Facebook Parse: An Overview

Facebook Parse: An Overview


Back in April 2013, Facebook acquired Parse and soon it became the talk of the town of mobile application developers and development companies. People had their own doubts whether Parse is going away or was it going to get better? But then in just about two years of time, Parse having started through a rough prototype has ended up powering tens of thousands of apps for a very broad spectrum of customers.

So I decided to write about my findings on Facebook parse. I will be covering the following topics:

  • Facebook acquisition of Parse – Explaining what is Parse and how it is making difference in territory of Facebook.
  • Why Facebook chose Parse – Detailing out the functionality and usability of Parse integrated with Facebook.
  • When to use Facebook Parse
  • When not to use Facebook Parse.
  • A Comparative Analysis of other BaaS Service providers with Parse.
  • Algoworks & Parse SDK.

“Facebook ideation of bringing mobile customers of big brands into social network resulted in buying a platform for building great mobile apps”

-Taylor Hatmaker

Facebook Acquisition of Parse

Thought of Taking Over Parse Evoked:
Ilya Sukhar’s Parse was only a few months old when Facebook came calling for Parse. Parse itself was launched in August 2011 which offered software developers an easier way of building apps on tablets and phones. Just after the New Year, Ilya Sukhar heard from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the-then tech giant’s CTO Bret Taylor that Facebook brain-trust was angling to acquire his company.
Zuckerberg Doctrines Over Facebook Parse:
Let’s see what Zuckerberg has to say about his acquiring Parse and of course his self-opinionated definition for Facebook.

Now this is something important as to what conclusion I am heading towards the end of this write.

Zuckerberg describes Facebook not as a mere social networking initiative, but as a software “platform” too. He also adds that Facebook is something that any business or independent software developer could use to remake and enhance any software application which may vary from games to music services to news sites(and yes, mobile world). What Facebook is now is something very different. Zuckerberg explains that, “The Facebook Platform is pretty much Parse”.

As Mark Zuckerberg described Facebook not only as social networking website but as a standalone independent software platform, therefore he expects that the collaboration of Facebook with Parse can offer software professionals unleash their application development learnings to unfurl the extensibility and applicability of Facebook Parse.

And now for that important point I need to make:

We should know that Apple has a mobile Operating System(OS) as well as has an independent content and payments ecosystem with a deeply integrated set of products.

Google as well has its own mobile OS, it has got its own Gmail, a search engine, a burgeoning content ecosystem and its Maps/local properties. Amazon too has a content and payments ecosystem, a limited mobile presence and cloud infrastructure.

Facebook however really is a one trick pony. We have heard rumors about Facebook Phone circulating for a year or two. We have Facebook launching Facebook Home. What’s actually happening is that Facebook is trying to get the benefits of having a mobile OS without actually developing one!

So buying Parse makes sense actually as they want to extend the reach and power of the Facebook platform.

And there is this news that Facebook is going to partner with Cisco in order to ‘socially wi-fi’. Or the recent news where Juniper came to back Facebook against Cisco instead. Whatever be the case, Parse is going to be a help of course and one can say Facebook is desperate enough to survive!

Technicalities of Facebook Parse – Managing back-end is easy

Acquisition of Parse by Facebook is a good news for mobile application development companies and of course for both mobile application developers and Facebook Application Development ecosystem. Facebook acquired Parse thereby making easy to build apps within Facebook Platform.

By entering into an agreement with Parse (which is nothing but a cloud-based platform which provides scalable cross-platform services and tools for developers), Facebook opened a door for application developers to rapidly build apps that span mobile platforms and devices.
Understanding Facebook Parse:

  • Parse allow developers to work with native objects which provides backend services for managing users, storing data, sending and receiving notifications and much more. By doing this the need of managing servers and handling complex infrastructure get erased. Developers just have to focus on building great user experiences.
  • Parse, which is a cloud service company provides developer tools to use a unified back-end for their apps.
  • The utilities in Parse’s toolbox allow mobile apps like games to integrate with Facebook more promptly. For example, an application developer creating an application using Parse would work perfectly on an iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone and also work the exact same way as a Facebook app.
  • Parse gives Facebook its own mobile app framework. This can be explained as “Facebook apps” which can work on any mobile device or in any browser without having to compete with the established platforms like iTunes or Google.

Facebook Guys – Do Your Coding, let Parse do the rest.
Parse also eliminates the heavy lifting which comes with building a mobile application. While coding for an application you have to build not only the small pieces of software which sit on phones – the front end – but also a much larger back-end system which runs on a bunch of servers somewhere driving your phone software.

Just as a chef does not grow his own onions, Parse believes a mobile coder can do without having to build things like database and login servers. Therefore, Parse gives application developers the power of independence and hence help move their focus to the coding part of the development phase.

When to use Facebook Parse?

  • For creating intuitive and beautiful apps: Application developers just do not have to worry about server maintenance and complex infrastructure. They just have to focus on creating a great user experience. Facebook application developers can instantly add powerful core, push notifications, data storage and analytics using Parse SDKs. Parse offers SDK for everyone whether you are creating application for desktop or for mobile.
  • For Powerful user management of your app: Facebook Parse takes care of linking accounts across networks, resetting passwords and therefore keeping everything safe and secure. You just need a few lines of code to connect with your users.

Based on its applicability, Parse is available in various categories. Below are mentioned some extensive features of Push Parse, Parse Core and Parse Analytics which can help you in varied ways when incorporated within your applications.
1) Push Parse: An Easy and simplified way of creating, scheduling, and fragmenting push notifications.

  • Enhance engagement: Keep your customers on Facebook happy by keeping them engaged. Push Parse gives you accessibility and freedom of improving engagement with your Facebook users. As push notification is a direct channel to your app’s users, therefore, keep your users’ happy with innovative and creative user-engaging application updates and promotions.
  • A simple solution for your complex problem: You must be knowing that push notification is a complex resort. Push Parse simplifies the process and enables powerful targeting for iOS, Android and Windows. Application developers can send notifications using REST API, web console or client SDKs.
  • Powerful handling of huge data: Push Parse allows sending millions of notifications to millions of devices across the world. Therefore, Push Parse handles substantial data using powerful infrastructure.
  • Push Console: Send notifications directly from Parse interface using Push Console. Creating and sending new push notifications is as easy as you are sending email to your favourite client or sending a text message to your friend. Check the real-time platform to which you are sending notifications using Push Composer.
  • Target Your Customers: You can target your audience based on various conditions like age, location, language etc. Using beautiful and easy to use Parse Push console increases your user engagement by sending the right content to the right people at the right time.

2) Parse Core: Save data, be social and get more with your app using Parse Core. Create perfection using Parse Core.

  • Data saving on using cloud: Without spinning up a single server, store basic data types, locations and photos. Store data securely and efficiently on cloud sing Parse Core.
  • Stay Social: Keeping everything secure like linking with accounts, resetting of passwords, connect with your users with traditional logins or social networks.
  • Local Data store: Even if you do not have network connection, Parse Local Data store allows you to use all querying and security features of Parse.
  • Hassle free dynamic web presence: Use Parse for displaying your data beautifully between web and your application. Avail the benefit of dynamic web presence.
  • Intuitive Dashboard: Enjoy easy scheduling of recurring tasks like updating data, sending emails and long running computations at any time interval using intuitive dashboards.
  • Built for massive scale: Data to Social and Cloud Code to Hosting, everything is designed with complete scalability, therefore Parse serves thousands and millions of data.

3) Parse Analytics: Easy tracking of data from your app in real time.

  • Real time app usage: Check real-time analytics on API requests via the Parse dashboard.
  • Analytical Dashboard: Track any data point in your application using Analytical dashboard.
  • Growth Analytics: Check the growth of your application. Look for active users, exactly how your new launches are received and how many people have come back for more.
  • Powerful Dashboard: User-friendly Parse dashboard gives detailed custom analytics in form of overlay graphs, filtration by date and therefore helps you in gaining deep insight to check for effectiveness of your application.

Having a long and productive discussion about Parse, its acquisition by Facebook, its applicability and of course its advantages for mobile application development ecosystem, we can conclude by saying that Parse is worthy of the responsibility it was demanded to fulfill.

Application developers can use Parse, if they wish to develop an application which requires backend for just applying push notifications, storing of data, basic operations, and user registration. Parse is a great platform with stable and good documentation. But Parse is not necessarily the best solution for all applications and for all your needs.

We have formed a basic understanding of Parse and its role post the acquisition by Facebook. There is a lot more to know about Facebook Parse- how well will it be able to sustain in the application development eco-system? When exactly not to use Parse? What are the other alternatives if not Parse? Whether these alternatives are better than Parse? Is Parse staying ahead in the race? A plunge into the technical details for application developers and sufficient information on the topic for those looking to use the system is what I am working on for my next blog on Parse. An entirely different side of story is yet to get revealed so stay tuned!
References: Computer World, Parse, Developers.facebook, Businessinsider, Icapps, Alternativeto, Quora, Developereconomics, Forbes, Readwrite, Wired.

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Rachit Agarwal

Rachit Agarwal

Director and Co-Founder at Algoworks Technologies
Rachit is leading the mobility business development function, mobility strategy and consulting practice at Algoworks. He is an expert of all mobile technologies and has experience in managing teams involved in the development of custom iPhone/iPad/Android apps.
Rachit Agarwal

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Rachit AgarwalFacebook Parse: An Overview