For such a long time, Firebase has been in a league of its own. Not only does Firebase offer hosting, cloud functions (AWS Lambda serverless style functions), but it also offers authentication, two different types of database and a plethora of other features.
Honestly, nothing else has ever really come close to Firebase… Until now.
Supabase is a promising open-source alternative that eventually aims to be a close replacement for Firebase. And if you’re thinking Supabase is some scrappy upstart, they were in the Y Combinator Summer 2020 batch and received $125,000 USD in seed funding from Y Combinator.
Despite the fact that Supabase is still in alpha (at the time of writing this), already, it features quite a strong feature-set that takes on some of Firebase’ most appealing features like the real-time database and simple SDK-based drop-in authentication.
And the best thing of all: Supabase is merely a layer on-top of the versatile and battle-tested PostgreSQL database. Even the authentication functionality (non-oAuth) uses row-level security features in PostgreSQL.
Although Supabase is currently in an early-ish alpha, it is already quite promising. I have yet to try out their hosted version, but I was able to get a nice Supabase test setup on Digitalocean using an image on the DigitalOcean marketplace quite easily.
The beautiful thing about Supabase is where possible, they have opted to use existing libraries and databases. Instead of leveraging always cutting edge technology, they’re using PostgreSQL for quite a lot of their functionality and other libraries to implement other features. The lack of custom built functionality is a good thing from a lock-in perspective.
As a long-term Firebase user, I certainly do feel locked in. Sure, Firebase gives you quite a decent authentication feature with support for all major oAuth providers as well as anonymous and username/password type authentication, but it definitely isn’t easy migrating away from an authentication perspective.
As you can see, Supabase already has basic authentication support. However, many modern applications utilise logins via oAuth providers such as; Facebook, GitHub, Google, Twitter and so on. A feature which Supabase will support, but at the time of publishing this, does not.
As we see the rise of no-code, I think it is clear that Firebase has had the right idea all along. Firebase has always been ahead of its time, which explains the lack of competitors. However, with the rise of Vercel, Netlify and now, Supabase, it’s clear that the concept is starting to become more popular.
If Amazon ever devotes proper resources, AWS Amplify could also be another viable alternative to Firebase. Although, as things currently stand, Amplify is an incredibly limited and crippled version of Firebase that doesn’t come anywhere near close to its functionality and ease-of-use.
The TL;DR right now is that Supabase is still in its infancy, but is already quite promising. While it will not replace every single feature that Firebase offers, it will offer the important features (database and authentication) with authentication being one of the most popular and loved parts of Firebase (at least to me, anyway).
Let’s check back in 2021 and see where Supabase is at. If Y Combinator sees value in what they are doing, then people should stand up and take notice.