Hoodie – an Introduction to noBackend Technology

Mobile App Development

Very fast app development with Hood.ie.  David introduces us all to Hoodie – a very new offering that allows developers to focus on the front-end without dealing with back-end development – for the web and iOS.

  • What is Hoodie?
  • How does Hoodie help me?
  • When can I check it out?

[Tweet “Checking out @HoodieHQ with David and the #ABP028″]


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Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode


Chris Chidgey:            Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of the App Business Podcast. In the developer corner today, David Pfahler, representing Munich, Germany. David?

David Pfahler:             Hey, everybody.

Chris Chidgey:            And I guess I am an American from San Diego, and I’m not a developer. So let’s say I’m a publisher, Chris Chidgey out of Bogota today. I guess I’m representing Bogota and San Diego.

David Pfahler:             Very American.

Chris Chidgey:            Yes. And we’re talking about—we’re not actually in different corners getting ready to box, but we are—this is going to show how little I know about some of the stuff that I pay for and invest in.

We’re going to talk about a new service. In my mind, it kind of competes with Parse, and I’m interested to see what David’s take on it, but the name of the service is Hoodie. David, I’ll let you take it from there. I could read the title and you can go from there.

David Pfahler: Cool. Yeah, well, no hard feelings. This episode, it’s something absolutely brand new. I would say this is something from the research department. Definitely not ready for production yet, but I think on the podcast here we should, from time to time, not just talk about the trends of the past and what we think the data shows us, et cetera, but also stuff that we think is coming up in the future. And this is something from this topic or from this category, but definitely from the development corner.

So the thing or technology or whatever you want to call it is called Hoodie. And their tag line is “very fast app development.” And of course, that sounds awesome. That’s something that we…

Chris Chidgey:            All right!

David Pfahler:             …all want.

Chris Chidgey:            Okay, I’ll take it!

David Pfahler:             That’s something that we all want, right? So as I said, there are still a lot of features to be done. And this is in the development stage. And as of, I think, two weeks ago, they still had a notice on their website saying, “Don’t use this in production,” so it really is “bleeding edge.”

But what they’re doing is absolutely amazing. So it’s an offline first storage and no back-end architecture. And those are just buzzwords, so I’m trying to explain that and explain the mystery behind this on this episode.

But what they are doing right now with it is pretty impressive, because I have been told by the developer which I met last weekend, where I was in Hamburg, Germany, where there was a conference, they told me that they now have apps running on Hoodie with over 10,000 users, no problem. So it actually does scale at the moment. It does work in production, so I think in the next couple of months we will see a lot of stabilization going on. And then that’s something you will want, absolutely want to use. And we are going to use it in our next app.

Okay. Enough of the preparation and talking points.

So what is Hoodie? It’s actually—I would classify it as a data store. So it helps you managing your app’s data. Normally, what you do when you need to manage the data and also sync it, for example, with multiple devices or with your service, so anything that is a little bit more complex today needs a back-end, right? Needs some kind of service, what you said in the beginning, like something like Parse.

But if it gets more complex, you need to write back-end code. Maybe you need to do some calculations or some big data analysis on the back-end or something like that. For all these kinds of things, you need a back-end.

Now for most apps, what you do is you have your data offline, and you sync them to a back-end. And the back-end does nothing more than just take that data as it comes in, and puts it into a database.

And then if the app asks for the data again, it looks up the data in the database and ships it back. And it really doesn’t do much more than that.

And what the guys at Hoodie thought is, “Why do we have to pay a back-end developer every single time, where we just need a database and an app communicating with each other?”

Is that clear?

Chris Chidgey:            Except for the part where you said, “Why do we need a back-end developer?”

David Pfahler:             Yeah.

Chris Chidgey:            Who is that in this scenario? What does he do?

David Pfahler:             Okay. Let’s say you have an app and you have a database, like, it could be…

Chris Chidgey:            Yeah, yeah. Like a table of your logins or your photos that you saved or whatever.

David Pfahler:             Right. And so in order to connect to that database and sync data with it over the Internet, you have to create some back-end code that takes the requests coming in and funnels them to the database, gets the data and returns the request.

Does that make sense?

Chris Chidgey:            Yeah.

David Pfahler:             Okay. And for most apps today, they do need a database in the Internet for sync and stuff like that, but they also don’t do lots of complex operations on it. And so why do you need to have a back-end if you don’t do much on the back-end at all?

And that’s where Hoodie initially came in and entered. That’s where they still are, but they are going to expand beyond that, but maybe I can explain a little bit at the end of the episode.

Chris Chidgey:            Okay.

David Pfahler:             That’s where the term “no back-end” comes in. So you have Hoodie as an SDK or as a library or whatever you want to call it on the client that currently exists for web apps and iOS, and that client is your local database that you talk with.

So basically when you want to get records from it, there’s a really simple API for it where you just say, “Store.find all” or “find something,” and it just returns the data to you.

And if you want to save something, just as easy. You just call Hoodie store, add, and you add something. So really easy store, but the cool thing about is that’s the only part.

There’s nothing, no sync, nothing that you need to care about. You only talk to your local database, to your local data store so to speak, and the syncing and all of the handling of sync errors and problems like that and when do I have connectivity and then I don’t have connectivity again with, especially with mobile and cellular devices, all of that is handled by Hoodie in the background. And you can just rely on Hoodie handling the synchronization process with the server.

And so you have Hoodie running inside your local app, but also running on a server somewhere, where you just installed it. There’s basically almost no configuration needed. And your app automatically can communicate with this Hoodie instance, which then communicates with your database.

But there’s no back-end that you have to write yourself or that you have to set up. It’s just install Hoodie on the server. Use Hoodie on the client, and magically, you will have the data synchronized.

Chris Chidgey:            Okay, so tell me. Compare and contrast the Parse, if you could.

David Pfahler:             Okay. So Parse is, I guess, somewhat similar. Parse is something that you can only use for iOS apps and I think Android as well, right?

Chris Chidgey:            Yeah, that’s right.

David Pfahler:             Yes. And Hoodie started out as a web company and web app first, so that’s the first part. When you get to—you can also use Hoodie with web apps.

I’m not sure if Parse is probably also doing this, but Hoodie works offline first, so if you have—your data is always being stored offline and only if you have the connectivity it’s getting synced to the server.

You have more experience with Parse. Does Parse do that as well?

Chris Chidgey:            I’ve got—I think they do. Yeah, in fact they just announced today or yesterday that they have offline management or something, so I think that’s a buffering thing, where if you set something up and—I don’t know. I need to read more before I talk about it, but I think that they do that as well.

In fact, I even think they manage…they work with web apps, but I’m looking at that now.

David Pfahler:             Well, the main thing, and I wanted to have this point at the end, but the main thing is just that Hoodie is open source. You can look at the code. You can write plug-ins for it. All that kind of stuff. While Parse is just a closed source service that you have to pay for.

Hoodie, you could set up yourself on your own infrastructure. Have someone else set it up for you or whatever, but Hoodie itself is just an open source project. And yes, there’s a firm behind that and they want to make money from it, for example, from hosting it.

But everybody else could host it, too. So there’s no single point of failure. No dependencies. Nothing like that.

Chris Chidgey:            Yeah.

David Pfahler:             And the cool thing is I’m not sure if Parse does provide this or not, but you can, with one line of code, you can sign up, sign in, sign out, resend password, all of the account management stuff is already done for you.

This is just something that’s really dear to my heart, but it’s all written in JavaScript using a JSON layer. Using a couch database, which internally also uses JavaScript.

So if you’re into JavaScript and you’re a JavaScript programmer like I am, you can absolutely dig into the code and see what’s going on there. And also write plug-ins for it. And that’s the next thing.

So right now, they don’t have something like Facebook login or Twitter login. But it’s just a matter of someone taking the time to write a plug-in. And I think the Hoodie firm themselves will, in a couple of months, have something like this.

But the cool part is you can basically have someone write it for you or take a community plug-in that already exists and just add it to your Hoodie instance. And then that’s something that can do something on the server for you. And that’s exactly what they’re doing with sign up, sign in, resend password.

Those are all plug-ins, which come preinstalled with every Hoodie instance, but like that, you could have all of the other, authenticating with GitHub, authenticating with Twitter. Payment management systems, like PayPal or what are these credit card management companies? Square, I guess.

Chris Chidgey:            Oh, yeah. Square. Yeah. Okay.

David Pfahler:             Those kinds of things. So you can imagine, this is just the beginning and that’s why we talk about it, because it’s at the cutting edge. But in a couple of months, there will be a ton of plug-ins that you would be able to use.

You can, with one line of command—I mean, this is not the kind of thing that you personally will do, Chris, but it’s certainly good for you to know that your developers could do this with one line of code or with just one command, you can install an email plug-in. And your server will be automatically able to send emails, like notifications or like reminders or whatever you need for your program.

So you can start to offer much more complex and, in our case, mobile apps, because they can leverage a server back-end without you having to be a crazy back-end development firm.

Chris Chidgey:            Right.

David Pfahler:             All you need…

Chris Chidgey:            Okay. So I totally get it. And for those guys who listen to the podcast or know David personally or have interacted with him on the—what is it? The comment section of the podcast or via email or Twitter, he loves his open source.

Like if we record this podcast on Podlove, where everyone else in the universe uses [inaudible 00:12:37] or something like, but [inaudible 00:12:38] is a paid service, right? Similar to a Parse. And Podlove is open source, and David loves his open source.

As a—let’s call me the business guy here, I know the benefits or some of the benefits of having something open versus closed, you know, like WordPress versus HubSpot, as an example.

What are your, like, top two benefits, besides being able to code whatever you want, right? Are there other obvious benefits, open versus—we call it “closed.” What would you call Parse and HubSpot? It’s like a closed software, a closed system?

David Pfahler:             Yeah. Closed or proprietary.

Chris Chidgey:            Proprietary. There you go.

David Pfahler:             So, yeah.

Chris Chidgey:            Like WordPress is open source, right? We all understand that. So this is along the same lines.

David Pfahler:             WordPress is a very good analogy, I guess. And I don’t know if the Hoodie guys would actually agree, because WordPress code apparently is not very well written, but—or at least it wasn’t in the beginning.

But the cool thing, what you can see with WordPress is if you have an open source project or product in that case, yes you might not have the stability at the very beginning when it launches and you might need to test it out a little bit before you can actually use it in production, but the benefit is that there’s an entire giant ecosystem of plug-ins that you can use.

Chris Chidgey:            Yes.

David Pfahler:             And as you have mentioned, we use Podlove, which is an amazing podcast publishing plug-in for WordPress, but there are other plug-ins that other people are using. There’s BlueberryPress and a couple others.

But the cool thing is that you can have these different plug-ins, and that you can choose, “Okay, I’m going to use Podlove, because it has certain features that I want, because, for example, we can offer, I think, six or seven different file formats.” That might not be a big thing, but we actually get a couple of hundred more listeners, just by offering these downloads.

I’d rather have these listeners than don’t have them. And you can decide. You can say, “Well, I don’t want to bother setting up something that’s more complicated. I’m going to go with a more easy to set up plug-in.” And then you’re going to sacrifice the other downloads, and that might be okay for you. But you can choose.

When you have something like Parse, yes, they might have features that you can turn off and on, which would be the equivalent to plug-ins, but you will never have the sheer number of features nor do you have the variety where you can choose between basically the same feature, but between different implementations.

Chris Chidgey:            Yeah. Totally, totally with you. And you know, I’m a WordPress guy, not a HubSpot guy, right? It’s five years ago. If you would have built your store on Yahoo’s store as opposed to WordPress, you’re bummed.

David Pfahler:             Yeah.

Chris Chidgey:            Because now you’re in this closed system that you’re limited. You can’t push the envelope. You can’t write your own plug-ins. Yeah, that seems very interesting.

One thing I usually do before I like—in evaluating software or especially with open source, how are they making money? What makes this viable? Why is Hoodie going to be the winner?

David Pfahler:             Yeah, so, as I said, I met one of them personally. I follow them on Twitter, so I have some connection with them. And I would actually say those are really great guys. They built this firm. They have no—take no venture capital, though they certainly could have, but they just don’t like that BS, so to speak. And they want to do what they think is best.

And actually, that’s a reason why I would trust more in this technology, is because there’s not going to be Facebook coming in and just buying them. And it’s dead in three months, as it has happened so many times before, where big companies have come in, just grabbed the company because the venture capitalists have made them sell their company for, of course, a large profit, but then the product, most of the time, is just gone.

And that’s not going to happen with Hoodie, because these people personally stand behind this idea and think it’s a great idea. And currently, they’re just making money by having their stuff sponsored and also working for clients, like doing apps with Hoodie for clients.

I think what they want to do in the future is provide hosting, but again, they are not going to make something proprietary so only they can do it. What they are going to do is create a market, create a field of opportunity where the opportunity and the value generated is so rich, so much, that they can just have an equal piece of the cake, piece of the pie so to speak.

And still be happy with taking the piece of the pie, like providing hosting, which everyone else can also do, but they will do it better, maybe do it faster, whatever. Or maybe they will just do it like everybody, but they think that this technology will be so awesome, that there will be enough for everybody. It’s this abundance mindset.

Chris Chidgey:            Uh-huh. Yeah, that’s very cool. And that’s definitely the features of a strong open source model, I guess, is—well, for one, they’re the only one.

David Pfahler:             Yes.

Chris Chidgey:            So if you’re trying to build a community around this and you’re a developer interested in this, there’s nowhere else to go. You’re developing on this, right? You could do the same thing with Parse, but it’s a little different.

Yeah, this is cool.

To all those listening who are interested in this kind of stuff, let us know if you want more of this stuff. I’d love to nerd out on new technologies. I signed up for the Optimizely AB testing beta for mobile. I’m going to be one of their beta testers. For no reason. I just…just because I signed up, I think and because I can put it in my app quickly.

I’m always pushing. I’m always trying to test the new latest thing. And I probably get one out of ten right. Not on bigger things like this. I mean, this is something else. This is going to work.

But I’d love to be—we’d both love to be sharing kind of the new coming things that you guys could take a look at. So let us know if you want more of this kind of stuff, because we would love to share things we’re seeing and excited about, even if it’s not 100% viable or even if we’re not using them yet, we just know that hey, this is really interesting. We’re looking at these things.

So as always, we’re trying to get you guys to communicate with us in the comments or on Twitter.

David Pfahler:             Yeah. And go to AppBusinessPodcast.com/hoodie. You will find links to the official site. Maybe some other resources if you’re interested. And also let us know there in the comments if that’s something that you’re interested in. I mean, it’s something I’m certainly passionate about. I will let you guys know how our implementation works, because we’re going to have it in an app very soon. And keep you posted, but yeah, let us know if that’s something that’s too technical or too much in depth. Or if that’s something you want to hear more about.

Chris Chidgey:            Yeah, David, this was a cool topic. Thanks for the conversation. And guys, we’ll talk to you next time.

Tagged under:


  • Christopher Sutton

    Awesome episode, what a cool technology to learn about…

    Keep these “new and upcoming tech” episodes coming!

    • David Pfahler

      I will do my best, Christopher 😉 Would be a pleasure to have you on as a guest for such an episode. Let me know if there is anything on your radar possibly interesting for the podcast.

  • Seb Hareng

    Great episode! Love the mix of business and technology in your podcast!
    On the subject of back end as a service, my approach would be different. 10 months ago, I looked at different solutions to replace the custom backend system that I built years ago. At that time, I hesitated between Parse and Stackmob. I attended a technical presentation given by 2 talented guys from Stackmob and was very tempted to pick their solution. Like Hoodie, they were responsive, cheap and open source. I ended up not selecting any of them to focus on the apps themselves and I’m glad I did. As you probably know, Paypal bought Stackmob and shutdown the service right away (in May 2014). Investing in their solution would have been a big waste of time.
    I hope that Hoodie is there to stay and won’t follow the same path. That being said, my preference right now it to stick with more established solutions. Parse may not be perfect but it’s own by Facebook so it has more chances to stay around longer I think.

    • GregorMartynus

      I can assure you, Hoodie is here to stay. Long-term vision is to create a non-profit for it, preventing it from being sold out even if we might leave the project in the future. We have a big vision for Hoodie, and if we are good at one thing, it’s making big dreams come true 😉

      • Seb Hareng

        Glad to read this Gregor!

    • David Pfahler

      Hi Seb, thanks for the kind words. It really makes me smile when I see that you guys enjoy the episodes. Will try my best to keep the technology in the mix 😉

    • Chris Chidgey

      Thanks for the comments and link. Seen it firsthand in other industries – acquisition by cash-rich companies and destroy the original product/service.

      I liked this one too – we will keep these coming. Tech/Biz is a good fit for this podcast.

  • espylaub

    Thanks for featuring us, you’ve captured our ideas well 🙂 WordPress is a pretty good analogy: we might end up doing some hosting (like wordpress.com), but there will also be other people hosting Hoodie (and we’ll support them, because it’s in our interest). And if you have your own server, you can of course host it yourself. And it’s hackable and extendable either way.

    We’re also fed up with this ridiculous acquisition-and-sunsetting rubbish. You take peoples’ time, work, data and often, money, and then you let them down because you dropped everything to go work for some quasi-monopolist. This kind of exit strategy is a completely broken way of doing software/business, and part of the Hoodie project is us wanting to prove that you can run a business on Open Source without resorting to this kind of thing. Even if we do fail and bail out at some point, Hoodie (the software) will continue to exist, and if you’ve built your business on it, you’re not screwed like you would be if you invested in a closed platform.

    We don’t want to be a platform, but more of a standard, in a way.

    Anyway, thanks again and all the best for your future episodes!

    • David Pfahler

      I’m so glad I didn’t screw the explanation up too badly 😉 Since recording this episode, I have learned much more about Hoodie and we already use it in development (will be in production within a month). Thanks so much for being so open and honest about what you are trying to do with Hoodie. Greetings to the rest of the awesome team!

    • Chris Chidgey

      Glad you caught the episode. I am very proud of my WordPress analogy now. I know David is in contact – but we will be following along and let us know how we can help!

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