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Appwrite vs Firebase: An open source alternative for Firebase

Get a comprehensive comparison between Appwrite and Firebase to decide what platform to use for your project's backend. And learn how Appwrite's open source nature allows you total control of your project's data.

If you are looking to build a mobile app, website, tool, or any other application that needs a backend, then you also know the daunting tasks that await. This is probably what brought you to this blog in the first place: looking for a solution to take care of your backend. BaaS provides pre-built backend infrastructure and services to simplify app development, handling server-side tasks like data storage, user management, APIs, server maintenance, security, database management, and more. Two of these services are Firebase and Appwrite.

Appwrite and Firebase are both solid options to choose as the Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) for your app. However, their feature sets can vary substantially. In this article, we will give you a rundown of Appwrite and Firebase to understand how each provider will fit your specific needs.

Appwrite - Open-source backend platform

In 2019, Appwrite started as an open-source project to make software development more accessible and enjoyable. It is a Backend as a Service platform with a vibrant developer community. You can self-host Appwrite on your server or utilize Appwrite Cloud. Appwrite provides many features, including user authentication, databases, storage, real-time features, and functions. It is known for its flexibility, security, and extensibility, enabling you to customize backend logic and build applications tailored to your needs. You can view Appwrite’s source code on GitHub.

Firebase - Google-owned BaaS

Firebase was founded in 2011 as a real-time chat API. It gradually evolved into a real-time database and later pivoted to the backend-as-a-service it is today. It offers various services, including real-time databases, cloud hosting, user authentication, cloud functions, analytics, and more. Firebase has been well-known and widely used in the market as the only BaaS for a long time.

Features compared

When looking into a BaaS solution, it is good to understand how the products and features can serve your project’s needs. We compiled a list of similarities and differences between Appwrite and Firebase for you to understand both offerings better.

Authentication

Authentication is the process of verifying a user's identity. This is typically done by providing agreed-upon credentials, which are pieces of information shared between the user and the system. There are different authentication methods, including email and passwords, phone verification, or applications that offer single sign-on (SSO) capabilities. It is usually the initial step in application development for developers. BaaS platforms simplify this process by offering SDKs and APIs.

Similarities:

  • Both Appwrite and Firebase offer comprehensive user authentication and authorization capabilities.

  • Both use industry-leading hashing algorithms to protect user passwords.

  • They provide various authentication methods, including email/password, social login, OTP-based login, and JWTs.

  • Both platforms support different user roles and permissions for granular access control.

Differences:

  • Appwrite's authentication system allows developers to integrate with any existing external authentication systems through custom token login, which allows for various new use cases such as passkey authentication. It also allows for password history and dictionary, session limits, and personal data checks on your passwords.

  • Firebase offers a user-friendly authentication system that seamlessly integrates with other Firebase services, providing developers with a streamlined experience.

Database

A database is an organized collection of information stored in a way that allows for easy access, retrieval, management, and updating. Databases store and manage large volumes of structured and unstructured data, supporting activities such as data storage, analysis, and management. They are integral to any application.

Both Appwrite and Firebase provide databases that can be used depending on the needs of your project.

Similarities:

  • Both Appwrite and Firebase offer managed databases on their cloud offering.

  • Both platforms support real-time data updates for reactive applications.

Differences:

  • Appwrite's database offers an abstraction layer on top of MariaDB, allowing developers to develop custom schema and use queries without any pre-existing SQL knowledge. Also, you can configure permissions in Appwrite within the Console, making this an easy task.

  • Firebase provides a NoSQL, document-oriented database called Cloud Firestore for storing and managing data in a non-relational manner. To manage permissions, they offer a different product called Security Rules, which allows more flexibility but increases the learning curve.

Storage

Storage allows you to manage files in your project. It can store images, videos, documents, and other project files. Storage is a crucial requirement for every application, and here's what Appwrite and Firebase have to offer:

Similarities:

  • Both Appwrite and Firebase provide cloud storage for storing files and media content.

  • They offer both scalable object storage and structured file storage options.

  • Both platforms provide permissions systems for secure access controls.

Differences:

  • Firebase's storage system is a direct extension of Google Cloud Storage and has additional out-of-the-box integrations such as image filtering and video transcoding.

  • Appwrite Storage offers a dedicated API for image transformations, including functionalities such as manipulating resolution, image reformatting, caching, and compression.

  • Appwrite Storage offers file encryption for increased security as well as gzip and zstd compression for network transfer optimization.

Functions

Functions are "self-contained" modules of code that accomplish a specific task. BaaS platforms make it easier for you to extend the business logic by using functions with code snippets.

Similarities:

  • Both Appwrite and Firebase provide serverless computing solutions for executing code in the cloud.

  • Both Appwrite and Firebase provide templates or extensions to build apps easily.

  • They offer asynchronous, scheduled, and real-time functions.

  • Functions in both platforms are event-driven, executing in response to specific events, such as HTTP requests, database changes, or authentication events.

  • Both provide automatic scaling. They handle increasing loads by scaling the functions up or down as required.

Differences:

  • Appwrite offers easy and quick deployment of functions using Git, has ready-to-use templates, and supports a large number of runtimes.

  • Appwrite supports function runtimes across over 10 different languages, including Dart, Bun, Kotlin, and Swift, whereas Firebase only supports JavaScript, TypeScript, and Python.

  • Firebase offers additional event triggers for different Google Cloud services.

Realtime

Real-time, by definition, means "without significant delay.” You can use it to get constant updates on any activities that occur within the application you are building. This can be applied in various ways, such as a chat application. While real-time features can be complex to build, you can use Appwrite and Firebase to achieve this with much less hassle.

Similarities:

  • Appwrite and Firebase provide real-time data updates for applications requiring synchronized data access.

  • They leverage WebSockets for real-time communication.

Differences:

  • Appwrite's real-time system is built on top of our internal events system, which means that any new product/features will automatically support real-time.

  • Firebase only offers real-time updates from its Realtime Database offering, whereas every Appwrite offering supports real-time updates.

Messaging

Messaging allows you to implement communications in your application. You can use this to send information and updates directly to users through various methods, such as push notifications, SMSes, and emails. Both Appwrite and Firebase provide certain features to implement messaging in your applications.

Similarities:

  • You can use real-time features along with databases in both Appwrite and Firebase to create a chat application.

  • You can use functions in both Appwrite and Firebase to use external providers for SMSes and emails.

Differences:

  • Appwrite Messaging features ten different providers to leverage major communications providers for SMS, email, and push notifications. It offers user segregation, message scheduling, and message previews as well.

  • Firebase offers the infrastructure to implement push notifications via Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM). Appwrite doesn’t have its own infrastructure but contains a provider to implement FCM.

  • Firebase offers In-App Messaging to help you engage your app's active users through targeted, contextual messages inside the app. Appwrite does not offer this feature yet but aims to do so in the future.

Conclusion

While both Appwrite and Firebase are great Backend-as-a-Service offerings that support numerous SDKs and integrations, they differ in terms of capabilities and pricing. The choice between Appwrite and Firebase hinges on the specific needs of a project. Appwrite stands out with its open-source nature, self-hosting capabilities, pricing affordability, and emphasis on privacy. The community is very welcoming and is praised for it. Firebase's strength lies in its comprehensive ecosystem, Google support, and maturity.

Here’s a table that compares both Appwrite and Firebase:

FeatureAppwriteFirebase
DeploymentSelf-hosted or cloud-hostedCloud-hosted only
Free planYes, Starter planYes, Spark plan
Paid planYes, Pro plan - $15 per month per member and addonsYes, Blaze plan - Pay-as-you-go
Open sourceYesNo
SupportCommunity and emailCommunity, Support Portal, and help center
Functions marketplaceHas a marketplace featuring a variety of function templates and integrations such as Discord bots, payments with Stripe, ChatGPT API, etc.Has an extensions hub featuring pre-built functions ready to deploy.
Messaging providers10 providers covering SMS, email, and push notificationsNo external providers, but offers the infrastructure for FCM and In-App Messaging

Resources

If you want to learn more about Appwrite, you can find more resources below.

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