FIREBASE vs. SUPABASE

To build high-functioning robust apps, it’s essential to have a solid foundation for real-time databases, user management, authentications, SDK’s etc. And software developers are always on the lookout for tools that can speed up and simplify these backend tasks.

This is where Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) platforms like Firebase and Supabase come in – providing excellent frameworks for building high-performing, scalable, and user-friendly apps.

This blog will break down the main differences and similarities between them based on our firsthand experience using both backends with FlutterFlow.

What’s the difference between Firebase and Supabase?

We often get questions about which platform is the best, which one operates more quickly, and which offers greater capabilities. 

Firebase, developed by Google, and Supabase, an open-source alternative to Firebase, are the top backend frameworks of 2024, both trusted by millions of businesses worldwide.

Most Popular Backend Frameworks in 2024. 

Both aim to provide the same robust backend solutions, including user authentication, real-time data synchronization, serverless functions, database management, and hosting services. However, they use different backend technologies to achieve these solutions.

Here is the breakdown of the most notable differences:

1 DATABASE

→ Supabase

Uses PostgreSQL – a robust, open-source database system that extends SQL and includes many features to securely store and scale complex data. It supports JSON and vector data types and allows writing triggers in SQL or JavaScript (with the plv8 extension).

→ Firebase 

Firestore is a flexible NoSQL cloud database that works with different data structures. It allows real-time data storage and retrieval, making it great for applications needing quick and scalable data access.

When we developed a logistics app to track inventory levels across multiple warehouses, we used Supabase. With a single SQL query, we were able to join tables and get a comprehensive view of inventory across all locations. Using Firebase would have meant running multiple queries and combining the data in the app, which is more complicated and less efficient.

2 ANALYTICS 

→ Supabase

It doesn't include a built-in analytics solution, but in many of our applications, we were able to integrate third-party tools like Google Analytics etc. This setup allowed us to customize analytics to fit our client's specific needs.

→ Firebase

Comes with built-in Google Analytics, providing insights into user engagement, demographics (age, location), device information, user behavior, and funnel analysis.

3 FUNCTIONS 

→ Supabase

Provides Edge functions, created to operate near the end user, usually at the edge of the network or cloud. This means they run on servers that are physically closer to the data source or user location. 

The main aim of Edge functions is to cut down latency and boost performance by shortening the distance data needs to travel. This is perfect for live streaming apps or apps that handle sensitive data, as it minimizes data transfer and enhances speed and security.

→ Firebase

Features Cloud Functions, supported by platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, Google Cloud, and Oracle Cloud – letting you run custom backend code automatically, without managing servers or setup.

If your app needs event-driven processing and automatic scaling, Cloud Functions are a fantastic choice. They're ideal for real-time updates, like chat apps or notifications. They're also great for backend tasks like image processing, creating APIs, reacting to database changes, and running scheduled jobs.

4 AUTHENTICATION & AUTHORIZATION 

→ Supabase 

Supabase features a robust built-in authentication system that supports provider logins such as Google and Apple, and, as of April 2024, supports anonymous logins. It also includes ready-made packages for server-side authentication and utilizes JSON Web Tokens (JWTs) for secure login.

The Auth system integrates seamlessly with Supabase's database features, allowing for easy implementation of Row Level Security (RLS) for authorization.

Plus, it simplifies adding authentication and authorization to apps by offering client SDKs and API endpoints, making for us user management easier. 

→ Firebase

Has all the features of Supabase. For authorization Firebase uses Security Rules to regulate access to the database and storage, helping to manage user roles and permissions effectively. This enhances the app's security by ensuring that only authorized users have the correct access levels based on their roles and activities.

5 SPEED

Of course, the speed of app launches is crucial in development because shorter timeframes are always desirable. However, we didn't notice any significant differences between Firebase and Supabase in terms of how quickly we could launch apps.

Both platforms provide robust tools and features that streamline the development process and facilitate rapid deployment.

→ Supabase 

Its open-source nature and PostgreSQL provide more flexibility, customization, and efficient data management, speeding up our development for tailored solutions.

→ Firebase

With many pre-built features and seamless integrations with other Google services, Firebase can accelerate the development process significantly.

6 SECURITY

Both provide highly secure levels for app development, each equipped with robust security features. 

→ Supabase 

Utilizes PostgreSQL's advanced security capabilities, such as Row Level Security and custom roles, along with JWT authentication and SSL encryption. 

→ Firebase

Employs comprehensive Security Rules, seamless authentication integration, and the powerful security infrastructure of Google Cloud. 

7 SUPPORT 

Both offer great support, providing extensive documentation and active communities, enabling us to find solutions quickly and ensure efficient project delivery.

→ Supabase 

Supabase's documentation, including tutorials, APIs, and platform resources, is steadily expanding. This growth is supported by a highly active and engaged community on GitHub, Reddit and Discord. Additionally, Supabase offers premium technical support for customers on the Teams and Enterprise plans.

→ Firebase

Firebase provides extensive and well-organized documentation, making it easy for our developers to find solutions. It also has a large, active community with numerous support channels, including Stack Overflow, a Slack community, Reddit, Google Groups, Release notes, and FAQs. 

Both platforms also have YouTube channels with numerous tutorial videos.

Firebase YouTube

Supabase YouTube

8 PRICING 

→ Supabase 

Supabase provides tiered subscription models with limits going from Free, Pro (25$ / month), Team (599$ / month) and Enterprise plan (custom).

→ Firebase

Firebase provides two flexible pricing plans: the Spark plan and the Blaze plan. Pricing is based on usage metrics such as the number of reads, writes, and storage, which can sometimes be slightly unpredictable.

Research shows that Supabase tends to be slightly cheaper than Firebase for small and medium projects. However, for larger projects, Supabase offers a significant cost advantage compared to Firebase.

Read full article here.

9 SCALABILITY 

Considering the points we've highlighted, both platforms can scale well thanks to their robust infrastructure. However, the true extent of their scalability will also heavily depend on the design and architecture of the app's data management system. 

This means that even if the platforms can scale up, their performance will depend on how the app’s data is organized, how efficient the queries are, the structure of the data, and the overall design of the app. And good design and optimization of these parts are crucial to make the most of the platforms' scalability.

So the Best BaaS Is...

Firebase and Supabase both provide powerful Backend as a Service solutions, offering a wide range of features for developing robust and scalable applications.

Firebase is known for its ease of use and powerful features, making it a popular choice for quick integration and development. However, based on our experience, we prefer Supabase for most of our projects because it’s open-source, provides full control, and offers the flexibility needed for building scalable applications.

In the end, deciding between them depends on your app’s needs and your development studio's preferences. It’s all about finding the right fit for your app and its success.