12/22/20 - Supabase & Low-Code

Supabase: Backend-as-a-service. SQL database + auto-generating API w/ docs. Recently raised.

What's interesting about it?

Build a backend (database + API) in minutes, with or without code. As I've explored no-code over the last couple years, I've been thinking about a no-code backend. Most popular no-code tools (Webflow, Squarespace, Carrd, etc.) are frontend tools and many "no-coders" have resorted to using Airtable as a backend despite its limited ability to scale. Supabase is the closest thing I've found to this vision, but I wouldn't call it a no-code tool.

Supabase is not built for no-coders. It is built for developers as an alternative to Google's Firebase, while also abstracting away a lot of the repetitive work/code. You might call it "low-code" and I think tools like this are the future of software development. Low-code tools abstract away many of the tedious parts of software development and leave the non-tedious, creative work. They deliver the benefits of no-code (speed, ease-of-use), without the limitations. This idea isn't original.. as an example, Retool explicitly states this is their goal.

Side note.. I do think there is still an opportunity for a backend-as-a-service that targets the non-technical crowd and can integrate with popular website builders.

The Low-Code Future

No-code or low-code is not new.. you could call Wordpress a no/low code tool. Hell, you could call Xerox PARC (the first "desktop" GUI) a no-code tool. They are just user interfaces to control underlying code. No/low code is simply a new term to better describe the growing category of website builders and automation tools that have gained popularity recently.

As a builder myself, I've come full circle. I started building with no-code tools, which inspired me to learn to code. Since, I've built no-code, low-code, and all-code projects. My takeaway: to build truly unique, scalable businesses without limits, you have to code. But, building with code from scratch is unnecessary and expensive. With low-code you can build anything, but faster and with less code to maintain.

Supabase, Abstraction & Developer Tools

Back to Supabase. It does two core things: (1) Enables you to create a database visually (or code) and (2) it auto-generates a REST API (+ documentation!).. eliminating the tedious, repetitive CRUD code. I remember learning CRUD and thinking it was stupid to code this from scratch every time. (This is where beginner's perspective is helpful. If I was coding since high school, I probably wouldn't question these things.)

Supabase is hardly the first though. Authentication has been abstracted away by Passport or companies like Auth0. Algolia has abstracted away search and filtering. Amazon spent years building internal search. Now, get consumer-grade search in minutes! Welcome to the world of developer tools. This is where my relative novice-ness(?) in software development shows... I'm just now discovering many popular developer tools (they are amazing!).

Low-Code Developer Tools

As I've become better educated in the space, I see low-code as a new category of developer tools. Developer tools come in many forms. One example is via API, where syntactic sugar accesses functionality provided by a library, package, or company. For example, with Algolia...

    container: '#searchbox',
    placeholder: "CRM, project management, accounting...",
gets you this...

Low-code takes it a step further. Rather than an API layer abstracting away code, abstraction is via GUI, while retaining access to the code. In Supabase...

create a database table with code...
or without code...

This "choose your own adventure" (code or no-code) experience is where things are going and I'm here for it.

More on Supabase

  • Similar to Google's Firebase, but with a SQL database (Postgres) vs. Firebase's NoSQL database (think MongoDB).
  • Mind blowing this didn't already exist. Given the popularity of Firebase and overwhelming popularity of Postgres, this is a no brainer. The response has been big.
    • Related.. I'm now aware of trending Github repos as an early indicator of either a company's success (Supabase) or the enablement of innovation in a space (GrapeJS enabling a ton of new web/app builders.. more on this another time).

K thx bye