It’s a Platform Cloud. But Not Really

That’s what Firebase is: an API, or application programming interface. To access the API, you drop some JavaScript code into your application, and the service does the rest. “We’re a platform as a service, but rather than actually have code that runs on our servers, we’re all client side,” says Lee. “Anything that you as a developer builds, you run in the client browser or in the client iPhone app or whatever they happen to be on.”

That said, if you want to set up your own servers for security reasons or additional processing power, you can do so. Firebase will still handle the data, and your servers can tap into this central repository in much the same way clients do.

The service’s primary aim is to simplify application development. If you move all your code into the clients, Lee says, you can more easily scale to a large number of users. “All these cloud providers claim that if you go into the cloud, you can scale automatically, but that’s only true if you wrote your code to shard across multiple servers, which is extremely difficult to do. Most people just don’t do that,” Lee says. “But if you don’t have to do server-side at all, and you build your application to use this API, we can shard your data for you and scale your application automatically.”

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