Of what, you might be asking? If you’re not an app developer, you could be forgiven for not knowing the significance of today. But if you ARE an app developer, and you’re using any API or push notification services from Facebook’s Parse, AND you haven’t moved your services yet – you’re in trouble.
That’s because today is the day that Facebook will be pulling the plug on all of its Parse services. The Parse shutdown is today. As detailed in the Parse blog, they’ll be switching off APIs and other services on an app by app basis.
If you haven’t moved your apps yet, don’t panic. We’re here to help. Kumulos offers all the functionality of Parse services with more to boot.
Just Push – If you’re just using Parse Push, replace with Kumulos Push.
Nothing to pay until your apps are rebuilt and out in store*
Unlimited number of development accounts. Unlimited number of push messages and active devices.
Free unlimited AWESOME support to help you with the migration.
Bring your Own Data – Free data import service and hookup feature so you can keep using existing data sources.
THAT’S what we can offer you with Kumulos.
Even if you’re not affected by the Parse shutdown and just want to come over to Kumulos to kick our tires – feel free. With our up to 30 day free trial, you’ve got a no cost and no obligation chance to see what it’s like to work with Kumulos.
The Parse shutdown is approaching – and now that we’re in 2017, it’s getting closer every day.
Back in January 2016, Facebook announced that it was shutting down their Parse server application on January 28, 2017. And – if you haven’t changed your calendars yet – January 28 will be upon us in just a few short weeks. There were a lot of rumors and speculation about why Facebook decided to shut down Parse: as an “aquihire”, to add more functionality to Facebook login, because Parse wasn’t profitable – but, in the end, Parse just didn’t fit into Facebooks new revenue model.
So, come January 28, if you are still trying to run an app with Parse, you’ll find that the Parse API no longer works, databases can’t be accessed and Parse Hosting Services are kaput. Which is pretty much what Facebook has been warning developers since 2016.
To put it simply – as we like to do here – Kumulos is THE app build platform you’ve been dreaming of. But if you’re already happy with your current backend provider and just need to replace Parse push – no problem – we think you’ll find our UNLIMITED push notification service more than enough to fit your needs.
And we have a handy Parse Migration guide to help you step through moving over from Parse to Kumulos. Because that’s just how much we like you.
Don’t think of this as an end – think of it as a beginning. The beginning of a new and better way to build awesome apps for your clients, with Kumulos right there by your side.
Kumulos gets the thumbs up from two leading mobile companies, listing us as the best mBaaS (mobile backend as a service) platform available today and the best alternative to Parse.
Here at Kumulos we are blown away to get two such strong endorsements from two great companies. Both companies are themselves recognized as thought leaders in the mobile technology space and they appreciate the value that Kumulos brings in helping mobile app development agencies grow their businesses. This further solidifies Kumulos position as an mBaaS market leader and in particular reinforces how much of a good a fit it is for Mobile App Development Businesses.
Waracle are one of the UK’s largest mobile app & IOT development agency working across a range of sectors from pharma and healthcare to banking and utility companies. You can read the Waracle story here.
“Kumulos has become our favourite mBaaS platform offering a wide variety of awesome features to help you develop, deploy and optimise your apps. What’s great about Kumulos is the fact it works well for indie mobile developers and big agencies alike.”
Carnival are a world leading push notification & marketing automation platform, working with huge global brands like Coke, CNN & Dreamworks. We’re pumped to be their top pick as the best mBaaS and best alternative to Parse. You can read the Carnival story here.
Guy Horrocks, CEO of Carnival says:
“Kumulos is an excellent solution for agencies looking to simplify the way they manage mobile data. Their flexibility, support and guidance is unmatched, especially when dealing with complex implementation questions, and their white label option is an elegant way to manage multiple projects. The team really cares about your success, which stands out in a category known for low-touch interactions and self-service.”
Kumulos is one of the longest established players in the mBaaS space. Over the years we have been highlighted by industry giants Gartner and numerous other technology blogs and review sites as one of the best mBaaS providers. We’re extremely thankful for all of the support.
Kumulos – The best alternative to Parse
In January 2016 Facebook announced it was pulling the shutters down on Parse. The Parse platform was acquired by Facebook and billed as an ‘unbundled’ platform-as-a-service for mobile development teams and agencies. Facebook closed the ‘as-a-service’ element of Parse in order to focus on developing and optimizing its own suite of mobile apps. Facebook had originally acquired Parse for $85 million in 2013 and became (to some extent) the focal point of the company’s developer offering. It made huge sense for Facebook to focus on their own suite of products rather than enabling other developers to build competing platforms. But the news sent shock-waves through the mobile app development community, and has forced developers and agencies to source new alternatives to host and manage their app projects via the cloud.
Fast forward and we’re delighted to be acknowledged as the world’s best alternative to Parse. Picking up where they have left off, we are now recognised as the best mobile backend as a service platform for Mobile App Development Businesses & App Agencies.
The Parse Announcement by Facebook to close down the Parse Cloud Service, you can approach life after Parse like it’s one huge pain in the butt or look at it an opportunity and find that silver lining.
Approach things right and something that at first looks bad can turn out for the good. Life after Parse is just that.
In the first in our Series of – Life After Parse – blogs we’ll show you how to take the positive out of the Parse closure. Turn a bad situation into something that gives your clients a better app. An opportunity to build monthly retainer services to manage and optimize your client’s apps, earning good recurring revenue for your app business.
With the hard deadline on Facebook pulling the shutters down on Parse, one way or another you’re going to have to have “that conversation” with your clients. You’ll need to explain to them that some rework is needed because the platform you chose for them is closing and money needs spent.
This can go one of two ways.
“Er, we have some bad news, it’s going to cost you money, sorry, it’s not our fault”
“We need to change the way we do your app. It will mean we work a bit differently in the future, but the benefit is you’ll have us working for you, helping you make your app better, now and tomorrow.”
I certainly know the conversation I’d rather have. And the thing is, your clients need to give you a hearing on this, because if they don’t, their app will break and break pretty soon.
After Parse. A chance to change the way you work with clients
At Kumulos we did some research a couple of month back looking at how mobile app agencies charge for their services. It showed the huge opportunity for them to build-out follow on services and convert one off project income from mobile app project into monthly recurring revenue. Up to 50% of the initial app build can be made EACH YEAR on follow on services. That’s huge.
So why aren’t we all doing this on all of our app projects. Well probably because relationships with clients get set. Once set, it’s pretty difficult to go back and discuss how it should change. It’s easier to put new customers on a new model, but tougher to get existing customers to change.
Parse could be the thing that gives you the “external disruption” point that lets you discuss a new way of working. If you aren’t charging for hosting (because the app was on the Parse free tier), then that’s going to have to change. Your customers will now have to pay monthly for their app hosting. And of course, you’ll wrap that up in a service, where you pass on the cost of the mBaaS with a value add service on top, of course. Right now you’re not going to get a better chance to redefine how you work with clients.
It sounds like a lot of hassle for little in return, I hear you say.
Well this is why.
Adding a strong underpin to your cash flow from selling monthly recurring services takes risk, and stress out of your business. Stress and sleepless nights around meeting payroll anxiety around project timings and when builds become billable. Unpredictable and a challenge when you have a highly predictable metronome-like cost structure.
The more stable the cash flow is for your business, the more confidently you can plan and scale your business.
Lets look at the numbers.
Here’s the Math.
To set the ground work, let’s take a typical web development project as a reference point.
The average website built is around $30,000 today.
The average follow on services from a digital agency is around 12% of the build costs, so $3,600 a year or $300 a month, for hosting, basic monitoring, CMS etc.
You can get closer to $6,000 a year if you add SEO, site flow optimization and AB testing and the like. So about 20% of the project build cost can become follow on retained services. This is pretty standard practise for web development businesses.
Now let’s look at Mobile App Projects.
For this example, take the average build for enterprise mobile app as $120,000.
If you’re not offering structured follow on services, you could be leaving between $14,000 and $36,000 a year, on the table for each end every app you build. Add to that a further $24,000 from follow on project work that will directly spin out from your monthly services. All in that’s $60,000 a year, from each mobile app project. 10x that for every 10 apps you’ve launched for clients and that’s a healthy sum.
Now, even a % of that $600,000 a year makes this worth doing. Right?
So here’s how it works.
Let’s say you have 15 Apps build for clients over the last few years.
Average build cost $120,000 for each app.
Average services (that’s the straight forward services you’d offer if you were building a website, so a similar rate of 12% cost for each app, per year that’s $14,400 yearly income from each app.
Total $216,000 per year or an additional $18,000 each month, every month, for doing very little.
Higher value retained services
It’s best to start customers off on BaseLine services, but have a plan to move them onto higher value services over time. Growing your monthly income is good, but what’s better is delivering more valued services, like App Store Optimization, services that will bind your customers more tightly to you, than if you just continue to offer “commodity” services.
Here’s the workings
Average cost $120,000
Average monthly service charge 30%
Equals $540,000 a year.
$45,000 each and every month, whether you sell another new client app project or not. Now that would make a decent hole in your monthly running costs, of any mobile app business.
Services creates projects
Now factoring in the follow on project work that will come from feature rework and OS upgrades. Modestly that’s another 15-20% of the initial build. In this example a further $360,000 a year.
So from the 15 Apps you’ve built, approaching this right, you should be generating around $900,000 every single year in recurring revenue from these customers. Or 50% a year, each year from that initial app build project budget.
More than enough to smooth out that wild project income you’re trying to run your business on.
And if you’re a business owner looking to exit in coming years every recurring revenue dollar is worth 6-8 times a dollar earned on a one off project.
Clients will pay
“But my clients will never pay that”… I hear you say.
They will, for sure, if you approach this right.
It’s about understanding what they need from their app and structuring the services to deliver that for them. It’s about setting objectives and targets that in time, depending on the services you offer, you share responsibility to delivering against.
We are talking to mobile app businesses right now doing just this.
Parse Push Notification Service is ending. With the surprise announcement that Facebook is closing the shutters completely on Parse, there are a lot of mobile app developers who use Parse Push Notification left with the headache of what to do next. But as you’ll know, its OK, you have some time, the service wont be withdrawn until the end of January 2017. But the sad part is that the Parse Push service wont be open-sourced like other parts of Parse. So you’ll be forced to find an alternative to Parse Push.
So no point in hanging about.
What’s the Best Alternative for Parse Push?
You have two routes you can go. Take on a free standing push notification service and integrate that with the server-side of your app project or pick a provider that offers you a push service that is already integrated within a backend. The route that right for you will depend on many things including how comfortable you are with the overhead of building and maintaining the integration between your push service and your mBaaS platform. Also whether you will actually need some of the specialist features that come with the free standing systems and whether they are worth paying extra for those features.
So here’s a short summary of the best alternatives to Parse Push Notifications. Its not designed to be an exhaustive list. There are dozens of services out there, each having their own merits and no doubt de-merits. But maybe this will help you short-list what to use once the Parse Push Notification service finally shuts down.
Kumulos Push is the only Push Notification Service that is purpose built for Mobile App Development Companies. As such it has a range of features that are specifically designed to help make App Developers lives easier, and help them get more apps that they build on monthly retainer. It doesn’t aim to be as full featured as the specialist stand-alone systems. Kumulos offers a push notification service that strikes a good balance between ease of use, functionality and price. It gives you the choice of using their push platform stand alone with an existing mobile backend platform, or already integrated within the Kumulos mBaaS platform. Either option also lets you give your mobile app clients access to their own push notification dashboard that allows them to run their own push campaigns and measure the results.
There is also the option of an automated monthly report. This is typically offered by Mobile App Development Agencies to their clients as a service on monthly retainer.
This is one place that Kumulos Push scores highly. Fixed monthly pricing fits well with mobile app developers offering Push Notification as a Service to their customers. Kumulos starts from as little as $50.00 per month which gives you an unlimited number of notifications each month, there is also an up to 30 Days Free Trial available.
Carnival is definitely worth a look if you are looking for a system well featured system to run complex push notification campaigns. It seem to offer a well balanced push notification services catering for the needs of developers and the marketing team that will be running the push notification campaigns. Too often push notification services are bias towards developers needs, so its good to see Carnival getting the balance right.
Their push notification services offers rich messaging, granular audience segmentation, message automation that includes timezone (and language) settings and narrow geo-fencing targeting and user behavior analytics that can be automated and sent directly to your inbox.
I’d say they definitely have to be up there when considering an alternative to Parse Push.
This looks to be a closely guarded secret so best to email them if you want a demo or to find out if your project can afford them.
StreetHawks Push Notification Services have good platform coverage iOS, Andriod, Phonegap, Xamarin, Corona, Telerik, Titanium. They say, and it seems to make sense, that if apps don’t use deferred deep linking properly it can lose 70% of its users day 3 from the first install. So StreetHawk put a lot of emphasis on this within their “Growth Offering”. But their real strength comes in their “Engage” offering. It offers impressive features around segmentation and life-cycle management, highly configurable push notification services and rich in app content. Their iBeacon and geo-fencing functionality is also worth a close look. Possibilities here to keep app users engaged makes StreekHawk a very interesting push notification platform.
StreetHawk lets you focus effort on the most valuable app users with some interesting “viral analytics” and some pretty cool engagement automation tools.
Churn within any app is inevitable, but if you can use push to help reduce churn, particularly among your most valuable app users, or use it to increase use frequency of less engaged app users then its value will be immense. StreetHawk has real strengths here.
StreetHawk’s push notification pricing is one of the more complicated plan structures out there. They set their pricing out based on what you are trying to achieve. Best just to browse streethawks price page for yourself to see if its for you.
Urban Airship’s goes beyond what you’d typically describe as a Push Notification Service. It positions itself as a mobile engagement platform offering an impressive array of features including of course push notification, but also a very user friendly message center, fine grain segmentation configuration and location technology including beacons, geo-fencing, location history and location targeting.
This makes Urban Airship a pretty powerful in app marketing automation platform that allows highly targeted (if done right highly relevant) real time customer experience. Also the message configuration settings help prevent spamming the app user with too many push notes.
The analytics package is pretty impressive too. It can give a real insight into what activities, push, in app messages or whatever, are driving the desired behavour. Knowledge is power after all, but its how you use it that counts, of course.
In terms of plan pricing, Urban Airship keep their Push Notification Services a secret. That’s rarely a good sign. If you need to know the price, you probably can’t afford it.
Push Woosh positions its push notification services more at the development community. Its the classic stick to what they are good at software provider that you could argue is less likely to do a Parse Push on you.
Its highly configurable, with loads of great features, but not that friendly out the box, compared with other push notification services. But it comes with a big user community amongst mobile app developers so your not going to be short of programmers to help you out.
With a technical solution you won’t be surprised to hear that there is a huge list of platforms and formats that Push Woosh works with – it covers 19 platforms in all. By far the most comprehensive of any Push Notification Service platform. Android, Blackberry 5-7, 10, Windows Phone & 8, Nokia Asha, Amazon, OS X, Chrome, Safari, WordPress, Cordova (phonegap), unity, Adobe Air, Marmalade, Corona, Appcelerator Titanium, Xamarin, PhoneGap build and Trigger.io
Pricing looks decent also with a good free tier, albeit only allowing very limited functionality. But at $49 a month used well it should more than cover its cost.
Catapush’s push notification services feels a bit raw around the edged but could be an interesting option for the smaller mobile app projects. It offers a narrower platform choice than some of the more established players with SDK’s for just Android and iOS. It has a RESTful API. That said it does offer some interesting features. For example delivery status tracking and failover to SMS when the app user has lost data connectivity. This gives the option to send an SMS using the standard protocol even if the app isn’t currently installed on the phone. Pretty useful if you’re trying to win back lost app users. That said, not sure how this fits with permission based push notes and how invasive this would feel to the user, so best used sparingly.
As for analytics, this isn’t integrated but accessed through an API. The stats appear to be very centered around note delivery, so less useful to analyse and drive more granular campaigns.
There’s no free in-use tier with Catapush’s Push Notification Service. Pricing is in Euros for this Italian based company, there is no US $ pricing. Entry price is €29/month (plus purchase tax) for up to 2,500 subscribers. For that you get to send an unlimited number of push messages.
You’ll need to ask them about pricing for the SMS service.
Always tempting to discount push notification services once they are bought by a tech monolith. Xtify was absorbed by IBM (Push.io was bought out by Oracle and merged with their Marketing Cloud offering a while back also). What you lose in access and engagement with the software company you gain in security and the fact that if you go for Xtify (or Push.io) you can be pretty sure the push notification services will be around in a few years. Well, you’d like to think so, wouldn’t you. But the lesson learned from FaceBook and Parse Push is that maybe a broadliner like IBM may lose interest in Xtify. So some caution is needed, perhaps.
Xtify offers the standard set of SDK’s, and one of the few offering it for Blackberry. It allows you to target either simple or rich text HTML push notifications. It also offers a “persistent” notification inbox, which is pretty neat. So messages stay visible until they are read or deleted. It also offers a scheduler that can be configured on timezone and location. It’s also one of the few that lets you integrate with any existing CRM data, so gives a more complete view of customers full contact history regardless of medium.
So it’s from IBM so it’s not going to be the cheapest option for push notification services. It’s not easy to find out pricing, which probably tells you what you need to know in terms of cost.
It offers the choice of a shared cloud or dedicated instance. The cloud instance is pretty fast to get going. It offers simple drag and drop configuration to get the SDK into your app code as well as copy past credentials from the QuickBlox dashboard.
Its free tier gives you 20,000 monthly active users and unlimited numbers of push notes. That said it throttles those to 20 per second. So could be OK for retail location-based apps maybe where instant volume isn’t critical, but for a high volume app where you’re wanting to push out large numbers of push notes all at once, it can get pricey. You could be looking at pricing in the range of $49/month to $219 per month for the shared cloud option. Up to $2,399/month if you need more than 500,000 monthly users.
Well… Facebook made the Parse closing announcment. I for one am more than happy to admit that, along with everyone else on the planet barring a few executives inside Facebook, I did not see that coming! The furious activity on the Kumulos Slack channel at 11pm the night the news broke is testament to that!
Watching the reaction to the unexpected announcement that Facebook was shutting down its Parse mBaaS has been interesting. #parseshutsdown #lifeafterparse – I even saw one company offering “Counselling” but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they meant “Consultancy”.
I know Parse had its fans but it’s not like when 90’s band Take That split up!! (Our digital marketing coordinator wanted me to change this to One Direction, but I’m keeping it real, “Never Forget”).
Who is saying what about the Parse closing announcement?
Social Media has been dominated by three main personas:
Developers who rely on Parse to host their app’s data and are now, understandably “Concerned” (okay, okay, some do need counselling).
Industry commentators rightly speculating on what this means for other mBaaS vendors and the mobile app developers who rely on them.
mBaaS vendors, old and new, offering either migrations or hosted Parse-as-a-service (hmmnn – “PaaS” is already used, so is this “hPaaS”?)
The only notable absentees are the poor startups who were building SaaS products for developers on top of Parse – an indication of just how big the Parse community was becoming – spare a thought for them!!
However, this post is primarily for the #1s, and I know there are a lot of you out there. I think I am somewhere in between #2 and #3 on the above list – I’ll let you decide which side of #2.5 I am after you’ve read this! Oh, and from now on, if you could read this in your best Liam Neeson accent, that would help out a lot.
The next part is very important.
You are going to have to rebuild your app.
That’s the bad news, which in itself is not actually all that bad – regularly updating an app is one of the best ways to ensure that app ranks highly in the App Stores. However, the really good news is that you have a year to ensure that when you do rebuild your app, you choose the right platform for you.
Oh, and I do have a very particular set of skills. Skills that I have acquired over a very long career (sorry, couldn’t resist). There is an element of truth in that (bear with me). Kumulos has been around since before Parse and in that time we have seen many different mBaaS vendors (remember StackMob for example) come and in some cases surprisingly go?
Will Parse live on?
Parse have announced they are open sourcing their server so you might be tempted to host it yourself or switch to one of the new vendors offering hosted Parse-as-a-Service. However, before you do, look carefully at what is included so far. There is no analytics, no key/value store for config, no UI to browse your data, no scheduled jobs etc. There are also (last time I checked) over 40 open issues. I am sure that Parse will open source more of their platform and that the not-insignificant community will address issues as they arise and maintain SDK compatibility with new iOS and Android versions for the foreseeable future. However, if Facebook can’t make a commercially viable business out of Parse, can anyone?
Indeed, while I am sure Facebook wanted to retain the very talented team behind Parse, I am equally sure that if it was making money, they would look to sell the Parse business rather than shut it down.
When choosing a platform, you need to consider will it be around as long as you, your business and importantly your clients’ business will need? Sure, Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google Compute are unlikely to ever go away. However, I bet if I asked that same question a week ago, Parse would be in the same list!
So, why did Parse shut down? Well, Parse was free up to 30 API requests per second (that’s over 75 million API requests per month). How many of the 1.5 million apps in the App Stores do over 30 API requests per second and would therefore pay for Parse? And, as I’m sure we have all done, you’ll have seen how scary Parse pricing became when you move that API requests slider up! So, how many of the apps that do make over 30 API requests per second would then immediately start looking at a more cost-effective platform?
The Freemium model where a small number of power users cover the costs of the larger number of free users, can be highly effective. However, I think it is difficult to make this work when you are effectively just reselling server capacity. And if the rumors that Parse were hosted on AWS are true? Ouch!
A sustainable model
Here at Kumulos, we favor a much simpler model. When you get paid, we get paid. Revolutionary, huh! Kumulos is free while the app is in development, but when you submit the app to the store and start to get recurring revenue from either your app or your client (for hosting their data), you pay us a small, fixed fee at the end of each month. If you don’t want to use our new App Grow feature to provide an App Store Optimization service to your clients, you don’t have to pay for it. If you do provide a monthly App Store Optimization service to your clients, then again, you pay us a fraction of what clients will pay you each month for such a service. This model has served our customers and our business well for many years and looks set to continue to do so for many more years to come.
If you’ve not yet launched, then now is the time to switch
If you’re still in development, then while it will be a bit of a setback to your schedule, it will never be easier to switch platforms than it is now so my advice to you would be to switch vendors now. If you want to move to Kumulos, then you will find this is as easy as:
Create an app, give it a name
Create some tables and define your schema
Name your API methods
Deploy your API to our load-balanced servers
Download our SDK and integrate into your project
Remember, Kumulos is free while your app is in development.
For existing apps – an opportunity to talk to your clients
If you have apps that are already on the store, then you are going to need to plan and schedule updates to move them to a new platform. If you are in the app development business, then while this is obviously a decision that impacts your client, they will look to you as their trusted advisor for a recommendation – use this as an opportunity to talk to them about ongoing services you can provide. If you are not charging your clients for hosting their app data – why not? Do you think their web developer hosts their website for free?
So, over the course of the coming weeks, look at the different vendors out there, what features they offer your business and how likely they are to be around as long as you and your clients need. We will shortly be publishing a Parse migration guide, special pricing for those impacted by the shutdown and, should you want to move to Kumulos, some limited development services to help with migrations. See our website for more details on what we have to offer.
In the meantime, do have a conversation with your clients around the additional services you can offer them. Think about Care packages to host and backup your clients data (in case your new mBaaS vendor does a Parse), monitor upstream service availability and average API response time or how about a Grow service to increase downloads with app store optimization?
In our experience you might be surprised by what they say. You could find that you first thought was a threat to your relationship with your clients and your business becomes an opportunity to add monthly recurring revenue and grow.