Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

WWDC Partner Talks: How Parse Helps Developers Scale

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Today we’re continuing our series of interviews to celebrate WWDC. Be sure to check back every day for a new discussion with one of our partners about how iOS has affected their business.

Building iPad apps isn’t all beautiful design – every app requires complex backend processes that store data and keep everything running smoothly on the surface. One company, Parse, is out to simplify these processes so developers can easily add new features and scale their apps while staying focused on the core product.

To learn more about the folks behind Parse and why they’ve taken on the lofty goal of taking the hassle out of app development, we talked to Tikhon Bernstam, one of the company’s founders. Before Parse, Tikhon co-founded Scribd.com and helped scale it from 1 visitor a month (himself) to 100M unique visitors a month. Today, Scribd is a top 100 website (and profitable), and Parse is making life easier for developers everywhere.

AW: What is Parse, and why would a developer use it?

TB: Parse is the leading mobile application platform powering the next generation of mobile apps and provides the most complete end-to-end solution for server-side features and cloud services. Developers on the Parse Platform are able to add rich features to their apps in a fraction of the time it used to take and to automatically scale them as they grow. Parse allows developers to easily build native mobile applications with rich server-side features like flexible data storage, user authentication, and geolocation.

Parse is now the engine behind many of the largest mobile apps in the world, including Band of the Day (runner-up for “App of the Year” in the Apple App Store) and apps built by enterprises of all sizes.

AW: Why did you start Parse? What particular changes in software and hardware development led you to see a market opportunity for this type of technology?

TB: The founders of Parse are seasoned app developers who understand that the world is entering an era of rich client-side mobile apps that demand a persistent online experience. They experienced first-hand all the challenges around networked application design and set out to build the ultimate platform. At Scribd we spent over a year building our mobile app, and we found ourselves solving the same set of server-side challenges that everyone else was also working on. We resolved to fix solve this problem once and for all for every mobile app.

AW: What developers can benefit from using Parse? Those building commercial applications, ones making internal applications for use within a company, or others?

TB: Parse already powers tens of thousands of apps, including public commercial apps, internal company apps, and other apps in all the app stores including the Apple App Store, Amazon Appstore for Android, and Google Play. Many developers use Parse for apps that are only used internally at their companies. One example is a large company that is moving away from paper records to using an iOS app built with Parse to keep track of all their employee records.

Some other examples of apps that developers are talking to us about or working on include:

  • An app to arrange meetings and then check if the invited parties are nearby the meeting 5 minutes before the start time (and it sends push notifications to parties who are far away unless they are supposed to be phoning in).
  • A hotel using an iPad app built on Parse to mark when rooms are cleaned.
  • An app that lets sales people at an enterprise save customer data along with location and other info.
  • An app that tracks service people in the field on a map.
  • An app for data entry for repair-people in the field.
  • An app called “coffeetime” that lets engineers at a company notify the others (via push notification) that the user is going out for coffee so others can tag along or make requests for coffee drinks to come back with.

AW: All of these new tools are enabling enterprises to build tools that would have been impossible ten years ago – how is the affecting the way that companies and workers do business?

We’re seeing an incredible variety of enterprise apps already being built on Parse. We’ve seen everything from apps replacing internal company record keeping to apps that share statuses and locations of employees. One app lets a manager send a notification to all of their employees at once. Even just the simple combination of geolocation and push on mobile devices has enabled a whole new class of apps that weren’t possible before. For example, Exec (YC W’12) has an app (that uses Parse) for internal company usage that allows them to track the locations of all of their workers and send notifications back and forth while their employees are on the go.

Thanks to iOS and Android, we are seeing increasing business adoption of mobile apps and the cloud more generally. As one example of this trend, Box recently announced that it has seen a 30x increase in the number of enterprise deployments that were mobile-driven.

AW: Finally, let’s have some predictions – where is Parse headed in the next few years, and what other technologies, on either the hardware or the software side, will cause the next big shift in enterprise app development?

TB: Parse will provide the complete end-to-end cloud platform to power the next generation of mobile applications. Integrations like Parse + Box will enable enterprise developers to build native apps around enterprise file sharing that were impossible in the past. We’re seeing all kinds of interesting apps to keep track of who is where inside companies, apps around sharing enterprise files, and apps to figure out who is on time for meetings and who is too far away to attend, just as a few examples. In fact, we’re already seeing apps that are never meant for general consumers or for the App Store, but instead just for internal company usage. Many of these apps will use cloud services that enterprises had never previously considered using until the growing adoption of mobile apps. We’re really excited about all the new apps that enterprise developers are now able to build thanks to the shift to mobile and Parse.