Google I/O 2021: Firebase hits 3 million apps and introduces new updates including remote config

A new Firebase app distribution, web SDKs, remote configs, analytics for testing an app’s stability

A new Firebase app distribution, web SDKs, remote configs, analytics for testing an app’s stability and a resigned dashboard are all part of the updates introduced at Google I/O.

Firebase, a mobile platform, now has more than 3 million apps and is adding several new features for developers, Google announced at Google I/O on Tuesday. Usage of the app development tool doubled in the past year as a result of the pandemic, according to Kristen Richards, senior product manager and product lead for Firebase at Google. 

Last year’s Google I/O event was cancelled due to the pandemic, so there’s a lot of amped-up energy for this year’s developer’s conference, Richards said. 

“We want to first reiterate our mission at Firebase, which is to empower developers to build and grow their apps and businesses across any platform they choose. So for us, helping developers be successful is what makes Firebase successful, so we really want to put helpfulness and helping developers at the center of everything we do and everything we talk about at I/O,” she said. “We have over 3 million apps actively using Firebase every month and that ranges from college kids who are just starting out and learning computer science all the way to establish enterprises like Lyft, Twitter, Hotstar in India.”

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Google I/O includes a virtual photo booth powered by Firebase and Flutter, and Richards said that “shows how you can use those tools together in a really powerful way.”

Firebase works with Android, but also iOS. Firebase was founded in 2011, and Google acquired it in 2014, according to ZDNet.

Teams normally use remote config to remotely reconfigure their app without performing a release. The newly redesigned Firebase Remote Config has a new console experience to make it easier to manage the configuration and understand A/B test results to take action and speed up decision making. It will also allow for automatic personalization using Google’s machine learning to create individual app experiences for each user. For instance, someone who spends more might not see ads, or another user might get a more personalized onboarding experience. The personalization option will be available as part of an alpha program for partners for the first couple of weeks, and then it will be rolled out in beta, Richards said. 

Another new feature is App Check, which allows developers to identify and verify traffic coming into their app. This will help safeguard data from outside threats. This is available in beta form. 

There’s also Firebase Crashlytics, which is the crash reporter of Firebase. It allows developers to track, prioritize and resolve bugs quickly. There are new custom keys for search and filtering capabilities. There are also improvements to Crashlytics’ NDK and Unity offerings to support game developers. 

New modularized web SKDs are in beta to improve load times. They’re smaller and can be trimmed down to allow developers to only import needed features. 

There’s also Firebase Performance Monitoring, with real time data being added to it via a newly designed dashboard. This allows developers to monitor an app’s performance during a release or when a new feature is launched.

Firebase Extensions are another update. They are Firebase’s prepackaged bundles of code that developers plug in and leverage in their app without learning new APIs or writing new code to use it. It’s a plug and play option. There will also be new third-party developer products that Google will provide, and some of those will be based on machine learning and will analyze speech and look for toxicity as user-generated content comes into apps. That is from a partnership with Algolia, Richards said. 

Google I/O is a three-day virtual event this year and it is free to everyone. There’s an official schedule for keynotes and breakout sessions and anyone who wants to participate simply needs to log into their Google account and register for the event. The event can be watched online at Google’s website.

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