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Google Firebase speeds developer process with new features

The new Firebase additions may not excite developers, but they do add some much-needed functionality to the platform.

A range of new features and updates to Firebase introduced during this week's Google I/O event aim to accelerate mobile and web app development.

Google Firebase now has many additional capabilities, including new Extension events, improved Crashlytics capabilities and better support for Flutter, a cross-platform app development framework. The latest updates aim to make developers' jobs easier by proving customizable code, better access to crash data and faster time to production.

The new functionalities for Firebase include the addition of the firebase deploy command, which allows web apps to be deployed in a single command across web development frameworks, such as Angular and Next.js.

The platform's enhancements received varying degrees of applause from attendees. For example, while the new App Quality Insights window received a warm round of applause, there was a muted response to the unveiling of Firebase Extensions updates.

Although the new Firebase capabilities may not look that exciting at first glance, they are beneficial for many aspects of developers' work and productivity, said Holger Mueller, vice president and analyst at Constellation Research.

"Sometimes you have to do the necessary to do the flashy again," he said. "Personally, I like these releases because they really move the needle."

New Crashlytics highlights

The new App Quality Insights window helps developers to reproduce, debug and resolve issues reported by Crashlytics without having to switch tools. In addition, the window contains an app's latest crash data, where developers can quickly navigate to the exact lines of code that may be causing the crash, said Francis Ma, director of product management for Firebase, during the Developer Keynote.

These new Crashlytics capabilities are key to helping developers find root causes for app crashes and to make apps more stable, Mueller said. Adding Crashlytics into Firebase will result in faster developer speed, he said.

Part of the faster development comes from the fact that developers won't have to search for crash data from Crashlytics in their codebase, said Ilya Amialiuk, Android tech lead at Orangesoft, a mobile app development company.

"I think this update is utterly important for easier and faster troubleshooting," Amialiuk said.

Customization added to Firebase Extensions

Firebase Extensions are prepackaged bundles of code that developers can quickly deploy into their codebase. They are easy to use, Ma said. But this comes with a trade-off, he said, because they might not always fit a developer's specific needs.

While extensions worked well for developers, they told Google they would like more customizations to make a baseline deployment their own, Ma said. This feedback led to Extensions events, giving developers the best of both worlds with fast and customizable extensions. For example, a developer using the Run Payments with Stripe extension with subscription billing can add custom code to trigger a discount offer upon if a subscription is canceled, Ma said.

The new extension capabilities are equally as important as the new Crashlytics capabilities, according to Mueller.

"[The extensions] acknowledge that Google cannot build it all -- and partners matter," he said.

The simplicity and additional customization features make the extensions the most significant update in the lineup, Orangesoft's Amialiuk said.

Firebase's future likely to include more extensions, tools

The new Firebase updates cement the platform's solid ground; it remains one of the most popular multi-experience development platforms on the market, according to Gartner. Online reviewers rate Firebase ahead of the majority of competitors, including Oracle Mobile Hub Cloud and OutSystems, for ease of deployment and integration.

Google Firebase is a hot commodity right now for good reason, said Morshed Alam, founder and editor at Savvy Programmer. This is because the platform's unique blend of powerful features and ease of use suits developers who want to quickly build high-quality apps, he said.

"If this trend takes off, we'll likely see more third-party extensions fueling app development," Amialiuk said.

If developers don't see their favorite tool or offering in Firebase right now, Mueller said they may become available in future releases.

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