Facebook generates almost all of their revenue by users clicking on ads.

So why on earth would they now to shut it down?

It's hard to understand. Facebook stock is up. Way up. Business is good. What's the logic behind closing a service that will essentially reset thousands of developers around the world who had other plans for 2016 besides being forced to migrate the foundation of their application.

It's simple: Facebook only cares about two things: 

1. How many users do we have?
2. How can we make these users click on ads? 

If you clicked on the link above, you would have seen "Facebook soars 12% on mobile ad revenue".

Where does Parse factor in to ads? Nowhere. Therefore, it's going away. The tech industry is cut-throat. If a product is not part of the core business model, it's highly likely that it will eventually be unceremoniously powered down. All my Google Reader people out there just nodded and shed a tear.

This is a warning shot for developers everywhere.

And if you just happened to not be using Parse, then you dodged a bullet. For now. 

This is the "I told you so" moment for the millions of IT infrastructure employees the world over. You can be sure that all of the enterprises out there in the middle of closing Azure and Firebase deals just took a step back and went "whoa whoa whoa".

We've learned that we have to ask a very important question: Do you trust your developer tools?

Facebook is now the 2016 developer's crush due to their creating some really impressive open source tools and frameworks. The fact that Facebook creates these tools to solve their own development issues is a great reason to use them. An even bigger one now might simply be the influence of the Facebook name. 

Let's be honest, which of us is going to use a JavaScript library from SafeCo Insurance? It just doesn't have the same ring to it.

But these tools are released with an alarming subtext that nobody reads. It basically says, "We are currently using this tool. Maybe you would like to use it to." 

The key idea here being "currently". 

Facebook has zero investment in these tools outside of the immediate problem that they solve. When the problem changes, or their business model dictates, those vibrant projects will simply evaporate, leaving behind all of the developers who have invested their livelihood in them.

This is exactly what happened with Parse. At one point in time, Parse solved a problem. It was an answer to a strategic business direction. That is clearly no longer the case.

Notice that Facebook didn't sell parse. Yes, they open sourced a big part of it, but this is a platform. Open sourcing the code and shutting the platform down is kind of like getting divorced but still getting to see your kids.

This is a house of cards brought to you by Facebook.

Choose Wisely

I work for a company that builds developer tools. Look at how our model is different from Facebook's: If we create a UI library, or a mobile platform or a CMS, the food on our table is dependent upon the success of those projects. That means that the fabric of anything we create is the result of our primary focus, not the afterthought of something we built.

It may seem disingenuous for me to write something of an "I told you so" piece, but the reckless actions of Facebook are going to make developers everywhere wonder if they can really trust anyone.

YES. 

You can trust those of us who are building tools for a living. When you choose us, you intertwine our success with yours. If you don't ship your product and it isn't a raging success, what value have we added for you? That is simply unacceptable for us. Facebook couldn’t care less. That's just how business works.

What About jQuery?

You might be thinking, "What about jQuery!? That was never anyone's core business and it was crazy successful!". Yes, but jQuery had the Foundation who helped fund and ensure its success and longevity. The jQuery Foundation was and is critical to the legitimacy of the jQuery library, much like Google and Facebook are for Angular and React.

To that end, I don't think that these JavaScript frameworks will ever die, even if Facebook and Google attempt to kill them off. jQuery was a DOM abstraction and React and Angular are just more fancy DOM abstractions. Open source is the perfect place for smaller projects like this and the community is entirely capable of ensuring their success.

React Native, I'm not so sure.

I think all of us as developer's should be very picky when it comes to tools that run our code or store our data. 

So Long Parse.

None of us like to see a fellow service go down. We all hate that. Even those of us who aren't using it mourn for the developers who poured their life into that code.

So long Parse. In the end, I'm sorry you were acquired by a company who didn't really care about developers. You deserved better.

For those of you out there that were on Parse, you have dozens of other companies who are for real in this business and are here to partner with you. Don't risk building your business on the next Parse. Refuse to be part of that house of cards.

Disclaimer: The views here are mine and do not necessarily represent those of my employer. For obvious reasons.

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