Earlier this month, mobile backend-as-a-service provider Parse open sourced its iOS, OS X, and Android SDKs, and will be open sourcing additional SDKs in the future.
Parse, which was acquired by Facebook in 2013, says that its SDKs are used by more than 800 million active app-device pairs per month. By open sourcing those SDKs, Parse believes it can help developers facing challenges similar to those it faced. Specifically, according to Parse, "We’ve had to figure out a way to make a public-facing API easy to understand and use, but continue shipping features fast without breaking any existing functionality. To solve this, we structured our public API as a facade for internal code and functionality that could be consistently changing."
Additionally, Parse faced challenges related to "architecture unity." To address these, it created Bolts, a collection of low-level libraries. One of its components, Tasks, is designed to make asynchronous operations easier to manage.
Finally, to ensure high performance, Parse implemented its SDKs using a decoupled architecture. According to Parse's Grantland Chew, this is crucial to adding new features without creating breaking changes. As Chew explained in a blog post, the decoupled architecture "consists of our public API object instances, object states, controllers, and REST protocol. Each piece is encapsulated to ensure separation of concerns and different implementations allow us to add new features without modifying too much code."
Is open source good for business?
Now that its SDKs are open source, Parse can share its technical knowledge with the world, and that might conceivably be good for Parse's business.
The reason is that SDKs are usually black boxes. While many companies are increasingly comfortable outsourcing core functionality to third parties, particularly to those like Parse, which is popular and owned by one of the most prominent tech companies in the world, API providers offering SDKs should be aware that black boxes can still be an impediment to their adoption. By revealing what's under the hood, they can allay concerns and instill the type of confidence that can sway skeptical prospects.