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Backlift (YC W12) Launches A Back-End Service For Front-End Developers (techcrunch.com)
82 points by dwynings on Apr 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

Having been primarily a backend developer for most of my career, I generally view these services with suspicion.

But the rate of new entries into this space makes me wonder if one day I'll be considered a luddite for thinking this way.

I have had the same reaction. I am not sure what customer pain these services are addressing. Even if it made prototyping and MVP developing vastly easier, what happens if the product starts to take off? The lock-in seems dramatic, but I could be off-base.

As a UX Designer and front-end guy a lot of the appeal is being able to build something functional without a lot of help.

You are correct about the taking off part. If any of my ideas were to take off then I would need to swap out one of these services for an actual back-end.

Perhaps it is my own lack of experience with the services themselves, but I feel like if you are equipped to build out a complete front-end javascript application, you are probably equally qualified to bang out a little server-side API that will be suitable for you. Call me old fashioned, but I feel like this new cottage industry might just be a bridge too far...

I've also been using Backlift at Nashville Software School. We have a class that is an introduction to front-end development and as an educational tool Backlift has been great. Allows us to focus on learning how to program and build browser-based code without forcing us to teach our students a lot of details about the server-side at the same time. Big win.

Does it replace learning all of that server stuff at some point, no, of course not, but it allows us to focus on fewer issues at any given point in the course.

To the lock-in point, I've not seen that in what our students have built. There's a bit of unique code but mostly they're using standard AJAX & JSON techniques.

My own perspective is that Backlift and tools like it have real value for not just training but also for prototyping applications, rapidly evolving MVPs, etc. If something clicks and you've got to scale, great - that's when you invest in the real back-end. But there are also a lot of simple, low volume applications and websites where a back-end as a service tool could well be all that someone needs.

The pain is that Backend developers are expensive, and there are not a lot of good ones. Most of the good backend developers are already hired in big companies. Creating Backend functionality is not just about putting your webservices up into AWS and that is it. There is a lot of capacity planning, Security concerns, scalability concerns, etc. Things that are usually covered by more than 1 person.

Additionally not all Backend as a Service have that extreme lock-in. In our case (iKnode) you build your backend using pure C# code, which is your and you can take with you. Creating Web Services out of the code you put in our servers is plain and simple.

* disclaimer: I'm working on a service that's an entry into this space as well *

I believe the customer pain is that for many applications, it takes many iterations before the product takes off -- and for non-developers, who have to hire developers to implement each iteration, it could be cost-prohibitive to get to the take off stage. Easy application prototyping and MVP developing products allows agility in fine tuning ideas to make sure it meets a need, before spending the money to hire a developer and implementing the final, more optimized version.

It's also advantageous for developers to use these products as well -- not only is it faster to develop (no need to learn a ton of APIs), it's also easier mentally to change the product to suit a business need (after all, it's easier to toss out an afternoon's worth of work than 2 weeks', if needed)

As a student, I feel compelled to mention the educational value of services like these.

Backend as a Service is in the business of saving time and money.

Im sure when calculators first came out there were people who didnt trust them either.

Was playing with Backlift not too long ago (They have nice Backbone [1] and AngularJS [2] tutorials using their backend) and it looks promising, but I haven't got the chance to really do a comparison with Firebase (isn't it also a YC company?)

What are the differences between Backlift and Firebase (or Parse)? What are the value add features? What things are done differently / better?

[1] http://gun.io/blog/Building-Backbone.js-apps-with-Backlift-V...

[2] https://blog.backlift.com/entry/angular-tut1

We have been using backlift as a teaching aid for an intro to programming class at the Nashville Software School. It has been a great way to allow the students to deploy code and test api's without the normal burdens of server setup or ssh/ftp.

Having the examples in the latest javascript frameworks has also been extremely helpful in allowing the students to dig further in.

I echo what pbrumm said. As a student at Nashville Software School, I can attest that using Backlift was a lifesaver. It has allowed us to focus on our code instead of being bogged down with the server side. Before it came to our rescue we were spending enormous amounts of time just trying to figure out how to test our code, after we implemented it we were actually able to make progress and resume programming.

Hi if you're having trouble creating projects, we apologize. We recently moved to a build process that pulls packages directly from Github, and unfortunately that code is acting up. We're working on it.

Based on the frequency of chat messages I'm receiving, I think the biggest problems have been solved. ;) Thanks for your patience everyone.

Thanks for the update. I ran into "unexpected error" when trying to create a project but they ended up appearing when I refreshed the page. Then somehow I landed on: https://test-lozige.backliftapp.com/

This is an example of a partially downloaded app. There should have been a bundle of bootstrap stylesheets pulled from github, which didn't make it.

As someone who spent years as a front-end developer, and now am something more of a "full stack" developer (I like the title "Product Developer"), I would highly encourage people who consider themselves front-end to spend some time learning about things behind the scenes. You'll become an overall better developer for it.

Not to disparage this service, but I worry that it's just going to encourage a new generation of folks to never actually learn to actually develop software, and continue the less than great nature of much JS in the wild.

Congrats on launching! We've had to build a lot of this ourselves internally, and all the time were thinking if there's value in it for others. This is a very interesting space indeed and I do believe that it's the future. The real question is - are we too early?)

What you're really are providing is a set of APIs. Perhaps calling it "backend as a service" actually scares people off, as they don't realize that they can be using custom server logic as well, and calling it via CORS from backbone. This is just a bunch of APIs that anyone can use.

I think instead of having a backend, we'll move to an app using a set of APIs provided by other companies (firebase, sendgrid, backlift, etc) and custom APIs that may be necessary.

With javascript and CORS it's finally feasible to call remote functions directly from the cilent, eliminating the need to write boilerplate code for every app.

Back lift is awesome! You can setup a json server in 3 minutes tops. I have several apps I run off back lift and it is amazing! The developer heard that a class that I'm in used it and he flew in to talk to us about the app and to get our feedback. He really cares about his users' experience while using his material. I can't recommend back lift enough.

I'm a student currently enrolled in a Web Dev Bootcamp program in Nashville,TN, learning about all the basics to front end development. We found ourselves needing to utilize a tool for basic server-side storage for a class project, and happened upon Backlift. This tool has been perfect for the apps that we've been building, and it couldn't have been easier to setup and get running. More impressively, when I found myself needing help with modifying some of my stored data, the founder himself was eager to help me find a solution. Great service!

Does the opposite exist? Front-end services for back-end developers?

Yes, it's called Bootstrap =P


Ruby on Rails

I think BaaS is a great solution for mobile apps. But as a back-end solution for traditional web apps, not so much. Eventually their lunch is going to be eaten by frameworks like Meteor (http://meteor.com), or products like Deployd (http://deployd.com/).

I disagree. Meteor and Deployd can definitely provide an interesting solution to certain kind of apps, but not all. That is the beauty of the web. This market is very very new, the best is yet to come in the web arena.

I think this is a fuckin' great idea! I started out as a front-end developer and I would get discouraged when I couldn't see my work deployed in action. Wish this was around a few years ago!

How does Backlift compare to Parse?

It doesn't have anything to do with Parse's business. Visit the link.

How do they solve authentication?

Backlift has an auth api that it uses to establish a user session. As users create and modify data during their session, backlift checks to ensure that the user has appropriate permissions. More data is available here: http://backlift.github.io/docs/authorization.html#authorizat...

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