Google's Firebase mobile platform accommodates offline usage

iOS and Android device users can still use mobile apps even when not connected to the Web

Looking to promote mobile development in the cloud, Google has announced that its Firebase platform now accommodates offline usage on iOS and Android devices.

Firebase provides back-end cloud services for mobile and Web applications, including database, user authentication, and static hosting. With the new offline services unveiled late last week, Google aims to keep mobile applications working even when offline.

"What we've done with Firebase is built a local copy of your data into your device," James Tamplin, Firebase product manager, said in an interview. Data is resynchronized when the device is back online.

Dubbed Firebase Offline, the new capabilities are implemented via a set of features in iOS and Android SDKs for Firebase.

"Our new SDKs support persisting your synchronized data to disk, so it's available immediately when your app starts. You can enable disk persistence with one line of code," said Johnny Dimond, core developer, in the Firebase blog.

Google also revealed last week was that Firebase now works with Facebook's React Native, for building native applications via JavaScript and React.

"When you build your application's views with React, it automatically updates the UI of your application when it observes state changes in your data model," said Joey Yang, Firebase front-end developer, in a blog post. "Conveniently, Firebase databases deliver a stream of real-time updates to your data model." React Native supports iOS development.

Firebase was acquired by Google six months ago. It is beneficial in three types of applications: business collaboration; chats, news feeds, and comments; and gaming, Tamplin said. The technology is not open source; Google charges customers for bandwidth and storage. Developers can use Firebase with Google's Polymer Web development technology.

"Polymer is used to structure and arrange your front-end code. Firebase is data storage. Polymer and Firebase actually work really well together. They complement each other nicely," Tamplin said.

Firebase is an attempt to address the limitations of programming models in a mobile context, said Andy Tzou, product marketing manager for Google Cloud Platform. "The RESTful model of request-response has taken us a long way, especially on the Web. But consider the usage context around mobile: network connections can be intermittent or non-existent, especially in developing countries but also in developed regions where users may descend into a subway, toggle airplane mode, or step into areas with spotty network connectivity."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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