Firebase and Supabase: Key differences you need to know

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The tools classified as “Realtime Backend / API“, or tools that can rapidly process an API call and in this case, store data, include Firebase and Supabase. Firebase is a NoSQL database, while Supabase is a relational database. The Firestore database, which lets you store “documents,” is the core of Firebase. These are collections of key-value pairs where different sub-value documents may be present.

Since two documents in a collection don’t have to share the same structure, document-based storage is ideal for unstructured data. On the other hand, Supabase offers a relational database management system called PostgreSQL rather than being designed around a document-based data store.

The type of software you’re constructing determines which database is best for your project. 

Firebase

James Tamplin and Andrew Lee founded Firebase in 2011, and Google bought the technology in 2014. It is a thorough mobile and web development platform which offers many tools and services for creating, releasing, and maintaining high-quality apps. It includes a serverless platform for developing and deploying cloud functions, a set of machine learning tools and services, a cloud-hosted NoSQL database for storing and syncing data in real-time, tools for implementing authentication and authorization, a static web hosting service, and a serverless platform.

Firebase is made simple to use and integrates with several different frameworks for creating apps, including Android, iOS, Web, Unity, and more. As a result, it is a well-liked option for programmers creating mobile and web applications, particularly for those who wish to swiftly prototype and refine their ideas. 

Features of firebase

Firebase offers features that enable developers to build, test, and deploy apps confidently. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just starting, Firebase is a powerful and flexible platform that can help you bring your app ideas to life.

  • Real-time database: this is a feature of Firebase that allows you to store and sync data with a NoSQL cloud database. It is designed to provide real-time data synchronization across multiple clients and devices. One of the main benefits of using a real-time database is that it allows you to build collaborative apps that can be used by multiple users simultaneously. When one user updates the data in the database, the changes are automatically synced with all connected clients, ensuring that everyone has access to the most up-to-date information. 

Here is an example of how you might use the real-time database in a collaborative app:

Imagine you are building a group chat app for a team of coworkers. You can use the real-time database to store the chat messages and synchronize them in real time across all connected devices. When one team member sends a message, the message is immediately added to the database and synced with all other devices, allowing all team members to see the message in real time.

Here is an example of how you might structure the data in the real-time database for a group chat app:

In this example, the messages are stored in a root node called “messages”. Each message is stored as a child node with a unique key (e.g. “message1”, “message2”, etc.). The data for each message includes the sender’s name, the message text, and a timestamp.

The real-time database is a NoSQL database, which stores data as a collection of key-value pairs. You can use the Firebase JavaScript SDK to read and write data to the database in real time.

  • Authentication: Firebase Authentication is a feature that allows you to add user authentication to your app easily. It provides several methods for authenticating users, including email and password, phone number, and popular third-party providers like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. 
  • The primary purpose of authentication is to verify the identity of a user. When users log into your app, they provide their credentials (such as their email and password) to Firebase Authentication. If the credentials are valid, Firebase grants the user access to your app and generates a unique authentication token that can be used to identify the user in future requests.
  • Here is an example of how you can use Firebase’s authentication feature in your app:

This code uses the createUserWithEmailAndPassword method to sign up a new user with an email and password, and the signInWithEmailAndPassword method to then sign in.

One of the main benefits of using Firebase Authentication is that it takes care of all the complex backend logic and server-side authentication tasks, allowing you to focus on building your app. It also provides several security features to protect against common attacks, such as password hashing, brute force protection, and email verification. Firebase Authentication can be used in various applications, including web apps, mobile apps, and server-side applications. In addition, it provides SDKs for multiple platforms, including JavaScript, Android, iOS, and Flutter, so you can easily integrate them into your app regardless of your platform.

  • Storage: Firebase Storage is a feature that allows you to store and manage user-generated files in the cloud, such as images, audio, and video. It provides a secure and scalable solution for storing and accessing user files and integrates seamlessly with other Firebase services. One of the primary benefits of using Firebase Storage is that it handles all the complex backend tasks related to file storage, such as uploading, downloading, and deleting files, allowing you to focus on building your app. It also provides security features to protect against common attacks, such as request signing and access controls.
  • Hosting: Firebase Hosting is a feature that allows you to host static assets (such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and media files) and deploy them to a global content delivery network (CDN). It provides fast and secure hosting for your web apps, with features such as SSL support, custom domains, and content caching. One of the main benefits of using Firebase Hosting is that it is easy to set up and use and integrates seamlessly with other Firebase services such as Firebase Cloud Functions and Firebase Realtime Database. It also provides automatic scaling and high availability, so you don’t have to worry about managing your servers or dealing with downtime.
  • Analytics: Firebase Analytics is a free app measurement solution that provides insight into app usage and user engagement. It is a part of the Firebase suite of tools offered by Google that helps developers build, improve, and grow their apps. Firebase Analytics provides valuable information about how users interact with an app, including data on user behavior, demographics, and device characteristics. This information can help developers understand how their app is being used and identify areas for improvement. In addition, Firebase Analytics integrates with other Firebase features, such as Firebase Crashlytics, which allows developers to find and fix issues in their apps, and Firebase Predictions, which uses machine learning to predict user behavior and help developers target their efforts.
  • Cloud functions: Firebase Cloud Functions is a serverless platform that allows developers to run backend code in response to events triggered by Firebase features or HTTP requests. It is a part of the Firebase suite of tools offered by Google that helps developers build, improve, and grow their apps. Cloud Functions enables developers to extend the functionality of their Firebase apps without the need to manage servers or infrastructure. This makes it easy to build and deploy backend logic for functions such as responding to real-time database updates, sending notifications, or integrating with other services. Cloud Functions is built on top of Google Cloud Functions; a serverless compute platform that executes code in response to events or HTTP requests. This means that developers can use Cloud Functions to leverage the scalability and reliability of Google’s infrastructure to run their backend code.
  • Machine Learning: Firebase offers several machine learning-based features as part of its suite of tools for app developers. These features use machine learning algorithms to analyze data and make predictions or recommendations based on that data.
    One of the machine learning features offered by Firebase is Firebase Predictions, which uses machine learning to analyze user behavior and predict which users are likely to perform specific actions, such as making a purchase or uninstalling an app. Developers can use this information to target their efforts and improve their app’s performance.

    Another machine learning feature Firebase offers is Firebase ML Kit, which provides a set of pre-trained machine learning models that developers can use to add machine learning functionality to their apps. This includes text recognition, face detection, and object detection.

  • Remote configuration: Remote Config is a feature of the Firebase suite of tools that allows developers to dynamically change the behavior and appearance of their apps without requiring an app update. It is beneficial for A/B testing and for making changes to an app based on user behavior or other data. Using Firebase Remote Config, developers can create and manage different versions of their app’s configuration, which defines the behaviou and appearance of the app. They can then use the Firebase console or the Firebase API to remotely update their app’s configuration, allowing them to make changes to the app in real time.

    Firebase Remote Config makes it easy for developers to experiment with different configurations and see how they impact user behavior. It also allows them to quickly roll out new features or changes to their app without releasing a new version of the app.

  • Crashlytics: This real-time crash reporting service is part of the Firebase suite of tools offered by Google. It helps developers identify, prioritize, and fix stability issues in their apps. Crashlytics automatically collects and organizes crash reports from users of an app, providing detailed information about the circumstances that led to the crash. This includes information about the device, operating system, and the state of the app at the time of the crash.

    Crashlytics also provides analytics on the frequency and impact of crashes, allowing developers to prioritize the most severe issues and fix them quickly. It also integrates with other Firebase features, such as Firebase Crashlytics Beta, which will enable developers to test their app with a small group of users before releasing it to the public.

Pros and cons of using Firebase

There are some advantages and disadvantages of using Firebase which are listed and explained below.

Pros:

The number of businesses developing Firebase mobile apps has exponentially increased over the past few years. It is due to the many benefits of developing mobile apps with Firebase, including:

  • Real-time database: Firebase provides a real-time database that enables programmers to store and sync information in real time between various devices. Building collaborative apps, like social media or messaging, can benefit from this.
  • Serverless backend: Backend services offered by Firebase, such as Cloud Functions and Firebase Hosting, enable developers to design and deploy their applications without having to worry about maintaining infrastructure or servers. As a result, developing and scaling apps is made simpler and more affordable.
  • App analytics: Firebase offers in-depth analytics on user behaviour and usage, which can help developers better understand how their apps are being used and spot opportunities for improvement.
  • User authentication: Firebase provides a variety of mechanisms, including support for social networking, phone, email, and password login. As a result, adding a user authentication to apps is made simple for developers.
  • Machine learning: Developers may include machine learning capabilities into their projects using Firebase’s many machine learning-based services, such as Firebase Predictions and Firebase ML Kit.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: Firebase enables developers to create apps on various platforms, including Android, iOS, and the web.
  • Support from the community: Firebase has a sizable and vibrant developer community, meaning platform users may access a lot of information and assistance.

Cons:

These are some of the drawbacks that come with using Firebase.

  • Limited querying options: Firebase doesn’t have a filter for capabilities and uses Realtime Database as its primary store. Your entire database becomes a massive JSON file because Firebase employs the JSON file format. Relationships between various data files cannot be introduced when a database exists as a single file. As a result, you can run up to one key search at a time. However, users or stored files cannot be queried or listed in Firebase.
  • Limited control: Since Firebase is a managed service, developers have little power over the infrastructure that lies beneath their applications. This may be a disadvantage for developers who require greater control over their environment.
  • Google dependence: Because Firebase is a Google product, developers must rely on Google’s infrastructure and support. Developers who desire greater independence or are worried about vendor lock-in may find this a source of concern.
  • Cost: Despite having a free tier, Firebase can get pricey as an app gains popularity and users. The costs of adopting Firebase must be carefully weighed against those of alternative solutions by developers.
  • Complexity: A developer unfamiliar with Firebase may find the platform’s extensive features and service offering intimidating. Learning how to use all the features efficiently can take some time.

Supabase

Supabase is an open-source alternative to Firebase that provides various tools and services for building and deploying web and mobile apps. It is designed to be an easy-to-use, scalable, and secure platform for building modern apps.

Supabase offers a real-time database that allows developers to store and sync data across multiple devices in real-time, like Firebase. It also provides various backend services, including a serverless platform for running functions and hosting static assets.

In addition to these core features, Supabase provides tools for user authentication, app analytics, and machine learning. It supports a range of platforms, including web, Android, and iOS, and is designed to be easy to integrate with other tools and services.

Supabase is a comprehensive platform for building and deploying modern apps that offers many of the same features as Firebase, but with an open-source twist.

Features of Supabase

Supabase which we know as the open-source platform is built on top of PostgreSQL. Offers numerous features like automatic API generation using REST, and encourages the use of open-source tools and libraries. More of these features are explained below.

  • Real-time database: A real-time database is a database that is designed to allow real-time processing and immediate access to data as it is updated. This is in contrast to a traditional database, which may have a delay in updating data and may not allow real-time access to the most recent data. One example of a real-time database is Supabase, a cloud-based database that allows developers to build real-time applications using a PostgreSQL database.

Here’s an example of how you might use the real-time database feature of Supabase in a Next.js application:

  • First, you would set up a Supabase project and create a database with the desired tables and columns.
  • Next, you would install the Supabase client library in your Next.js project and authenticate with your Supabase project.
  • Then, you would use the Supabase client to subscribe to real-time updates for a particular table in the database. For example, you might use the following code to subscribe to real-time updates for a “customers” table:

  • Whenever a new record is added to the “customers” table, the realtime.on() callback function will be triggered, and the event will be logged to the console.

In this way, you can use the real-time database feature of Supabase to build applications that are responsive to updates in the database and provide a seamless experience for users.

  • Authentication: Authentication is a feature that allows users to log in to a web or mobile application securely. It typically involves verifying a user’s identity using a combination of a username or email address and a password. Supabase is a real-time database platform that includes built-in support for authentication. This means that you can easily implement authentication for your web or mobile app using Supabase without setting up and managing your authentication server.
  • Supabase offers many authentication methods, including email/password, Google, and GitHub. In addition, the Supabase API can create new users, log in to existing users, and manage user accounts.

    Here is an example of how you can use Supabase’s authentication feature in your app:

 

This code uses the signup method to sign up a new user with an email and password, and the login method to log the user in. Both methods return a promise that resolves with a response object on success or rejects with an error on failure.

Supabase’s authentication feature also provides other useful methods for managing users and sessions, such as logout to log out a user, password.reset to reset a user’s password, and me to get the current user’s profile.

 

With Supabase’s authentication feature, you can focus on building your app rather than worrying about the complexities of implementing and maintaining your authentication system. This can save you time and resources and allow you to get your app up and running more quickly.

  • Storage: Supabase has built-in support for storage, and storage is a feature that allows you to store and manage data in a web or mobile application. This can include user data, application settings, and other types of data needed to run the app. This means you can use Supabase to store and manage data for your web or mobile app without setting up and managing your storage infrastructure.

    Supabase offers a variety of storage options, including a SQL database, a file storage system, and a key-value store. The Supabase API can store, retrieve, and manage data in these different storage systems. With Supabase’s storage feature, you can easily store and manage data for your app and take advantage of Supabase’s real-time capabilities to update and sync data across multiple devices in real-time. This can save you time and resources and allow you to build more powerful and efficient apps.

  • API generation: API generation is a feature that allows you to generate a web API for your database automatically. A web API is a set of rules and standards for accessing a web-based software application or tool. It provides a way for different software systems to communicate with each other over the internet. With Supabase’s API generation feature, you can easily create a web API for your database by simply defining your database schema and relationships. Supabase will automatically generate the API endpoints and documentation for you, allowing you to access and manipulate your data using standard HTTP requests. This can save you time and resources and enable you to integrate your database with other software systems and applications easily. It can also make it easier for you to build web or mobile apps that use your database by providing a convenient and well-documented way to access and manipulate your data.
  • Deployment: Deployment is the process of making an app or service available to users. This typically involves uploading the app or service to a server or hosting platform and configuring it to be accessible over the internet. With Supabase’s deployment feature, you can deploy your app or service to the cloud with just a few clicks using the Supabase dashboard or command-line interface. Supabase will handle all of the underlying infrastructure and configuration for you, making it easy for you to focus on building and maintaining your app. This can save you time and resources and allow you to get your app or service up and running more quickly. It can also make it easier for you to scale and manage your app or service by providing a convenient and reliable way to deploy and host it in the cloud.
  • Collaboration: Supabase’s collaboration features make it easy to share access to your database and API with your team and collaborate on real-time changes and updates. Supabase also provides tools for version control, code review, and team communication, making it easy for you to work together and stay organized. It can help you build better software by enabling you to take advantage of your team’s collective knowledge and expertise.
  • Documentation: Supabase is a real-time database platform that includes built-in support for documentation. This means you can easily use Supabase to generate and maintain documentation for your app or service. With Supabase’s documentation features, you can automatically generate API documentation for your database and API using the Supabase API. Supabase also provides tools for creating and organizing other types of documentation, such as user guides and technical specifications. This can save you time and resources and make it easier to document your app or service. It can also help you to build better software by providing precise and comprehensive documentation that is easy for users and developers to understand.
  • Open-source: Supabase is a database platform built on top of open-source technologies. This means that you can use Supabase to take advantage of the benefits of open-source software, such as the ability to access and modify the source code and the support of a large and active community of developers. With Supabase, you can use open-source tools and libraries to build your app or service and leverage the knowledge and expertise of the open-source community to help you along the way. Supabase also actively contributes to and supports open-source projects and encourages using open-source technologies in its platform. You can take advantage of the power and flexibility of open-source software and build better software by leveraging the collective knowledge and expertise of the open-source community.

Pros and cons of using Supabase

Here are some of the edges and drawbacks of using Supabase:

Pros:

The advantages are stated below.

  • Supabase has real-time capabilities that let you update and sync data between various devices. Building responsive and engaging apps may benefit from this.
  • Built-in support for authentication and storage is provided by Supabase, making it simple to integrate these features into your project without having to set up and maintain your infrastructure.
  • To save time and effort building your API code, Supabase can automatically generate a web API for your database.
  • Supabase makes it simple to quickly upload your app or service to the cloud with simple deployment.
  • Version control, code reviews, and team communication are just a few of the collaboration capabilities offered by Supabase.
  • To make it simpler to document your app or service, Supabase can automatically produce API documentation for your database and API.
  • You may quickly and easily generate a REST API for your PostgreSQL database using Supabase.
  • Supabase can be self-hosted.

Cons:

Outlined below are the disadvantages of using Supabase.

  • Supabase only supports PostgreSQL databases now; therefore, it might not be appropriate for projects that call for other database systems.
  • Supabase only supports PostgreSQL databases now; therefore, it might not be appropriate for projects that call for other database systems.
  • It has limited hosting options, and since Supabase only supports cloud deployment, it might not be appropriate for applications that call for on-site hosting.
  • Supabase offers a free plan, but the subscription plans can be fairly pricey compared to other database platforms.
  • Supabase has a steep learning curve, making it difficult for developers who are unfamiliar with the platform to use it.
  • Supabase is a very new platform; as a result, it has a smaller community and fewer resources than some well-known database platforms. As a result, it could be harder to get support and assistance when needed.

 Comparing Firebase and Supabase

In this section I will give brief differences between the two database systems.

Similarities:

A better database developer experience is the foundation of both Firebase and Supabase. With both platforms, you can start a new project in your browser without downloading any additional software or tools to your computer. In addition, both systems provide a useful dashboard UI that allows you to debug your data in real time. This feature is beneficial for quick iterations during development.

Firebase and Supabase have significantly invested in client-side libraries, enabling direct client-to-database communication. Firebase and Supabase have isomorphic clients that may be used on the client and server in a node.js environment. In addition, Firebase has its Firebase Javascript SDK.

Differences:

Here are some of the differences between Firebase and Supabase.

Database support:

  • Firebase offers NoSQL databases, including Firestore (a document-oriented database) and the Realtime Database (a real-time, cloud-hosted, NoSQL database). Firestore is a NoSQL document database that stores data as collections of documents, JSON-like objects with a flexible, hierarchical structure. This makes storing and retrieving data easy but can make it more challenging to perform complex queries and transactions.
  • Supabase supports PostgreSQL databases. PostgreSQL is a powerful, open-source, object-relational database system. It offers many features and capabilities, including support for complex queries, transactions, and data types.

 

Deployment:

  • Firebase is hosted on Google Cloud, making it easy to deploy your app or service to the cloud with just a few clicks. You can also use Cloud Functions for Firebase to run serverless code responding to events triggered by Firebase services or HTTP requests.
  • Supabase is hosted on Amazon Web Serviceshttps://aws.amazon.com/(AWS), making it easy to deploy your app or service to the cloud with just a few clicks.

API generation:

  • Firebase can automatically generate APIs for its databases and other services using either REST or GraphQL. This can save you the time and effort of writing your API code, for example, using the Firebase Realtime Database API to read and write data to the Realtime Database using standard HTTP requests. You can also use the Firestore API to read and write data to Firestore using REST or GraphQL.
  • Supabase can also automatically generate APIs for your database using REST. This can save you the time and effort of writing your API code and provide you with a well-documented and easy-to-use API for accessing and manipulating your data.

Hosting options:

  • In addition to cloud hosting, Firebase also offers on-premises hosting options through Cloud Functions for Firebase. This allows you to run serverless code responding to events triggered by Firebase services or HTTP requests without managing your infrastructure.
  • Supabase currently only offers cloud hosting and does not have on-premises hosting.

Community:

  • Firebase is a more established platform than Supabase, and it has a larger and more active community. Many resources are available for Firebase, including comprehensive documentation, third-party tutorials and articles, and a vibrant community of developers who contribute to and support the platform.
  • Supabase is a relatively new platform, and it has a smaller and growing community. There is still a good amount of documentation available for Supabase and many third-party tutorials and articles. However, the community is smaller and more active than Firebase.

Open-source:

  • Firebase is not an open-source platform. It is owned and operated by Google, and the source code for the platform is not available for users to view or modify.
  • Supabase, on the other hand, is an open-source platform. The source code for Supabase is available for users to view and modify, and the platform encourages open-source tools and libraries. This can make it easier for users to customize and extend Supabase to meet their specific needs and allow them to contribute back to the platform’s development. The open-source nature of Supabase can be an advantage for developers who value transparency and flexibility and want more control over the tools and technologies they use. It can also make it easier for developers to collaborate and contribute to the platform and encourage the growth and development of the Supabase community.

Here is a summarized, tabular comparison of some of the differences between Firebase and Supabase:

Feature

Firebase

Supabase

Database support

NoSQL (Firestore, Realtime Database)

PostgreSQL

API generation

Automatic (REST, GraphQL)

Automatic (REST)

Deployment

Cloud (Google Cloud)

Cloud (AWS)

Hosting options

Cloud, on-premises (Cloud Functions)

Cloud

Pricing

Free, pay-as-you-go

Free, paid plans

Community

Large, active

Small, growing

Open source

No

Yes

Comparison of pricing and scalability of Firebase and Supabase

Pricing:

  • Firebase offers a free plan and paid plans that are charged on a pay-as-you-go basis. The free program includes many of the basic features of Firebase, including the Realtime Database, Firestore, and Cloud Functions.
  • The paid plans offer additional features and higher quotas and are priced based on usage. For example, the Blaze plan allows you to pay for only what you use and scales automatically to meet your needs.
  • Supabase also offers a free plan and paid plans with additional features and higher quotas. The free plan includes many of the basic features of Supabase, including the SQL database, file storage, and automatic API generation.
  • The paid plans are priced based on the number of users, database size, and other factors.

Scalability:

  • Both Firebase and Supabase are designed to scale automatically to meet the needs of your app or service.
  • Firebase uses Google Cloud infrastructure, designed to handle high traffic and data volume levels. It also uses automatic sharding to distribute data across multiple servers and can scale up or down as needed to meet your demands.
  • Supabase also uses cloud infrastructure (AWS) to handle high traffic and data volume levels and can scale up or down as needed to meet your demands. It also uses automatic sharding to distribute data across multiple servers.

Conclusion

Firebase and Supabase are powerful platforms that can be used to build and deploy many applications and services. They offer similar features, including real-time capabilities, built-in authentication and storage, automatic API generation, and easy deployment, etc.

Ultimately, the choice between Firebase and Supabase will depend on your specific needs and requirements. Both platforms offer a range of powerful features and capabilities and can be excellent choices for different projects. It’s important to carefully evaluate each platform’s features and capabilities to determine which is the best fit for your project.