Firebase: the great, the meh, and the ugly
Pier Bover

“If someone could create a PaaS like Firebase with those features”

Have you evaluated GraphQL based backends as an alternative to Firebase? We’re building Graphcool, which is a backend platform based on GraphQL and AWS Lambda.

We especially address the following mentioned downsides of Firebase:

  • The console: We have a lot of customers who switched over from Firebase to Graphcool because of exactly this point. We’re iterating on our Console every day and even open-sourced it:
  • Serverless: We’re heavy believers of the serverless concept and use it as a foundation for customers to customize and extend their backend for purposes like business logic, validation, permissions etc. You can use which ever serverless provider you want like AWS Lambda, Azure functions, Google cloud functions, Webtask (the list is growing…).
  • Defining security rules: We take this subject very seriously and have developed the most advanced permission system currently available for BaaS platforms. Your permission rules are either based on your graph data structure or can be implemented using serverless functions if desired. If you’re interested in learning more, please join our Slack to get access to this feature.
  • Proprietary tech: This is a big one: proprietary technology introduces a lot of vendor-lockin to your system. Migrating away if needed is close to impossible without a rewrite. Graphcool is entirely based around GraphQL (which is open-source).
  • No way to develop locally: This is not yet possible with Graphcool, but we’re working on a way to let you develop offline.
  • Limited Javascript SDK: Since we’re based on GraphQL you can use what ever GraphQL client you want to use so we don’t even need to offer an SDK — your data structure is the SDK. Great GraphQL clients are Apollo or Relay.
  • No way to query your data properly / Dumb data modelling: This is probably one of the biggest upsides (or side-effects) of using GraphQL. We’ve built an incredibly flexible filter/query system on top of GraphQL which allows you to write any kind of queries you’d want. Think SQL but easy to use and safe to run in your client app. (You can check our docs for an example

Adding up on “the great”:

  • Realtime data: GraphQL has the concept of GraphQL “subscriptions” which is a super nice and easy way to get data in real time where needed.
  • Static hosting on steroids: For this purpose I highly recommend checking out Netlify (or Surge) which is even easier to use than what Firebase offers. And it’s free as well.
  • Super powers: Included in Graphcool as well.

I hope this gives you a good overview over an alternative to Firebase and how we’re trying to tackle the fundamental problems of it. Let me know if you have any questions!

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