Supabase vs Firebase: Learning their Difference

Google Firebase, a technology aimed to assist developers to speed up the construction of contemporary apps, was released in 2011. In 2020, the industry was introduced to Supabase, which promised to be an open-source Firebase replacement. Supabase was created to address the rising demand for a secure and reliable database solution that could be used to store and manage data. It was designed to be an alternative to Firebase, which had become increasingly expensive and difficult to use. Supabase offered a more affordable and user-friendly solution for developers who were looking for a way to quickly and easily create powerful backend applications. With Supabase, developers can create applications with a few clicks of the mouse, without needing to write any code. Additionally, Supabase makes it easy for developers to create applications quickly and efficiently. With Supabase, developers can create an application in minutes, and have it up and running in no time. The platform provides a wide range of features and tools that make it easy to navigate and use.

Table of Contents:

What Is Supabase?


Supabase is an open-source Firebase alternative. Start your project with a Postgres database, Authentication, instant APIs, and Edge Functions.
Build your app without leaving the dashboard. Manage your data with the familiarity of a spreadsheet. You don’t have to be a database expert to use Supabase. The table editor makes Postgres easy to use, even for non-techies. You can do everything right on its dashboard. In-built SQL editor for when you need greater control. Write, save, and execute SQL queries directly on the dashboard, with templates to save you time. Run common queries and even build applications using the growing list of templates. User management as straightforward as it can be easily manage your users with Supabase Auth, with email logins, magic links, and third-party logins. Create complex access policies with SQL rules to suit your unique business needs.

Supabase's primary features are as follows: database, authentication, file storage, and auto-generated APIs. In other words, this platform offers to provide everything you need to construct a mobile app.

Just like Firebase, Supabase is designed to support the backend of a mobile app, but Supabase promises to simplify things. In fact, you can't read an introduction to Supabase without learning that it can help you create a backend in under 3 minutes.

Overall, Supabase is praised for offering an intuitive user interface. Services are easy to set up and manage, and it's particularly great for Firebase users who would prefer to use tables.

With that said, alternatives to major platforms like Firebase can't just pop up out of nowhere on equal footing. Let's take a closer look at how it compares to Firebase.


Difference between Supabase and Firebase

The team behind Supabase strives hard to make it run flawlessly, if not better than, Google's Firebase. However, Supabase is still in its infancy. While Firebase has received years of support and updates from Google, which is arguably the biggest tech giant globally, Supabase is open-source software that's been live for less than two years.

Recognizing that Supabase is still relatively new is important because it's still growing. Whereas Firebase has a large user base and lots of support, which in turn makes it trustworthy and easy to integrate, Supabase is still trying to find its place in the market.

It provides all the backend services you need to build a product. You can use it completely, or just the services you require.

So, here's a more thorough introduction to Supabase to show how it stacks up next to Firebase.

Authentication

Authentication services allow developers to manage app users and provide them with secure options for creating an account and logging in and out of that account. In both Supabase and Firebase, you have the same options.

Both handle authentication in a similar manner, giving developers the ability to implement a simple email and log password or use Google for authentication.

However, Supabase uses the row-level security that's built into Postgres to offer a reliable, native solution for permissions.

When it comes to implementing authentication into your app, both platforms use the box method, which makes it very straightforward. In a Supabase project, you'll use the supabase_key and supabase_URL provided and plug that into your client-side application.

Using the API key, you connect the backend to the front end, which makes user authentication possible.

Storage

The storage bucket that Supabase offers is very similar to the storage solution Firebase features. The only real difference here is that each platform has its own layout and naming conventions.

Some developers like that you can upload files into the database from the Supabase dashboard. Users also like the file storage interface, which is easy to navigate and use. So, interacting with the Supabase database to store things is easy, but what about the database itself?  

Database

Firebase and Supabase are strikingly similar in many areas, but their respective databases are where differences begin to show. While Firebase uses its own Realtime Database, you'll learn upon introduction to Supabase that it uses a relational database. More specifically, Supabase uses PostgreSQL.  

The team's decision to use Postgres for Supabase is strong,  they say that "the scalability and functionality required to legitimately compete with Firebase" as the primary reason.

Because Supabase uses Postgres, every new project has at least one new table. Every column in a Supabase table is subject to a scheme, and each new element becomes a row. From the Supabase dashboard, you'll be able to define schemas for your tables, but let's not turn an introduction to Supabase into a Postgres breakdown.

What's important is that you know that working with the Postgres tables inside Supabase takes a minimal understanding of SQL. The tables are similar in form and function to a standard spreadsheet, and the familiarity often creates efficiency, even for inexperienced developers. You can write queries using JavaScript.

If you want to navigate the database from your dashboard, you can even use the out-of-the-box SQL editor. This is great news because the biggest concern surrounding a Postgres database is scalability.

At some point, your tables may be so full that they become impossible to navigate, which is when you would bring in a developer who can write SQL queries and call upon the database without manually going into it.

All in all, whether Postgres is an advantage or disadvantage over Firebase really comes down to developer preference--both Firebase's Realtime Database and Supabase's Postgres database offer great performance capabilities. So, let's continue with the introduction to Supabase and compare another important element.

Documentation

Perhaps the single most criticized aspect of Firebase is its documentation. Despite having a tech giant behind it with widespread user adoption, Firebase users routinely complain that troubleshooting simply takes too much time and energy.

Part of the problem is that there are no "built-in" docs for Firebase. Instead, you have to navigate out to StackOverflow. Once there, you might find that understanding a given behavior or problem takes a lot of time, and ultimately the answer might not be in the documentation at all.

On the other hand, Supabase offers robust and intuitive documentation built right in. That makes Supabase a clear winner in this category.

In just a few minutes, a user can quickly find their way through the documentation inside the Supabase dashboard and likely solve any small problem all on their own, which is very valuable for keeping development on track.

The Future of Supabase

It's no secret that the folks behind Supabase designed it as a Firebase alternative, but as a developer contemplating utilizing Supabase, it's crucial to assess its potential beyond being the "next best thing." If you feel that Supabase is settling, it's definitely not a good fit. In actuality, Supabase is working hard to distinguish itself. They are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with their platform. They are continually adding new features and improving existing ones. They have a team of dedicated engineers and developers who are constantly striving to make the platform better and more efficient.

"We started Supabase because we love the functionality of Firebase, but we personally experienced the scaling issues that many others experienced," the Supabase development team explained. "Our goal is to make Postgres as easy to use as Firebase so that you no longer have to choose between usability and scalability."

Fortunately, the team isn't just copying what Firebase is doing; they're also adding a few things that Firebase lacks. These additions are intended to improve the user experience even more. They are, for example, providing a new user interface that is more straightforward and easier to use. They are also developing new tools and features to assist customers in better managing their data.

Furthermore, it's encouraging to see that the staff is active and solicits user feedback, such as for new languages. Nonetheless, Supabase is an open-source solution in its early stages.

Conclusion

Are you thinking about using Supabase for your next development project? Are you currently working with Firebase but running into scalability concerns? Supabase is taking a promising approach to big and small projects, but you should tread lightly until it gains the same widespread adoption that other platforms enjoy. It is important to be aware of the risks associated with using a new platform, as it may not have the same level of support or reliability as more established technologies. It is also important to consider the cost of developing a new platform. With Ottomatik you can explore Supabase with ease and with peace of mind.


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