What Every iOS Developer Needs to Know about Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference

Get a recap of what you should know about Facebook’s 2014 F8 conference as an iOS developer! By Ryan Nystrom.

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This past Wednesday, I had the incredible opportunity to attend Facebook’s F8 developers conference in San Francisco along with about 1,700 other developers, designers and marketers.

A lot has happened since the last F8 conference in 2011:

  • Facebook became a publicly traded company
  • Facebook acquired several companies including WhatsApp, Parse, Oculus VR and Instagram
  • Facebook celebrated their 10th year as an organization

This year the conference had a strong focus on apps, so there was a lot of material highly relevant to iOS developers. In this article, I’ll give you a recap of everything you need to know!

We’ll take a look at the Parse and Facebook announcements relevant to iOS developers, I’ll discuss the most interesting session I attended, and conclude with my thoughts on the overall experience of the conference.

Let’s dive right in!

Parse Announcements


The first set of announcements relate to Facebook’s back-end-as-a-service: Parse.

Parse is very near and dear to my heart. I built my very first app on Parse nearly two and a half years ago, and since then I’ve used their tools and services in various other apps I’ve worked on.

Their team is incredibly smart, and it’s clear they care about the developers using their product as they are constantly releasing new products and continually updating their existing set of apps.

It broke my heart when Facebook acquired Parse in 2013 because I thought Facebook intended to dismantle Parse and absorb their workforce and technologies. However, F8 showed Parse to be stronger than ever with Parse CEO Ilya Sukhar sharing the stage with Mark Zuckerberg himself.

Let’s take a look at four major announcements from Parse: AppLinks, Using Parse Offline, Free Tier Level, and Growth Analytics.

Note: If you are new to Parse, you might want to check out our Parse Tutorial to learn the basics first.

Note: If you are new to Parse, you might want to check out our Parse Tutorial to learn the basics first.


One of Parse’s most exciting announcements is their new open-source offering AppLinks. This lets developers deep link content between apps and quickly return to the user’s originating app.

This concept isn’t necessarily new; it’s been around for some time on both iOS and Android. To deep link in iOS, an app must register for a particular URL scheme such as youtube:// and then pass data to the target app using an instance of NSURL.

However, this requires that both apps understand and agree upon the structure of the data in the URL, and that both apps implement URL routers. Furthermore, this doesn’t work cross-platform, and doesn’t have a central registry; App Links solves this problem.

Some organizations like Urx and DeepLink have already made forays into deep linking; some have even questioned why Parse would release this with WWDC just a few weeks away, as this quote from Twitter shows:

Announcing App Links a month before WWDC seems about as savvy as buying a new iPhone in August.- Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) April 30, 2014

In any case, AppLinks looks like an awesome tool that I look forward to playing around with. To learn more about AppLinks, check out the official AppLinks site.

Using Parse Offline

In addition to AppLinks, Parse announced the addition of local storage to their SDK. Basically this allows you to choose to “pin” some of your objects to a local datastore, so that you can access them anytime (even if you lose an internet connection). Here’s an example snippet provided by Parse:

// Pin ParseQuery results
List<ParseObject> objects = query.find(); // Online ParseQuery results
// Query the Local Datastore
ParseQuery<ParseObject> query = ParseQuery.get("Feed")
    .whereEquals("starred", true)
    .findInBackground(new FindCallback() {
        public void done(List<ParseObject> objects, ParseException e) {
            // Update UI

Unfortunately this functionality is only available in the Android SDK at the moment (horrors!), but Parse assures us that it will be available for iOS very soon.

My biggest issue with Parse has always been their lack of support for local data storage. To their credit, Parse provides an amazing service that lets developers focus on their apps instead of spending time and effort building the backend to support their apps.

However, once you’ve released your minimum viable product and you’re ready to provide a richer experience to your users, adding offline support with Parse becomes difficult. Your choices are limited to relying on web caching, which is spotty at best, or writing your own sync engine, neither of which are terribly attractive.

I haven’t been able to find any implementation details for Local Data on either iOS or Android. I’m assuming it’s built on top of SQLite, but at this point I can’t be certain.

To learn more about Parse local storage, check out the official announcement.

Free Tier Level

Parse is also expanding their free tier level, offering up to 30 API requests per second, 20GB file storage, 1 million push notifications a month, and full access to Parse Analytics.

I guess being acquired by Facebook is beneficial for everyone! :]

To learn more about the Free Tier Level, check out Parse’s plans page.

Growth Analytics

Growth Analytics is the newest addition to Parse’s already robust analytics package. This allows you to measure active user, installations, retention data, and more with easy-to-read graphs. It looks like this feature is automatically turned on and might not even require the latest SDK.

Maintaining your user base is a tricky problem for app developers, so I’m glad to see that Parse is giving developers more power to monitor their own apps. It’s beginning to feel like you could ditch other analytics tools like Flurry if you’re already using Parse in your app.

To learn more about Growth Analytics and Parse Analytics in general, check out the Parse Analytics page.

Facebook Announcements

Parse wasn’t the only group with groundbreaking announcements at F8 — Facebook had their share of news for us as well.

In this section, I’ll highlight three key announcements: API versioning, Facebook Login updates, the Audience Network, and FbStart.

Ryan Nystrom


Ryan Nystrom


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