Parse lets mobile app developers write server code without servers

Mobile app developers hate dealing with server-side programming, but most need to do some of it. Those server-squeamish developers are the target market for Parse’s new JavaScript SDK, downloadable as of Wednesday.
The promise of the new SDK is that these developers can now build a secure JavaScript application with a backend without having to provision or write code for servers, said James Yu, founder of San Francisco-based Parse.
‘With Parse, we handle user authentication, data storage to a server, etc. without the developer needing to make anything but a static HTML page. We believe … this is the next inevitable step in application design for mobile web and traditional web apps,” Yu said Tuesday.
The SDK builds atop DocumentCloud’s popular Backbone.js, so those developers who know that will be able to adopt it easily to build HTML5 apps.
Parse — which already offers Android and iOS SDKs — competes with Stackmob but the real competition for the new JavaScript SDK is DIY server programming, Yu said.
“The alternative to our platform is getting your own servers running. Since technology is moving toward the fat client, we can provide a service where developers don’t need to touch a server any more but still add server-side technology.”
“We do a lot of work with game developers and they usually get to the point where they want to do things like add a high score list to their app. And they think that will be easy but it ends up being a lot more work than they thought — it balloons out so that they all of a sudden have to maintain a server,” Yu said.
“The overhead of developing mobile apps that require a shared, persistent backend that also supports communication between app users is really high and can easily add 50 percent to your development time, yet the backend is typically fairly generic in that if it’s written right it can meet the needs of a large percentage apps,” said Peter Eddy, a developer with Gazelle, a Boston-based e-commerce specialist. In an ideal world, he added, these developers would like to concentrate all their effort on the user experience and marketing and leave the generic but complicated backend plumbing to someone else.
With Parse’s new SDK, they still need to do the work, but it looks to be a lot less painful.