Parse / Facebook: What Now?
You’ve probably read that this week Facebook acquired Parse, the mobile BaaS service. I’ve been using Parse for quite a well in production, and if you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know I quite like the service (see here, here, and here).
So what now? Does Facebook acquiring Parse change anything? Well, if you go by the press releases, no - it doesn’t. But perhaps there’s more too it than that. What should you be doing if you’re either an existing customer (like me), or someone who’s been thinking of using the service? Here’s my own thoughts on the subject.
You Already Use Parse
A lot of what you do next is going to depend on your own gut feeling. Some people have quite a visceral reaction to Facebook - I’m not one of them. What I will say is that the last time Facebook bought something I used (face.com) they ended up shutting down the APIs. But Parse is considerably bigger, and more importantly is used by some sizable customers. I personally don’t see Facebook cutting them off - and I suspect new customers will be welcomed for some time as well.
The bottom line is this: whenever you use any third-party provider to manage critical infrastructure in your apps you’d better have an escape plan. Companies get acquired, go bust, or retire products all the time. This isn’t an issue unique to Parse. If you’re not planning for the worst you’re sowing the seeds for a big headache in the future.
Parse already offer a mass-export feature that gives you all your data in JSON. You can use this, along with the Parse APIs, to migrate over to another provider fairly easily (although some scripting on your part may be required). One provider (Stackmob, who I’ve reviewed here before) even have a semi-automatic migration tool available.
You’re Deciding on a BaaS Provider
Again, this is going depend on how you feel about Facebook. If you’re not a fan, you’ve probably already made your choice. Here’s my two cents: even if Parse keep supporting existing customers, it’s almost certain that at some point in the future the product is going to change in a fairly significant way. I don’t see Facebook gaining any value from running Parse as an entirely separate entity.
I really like Parse as a product - I’ve used it in several production apps. Would I use it now? I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily think any of the competitors out there (Stackmob, Appcelerator, Kinvey, Fat Fractal, to name a few) are any more secure. If anything, financially speaking Parse is now top of the pile.
I appreciate I haven’t really provided many direct answers. One thing this should really re-inforce, regardless of your BaaS provider, is that you need a back-up plan. To help with that I’ll be posting a new backend-as-a-service comparison in the coming weeks, updated to take into account all the recent changes in the marketplace.