Firebase launched over six and a half years ago as a database, but since then we've grown into a platform of eighteen (18!!) products. And over the last year we've announced a number of new features to help you build better apps and grow your business. We also infused Firebase with more machine learning super-power, so you can make your apps smarter, and matured the platform, so Firebase works better for developers at large, sophisticated enterprises.
Since the end of the year is a great time for top-ten lists, we were going to cap off the year with our own "Top Ten List of Firebase launches." But, then, we realized we had more than ten launches we wanted to talk about, and we really don't like playing favorites. So instead, here's our "Thirteen Firebase Launches In No Particular Order Because They're All Great In Their Own Way" list for 2018. Enjoy!
13. ML Kit democratizes machine learning
At Google I/O, we launched one of our most exciting features of 2018: ML Kit for Firebase, a machine learning SDK for Android and iOS. ML Kit lets you add the power of machine learning to your app, without needing an advanced degree in neutral networks. It provides a number of out-of-the-box solutions for performing tasks like recognizing text in images, labeling objects in photos, or detecting faces. And it will also let you use custom models, for those of you who are into building your own. (Bespoke artisanal neural networks are big among hipster data scientists these days.)
12. In-App Messaging helps with customer engagement
Notifications are a great way to get latent users back into your app, but how do you communicate with active users who are actively using your app? In 2018, we launched Firebase In-App Messaging to help you send targeted and contextual message to users who are actively using your app. In-app messages are a great way to encourage app exploration and discovery, and guide users towards discovering new features in your product, or working their way towards that important conversion event.
11. New REST APIs make task automation easier
At Firebase, we're big fans of building scripts to make our lives easier; whether that's to automate common tasks, or to perform custom logic. To help with that goal, we launched three new REST APIs that you can use to automate your life (at least from a Firebase perspective). The Firebase Management API is great for automating tasks like creating new projects, the Remote Config REST API can be useful for customizing the way you update Remote Config values, and the Firebase Hosting API can be used to automatically upload certain files to your site.
Recently, StackBlitz and Glitch used the Management API to build integrations that allow you to deploy projects directly to Firebase Hosting. Start a project, write some code, click a few buttons, and voila! You've deployed your Firebase project to the web!
10. Performance Monitoring graduates to general availability
Good performance is one of the key factors for creating a great user experience. Firebase Performance Monitoring automatically collects performance metrics where it matters the most: the real world.
This year, Performance Monitoring graduated from beta into general availability. Along the way, we added helpful new features like an issue feed in the dashboard to highlight important performance problems your users are encountering. We've also added session view support for network class and traces, which lets you dig deeper into an individual session of a trace, so you see attributes and events that happened leading up to a performance issue.
9. Predictions also graduates to general availability!
We also released Firebase Predictions into GA. Predictions uses machine learning to intelligently segment users based on their predicted future behavior. Along the way, we added health indicators and evaluation criteria to every prediction, so you can better understand how reliable a prediction is, as well as the data being used to make it. We also integrated Predictions with BigQuery, so you have more control over your data.
Getting started with Predictions is as easy as flipping a switch in the console. We predict you're going to love it! (Sorry.)
8. Cloud Functions graduates to general availability! Everybody goes GA!
The general availability party keeps on going! Cloud Functions hit GA and we also released a new version of the SDK. The new SDK adds "callable" functions that make it much easier to call server functions from the client, especially if your function requires authentication.
Cloud Functions also released a brand new library,
firebase-functions-test, to simplify unit testing functions. This library takes care of the necessary setup and teardown, allowing easy mocking of test data. So in addition to simple standalone tests, you can now write tests that interact with a development Firebase project and observe the success of actions like database writes.
7. Test Lab gets testier! (But in a good way)
Firebase Test Lab went cross-platform in 2018 by adding support for iOS. Now you can write and run tests on real iOS devices running in our data centers. Test Lab supports ten models of iPhones and iPads running seven different versions of iOS, including iOS 12.
Test Lab also launched a number of improvements to Robo, a tool which runs fully automated tests on Android devices. Testing games is now easier, thanks to 'monkey actions' (which can randomly click on your screen), and game loops (which perform pre-scripted actions). You can also customize Robo better now, in case you need to sign-in at the start of your app or add intelligent text to a search field.
6. New emulators for Firestore and Realtime Database make testing easier
Continuing the theme of testing, in 2018, we launched emulators for Firestore and the Realtime Database, so you can more easily unit test your security rules and incorporate them into a continuous integration environment. These emulators run locally and allow you to test your security rules offline so you can be confident before deploying to production. We also created a testing library that simplifies your test code.
5. Stackdriver integrations enable better logging and monitoring
From the beginning, Cloud Functions has tightly integrated important usage metrics with Stackdriver, Google Cloud's powerful monitoring service. To deepen our integration further, we linked the Realtime Database with Stackdriver. You can now see even more metrics than the Firebase console provides, such as load broken down by operation type and information about your downloaded bytes.
The real power of this integration is to set up alerts on metrics or errors so you can detect and respond to issues before your customers notice them.
4. BigQuery integrations give you more control of your data
Sometimes the reporting dashboards in the Firebase console don't give you the level of granularity or specific data slice that you need. That's where BigQuery - Google Cloud's data warehouse - and Data Studio - Google Cloud's data visualization tool - come into play.
We've given you the ability to export your Analytics data to BigQuery for a while now. This year, we added integrations with Predictions and Crashlytics, so you can export even more of your Firebase data into one central warehouse. Learn more about using Firebase and BigQuery together here.
3. Cloud Firestore works better for sophisticated enterprises
Cloud Firestore is our next generation database with many of the features you've come to love from the Realtime Database, combined with the scale and sophistication of the Google Cloud Platform. Over the course of 2018, we've launched a number of improvements to Firestore, to make it better suited for complex enterprises.
We also added some nice features along the way -- we expanded offline support for the web SDK from one browser tab to multiple. We've added better support for searching documents by the contents of their arrays. And we added multiple new locations where you can store your Firestore data: Frankfurt, Germany and South Carolina, USA. (We'll be adding even more locations in 2019.)
2. The Firebase console becomes even easier to use
The Firebase console is a crucial part of the Firebase workflow for just about any team. We spent a lot of time in 2018 making the console better than ever. Here's a few things we added:
- Security Rules simulator for Cloud Firestore
- Redesigned notifications dashboard
- Version history for Security Rules
- Remote Config change history
- Filtering and sorting of Firestore documents
- Code-completion in the Security Rules editor
- Performance insights to surface issues across your app
These features make you more productive and confident in your app's security and performance. We can't wait to add more to the console in 2019!
1. Firebase support arrives in Google Cloud
For a while now, we've been hearing from some of you that you'd like an option to get enterprise-grade support for Firebase. To address that request, we added support for Firebase to our Google Cloud Platform (GCP) support packages, available in beta right now.
If you already have a paid GCP support package, our beta will let you get your Firebase questions answered through the GCP support channel - at no additional charge. When this new support graduates to general availability, it will include target response times, technical account management (for enterprise tier), and more. You can learn more about GCP support here.
If you're planning to stick with Firebase's free support, don't worry - we don't plan to change anything about our existing support model. Please continue to reach out to our friendly support team for help as needed!
Happy New Year!
It's been a great year, so we're going to take a little time with friends and family before we hit the ground running in January. However you celebrate the end of your year, we hope your December is full of happiness and relaxation. And if it happens to be full of building mobile or web apps, we hope you use Firebase! Happy building!