Google updates Firebase with new emulator and data analysis tools

Google today updated Firebase, its service for helping developers build apps for Android, iOS, and the web. Firebase has gained a Firebase Authentication emulator, a Detect Online Presence extension, a redesigned Firebase Performance Monitoring dashboard, and data analysis tools.

The announcements were made at the fifth annual Firebase Summit, held digitally this year. At the event, Google revealed that over 2.5 million apps are actively using Firebase every month. That’s up from 2 million apps last year and 1.5 million apps the year before — Firebase is still growing at about 500,000 monthly active apps per year. At Firebase Summit 2020, Google highlighted apps that grew as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as ecommerce, gaming, and learning businesses. Firebase helped them scale to meet the demand of stay-at-home measures, and in return they ensured the Google tool maintained its growth.

A Google spokesperson said all the new features announced today are meant to help developers build, iterate, and maintain their apps, regardless of their size or platform. The tools also improve “the ability to quickly adapt and scale (which is of particular value as more and more of our current experiences go online),” the spokesperson added.

New building blocks and insights

Last year, Google launched the Firebase Emulator Suite. The Emulator Suite supports Hosting, Realtime Database, Firestore, Cloud Functions, and Cloud Pub/Sub. With the added support for Firebase Authentication, you can now test the entire user management process on your local machine and use the new auth emulator to run integration tests that rely on authentication. Google hopes this will let you shift to a local-first workflow that allows rapid experimentation and iteration “without touching production data, incurring costs, or worrying that you’ll break something.”

Also last year, Google launched nine Extensions, prepackaged solutions that automate common tasks in your projects and let you add new functionality in fewer steps. The company debuted a new one today: Detect Online Presence. It shows you which users or devices are currently online and stores that data in Cloud Firestore. You can use this Extension to let your users know when their friends are online.

Firebase performance dashboard

Google has also redesigned the Firebase Performance Monitoring dashboard to counter information overload — it should now be clearer when an update to your app causes stability or performance problems for your users. The new dashboard emphasizes when one of your critical metrics needs attention. It’s also customizable, so you can bring the six metrics you care about most to the forefront.

More sophisticated data analysis tools

Firebase’s integration with Google Analytics shows what actions users are taking inside your app, where they’re spending their time, and why they churn. Google today announced three new APIs that give you more control to collect, record, and manage that business data:

  • Google Analytics 4 Measurement Protocol lets you log events directly to Google Analytics. This is especially useful if you want to augment client-side data, with point-of-sale systems for example, and make server-to-server calls to gain new insights.
  • If you prefer to create your own custom dashboards, the Data API gives you programmatic access to your Google Analytics reporting data.
  • The Admin API gives you the ability to configure your Analytics account and set user permissions.

For years, the BigQuery integration allowed you to export data from Firebase, join it with data from other channels, and run sophisticated analysis — including with your own custom user segments. Google is now letting you bring these custom segments back from BigQuery into Firebase for targeting. Imported segments let you target any custom segment with products like Remote Config, Cloud Messaging, and In-App Messaging.

This gives you more flexibility over how and where to engage your users. For example, Google envisions a retailer importing data from their physical storefront to give those users in-app promotions via In-App Messaging. You know, when physical storefronts are a thing again.

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