New startup Httphub is bucking the enterprise trend by providing a simple consumer BaaS platform that makes it possible for developers to set up and implement an API backend for their applications quickly and easily. Using Httphub, developers can build backends for their applications without the need for SDKs, libraries, control panels, or special syntax.
Backend as a Service (BaaS), also referred to as Mobile Backend as a Service (mBaaS), is a relatively new category of the API space. The term was originally coined back in May 2011 by Sravish Sridhar, Kinvey founder and CEO, and refers to a model that provides developers an easy way to set up and manage a cloud-based backend for their web and mobile applications.
There are basically two types of Backend as a Service providers; consumer and enterprise. While the overall popularity of Backend as a Service platforms has risen greatly in the past few years, the industry has been steadily shifting towards the enterprise market. Companies such as AnyPresence, FeedHenry (by Red Hat), KidoZen, and Kinvey, offer enterprise Backend as a Service solutions and APIs.
Httphub provides users with a root namespace such as https://jwagner.httphub.com/ which serves as a starting point. From here, users can add and manage resources using simple HTTP requests such as GET, POST, and DELETE. All requests must use basic authentication, cross-site HTTP requests (CORS) are supported, and HTTP and HTTPS are accepted. Resources stored in the root namespace can be public or private.
Httphub provides logging capabilities and user management for the root namespace (secondary users have their own access credentials). Httphub also provides a demo that includes a fully working test environment with pre-compiled requests. The demo is in the form of a Postman collection file which can be imported into your local Postman installation.
Httphub is essentially an online url-value storage service; It allows users to store/share application data with very little effort. We reached out to Danny Witta, one of the founders of Httphub, who explained to ProgrammableWeb the benefits of using Httphub as opposed to some of the other BaaS platforms:
"A developer should choose Httphub more or less for the same reasons they chose PHP instead of Erlang, or MySQL instead of Oracle. Httphub is very simple, intuitive and quick to implement; you just need to remember a few simple rules and you can easily organize your data as you like. You do not have to format the data for the backend (using SDK, libraries or special syntax). When you need to read or write something, you have to use only the HTTP functions of your language, you just need to remember the URL."
Danny Witta went on to say that:
"This approach also allows you to exchange data between applications on different platforms without any effort. As a result, the code is much less constrained by the backend and when you need to change, you can do it really early; in other words: no barrier to entry and exit from this backend. We believe that Httphub can be a good alternative to existing backends for lots of applications, especially if it is not clear how big the application will become in the future."
One of the interesting aspects of Httphub is the platform's use of POST and PUT, which are defined in HTTP/1.1. (ref Wikipedia). Maxwell Vandervelde, Software Engineer at SmartThings, mentioned Httphub's use of POST and PUT in a post on Twitter. Danny Witta explained to ProgrammableWeb Httphub's use of POST and PUT in greater detail:
"Maxwell Vandervelde is one that is very familiar with the standards and highlighted an interesting point of Httphub: PUT and POST can work the same way, more precisely, can produce the same effects (it’s up to you). This is a choice we have made to be more friendly and compatible with all kinds of languages and devices, a relaxed approach, still maintaining standards. For example, some security systems do not allow methods other than GET and POST, as well as some devices can do very limited GET or POST."
Httphub is a very new service (launched about a month ago), however, Danny Witta told ProgrammableWeb that there are already more than a thousand active users who have started using Httphub for their projects. He also said that "we currently have very positive feedback from our users, they appreciate the essential approach of Httphub." Because Httphub is so new, there are some concerns about the stability and longevity of the platform. Several developers expressed these concerns via the Hacker News comments section. It will take some time for Httphub to address the concerns of developers who may be interested in using the BaaS platform for their applications. Httphub posted in the Hacker News comments thread that "We must work to improve the product and build its reputation, which should not be made of promises but of facts. Surely it will take time to have full confidence by our users."
Danny Witta told ProgrammableWeb that the team is currently very focused on the technical aspects of Httphub such as a new website, platform reliability, and exciting new features. While Httphub may be new and has some limitations, it can be a viable solution for developers who do not need a feature-packed backend or are not building enterprise applications. In addition to mobile applications, there are other interesting use cases for Httphub such as data collection from field devices, synchronization of data and configurations between servers, and distributed applications that exchange serialized objects and data.
Simplicity is what differentiates this BaaS platform from others. Httphub also takes developer onboarding to a whole new level; I was able to activate an Httphub account, understand how to use the service, and start adding and retrieving resources on my root namespace in about 5 minutes. While many other BaaS providers are focusing on the enterprise market, Httphub offers a simple BaaS solution that can work for many types of applications and appeals to a broad audience of developers.
Developers interested in trying out the new Httphub BaaS service (in beta) can register for an account on Httphub.com.