HarperCollins Pages Parse to Tackle Mobile

The Hobbit App on iPhone 5HarperCollins is a UK top four publisher offering content across the spectrum, from enduring classics to cutting-edge contemporary fiction and digital dictionaries to online curricula.  Recognizing the trend towards mobile, the company sees “mobile apps as a means of forging closer relationships with readers— giving them delightful experiences around content, communicating regularly with them, and offering them personalized content,” according to Sam Hancock, Product Manager, Group, William Collins and Fourth Estate.

The company has turned to Parse to help them release several apps, most notably The Hobbit: Official Visual Companion, a guide to Middle-earth with a beautifully rendered 3D map and variety of encyclopedic articles, as well as the release of Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of Life.

HarperCollins has a long history of producing engaging apps for consumers, but Parse has helped enable more direct engagement with consumers. Now, HarperCollins is able to better understand how content is being consumed, and in turn reward consumers with more relevant material. Parse Core is used for storing user data and tracking app opens, in addition to enabling the team to find out more about their users in order to market relevant content to them across the apps. Concurrently, Parse Push has allowed the sending of more sophisticated and segmented push notifications.

According to Sam,

Having a solution like this allows us to concentrate more on creating a great user experience while also helping us add scale and reduce cost—all massive positives for our mobile strategy. It’s also giving us the core building blocks of building out a single consumer view—allowing us to give readers more of what they want more of the time, and making sure our communications are tailored to reflect that. We are actively looking to expand our use of Parse across all platforms to help us achieve that objective.

Nancy Xiao
June 13, 2014

Orbitz App Uses Parse Push, Analytics, and Core to Keep Users Updated

Orbitz app on iPhone 5The award-winning Orbitz Flights, Hotels, Cars app for iOS gives iPhone and iPad users a slick, easy way to book and manage travel. With a fast shopping experience, streamlined booking process, contextual home screen, and details of booked trips, the Orbitz app brings information important for the user’s travel to their fingertips when they need it. Parse Push, Analytics, and Core help the app keep customers on top of their travel plans with up-to-the-minute notifications and by streamlining their search experiences.

Joining the mobile trend in 2006 with a mobile website that allowed customers to look up itineraries and check flight status while traveling, Orbitz launched the first version of the Orbitz iPhone app in 2010 once they realized that online booking via phone was becoming more and more prevalent. After launching on iPhone and Android in 2010, they transitioned their full-service iPhone app to be universal so that iPad users could book flights, hotels, and rental cars via a single app and added a Kindle Fire edition, as well.

Principal Engineer on the iOS development team for Orbitz, Matt Sellars is focused on creating the best travel app experience possible for the company’s customers. With over 5 years experience at Orbitz, Matt came across Parse while chatting with other mobile developers about available platforms. “Simple APIs across many platforms with good documentation,” won him over, and now the app uses Parse to store a user’s search history and to push relevant travel alerts to them.

The app uses Parse Push to notify app users of changes in their trips, such as flight delays, gate changes, or cancellations, on the day that they travel. Matt and his team then use Parse Analytics to monitor usage of the push notifications they send.

The app also uses Parse Core to keep users’ recent Orbitz searches available and to remove old data. The app seamlessly synchronizes search information between any of a user’s devices so that he or she can easily pick up a previous search on a different device without having to re-enter the search criteria. The app also uses Cloud Code to remove expired data for users, allowing the app to move processing from a user’s device to the server and lowering the user’s data usage by removing irrelevant data before the apps fetches it.

According to Matt,

Parse was a huge help for rapid feature development. It took one developer, myself, a couple days of reading and playing with the APIs to build and demo a feature. This normally would have required a few people to create the required backend to support building the prototype at a much higher cost. This enabled us to learn quickly, faster, and overall lower the cost to make an idea tangible for our stakeholders. This ability to rapidly prototype ideas allows our developers and designers to move quickly on ideas as if working in a startup environment together.

After all of the team’s investments in mobile over the last few years – both in apps and in optimizing their website for smartphone and tablet users – they now see nearly 1 in 3 hotel bookings being made via a mobile device. Positive reviews in the app stores make it clear that customers really enjoy using the apps, which have also been acknowledged by Apple as an Editors’ Choice and inducted into the App Store Hall of Fame in 2012, and by Google, who recently named Orbitz a “Top Developer” on Google Play for their Android app.

The app is available for free download on iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire and is deeply integrated with the Orbitz Rewards loyalty program. App users receive higher percentages of Orbucks, a loyalty currency that can be used on bookings, than they would by booking on the website.  

Courtney Witmer
May 23, 2014

Move Uses Parse Push to Power Notifications in Realtor.com App

Realtor.com App on iPhone 5The Realtor.com apps by Move, Inc. provide a tailored search experience for real estate, helping people find the right home with features like photo-centric search, search by school, and map sketch-a-search. The only app to get real estate listings sourced directly from over 800 MLS’s with 90% of listings refreshed every 15 minutes, users of the app can also get updates on price reductions via push notification.

Real estate is all about data, and Move gets real-time data feeds from 98% of the multiple listing services (MLSs) in the United States. Managing that data is a big challenge, and it’s the duty of Alan Lewis, Principal Platform Architect for Move, to guide the development of the dozens of web services that make that data usable by the apps and sites Move supports.

When Alan, a 15 year veteran of the industry, started looking to improve push notification capabilities to support future growth for the company’s apps, he attended Parse Developer Day in San Francisco to learn about Parse Push. Although more research stood before him, he had an inkling Parse was the right choice when, within a few hours while still at the conference, he had a prototype using the service up and running.

The Move team implemented Parse Push to power notifications in their iOS apps. A key factor in this decision was the extra work inherent in supporting push in iOS, which requires that a developer build out additional server-side infrastructure or use a 3rd party services. According to Alan, the key to their decision to use Parse to fulfill this need were, “scale, cost, and developer-friendliness.”

He continues on to explain that,

Parse is a great fit for apps that don’t have a server-side infrastructure, but for a large app like realtor.com where there are multiple existing services that supply the app’s data, what was important for me was to find a platform that could integrate seamlessly with ours. As an architect, I love what I see with Parse, and we can integrate with it via their web services without making compromises within our platform.

Developers should be informed about their options. Best-of-breed services like Parse can save a lot of time and money, and whether you’re a solo developer or working for a big company, there are probably far better uses of your time than building infrastructure that isn’t a key differentiator for your business. For us, push notifications were a must-have, but we weren’t going to gain any advantage by building out the feature from scratch, which is why we chose to go the 3rd-party route. I evaluated all of them, and Parse is the best.

You can download the realtor.com app and the new Rentals app here.

Courtney Witmer
May 16, 2014

Parse Pricing: Now Cheaper and Simpler!

New Pricing headerI’m really excited to announce a major update to our pricing model that we’ve been working on for some time.

The old model dates back to late 2011 when we first opened up our beta to the world. The overwhelming majority of feedback we got was, “Parse is great but how much is it actually going to cost?” So, we scrambled to put something together quickly, fully expecting to change it before coming out of beta. It turns out that developers loved it and we stuck with it.

We’ve grown an incredible amount over these past three years and it came time to revisit our pricing. We set out to improve it in three ways:

  • Make it easier for developers to predict and estimate their costs when using Parse.
  • Make our product more self-serve for developers who grow very quickly on our platform.
  • Offer more for free!

Moving forward, there won’t be different ‘tiers’ of Parse. There’s only one type of Parse account and you can have an unlimited number of apps or games within it. For each of those apps, you get the following:

  • Parse Core
    • 30 api requests per second (+ $100 per additional 10 reqs/sec)
    • 20GB of file storage (+ $0.03 per GB over)
    • 20GB of database storage
    • 2TB of file transfer (+ $0.10 per GB over)
  • Parse Push
    • 1 million unique recipients/month (+$0.05 per 1,000 unique recipients over)
    • Advanced push targeting, push scheduling, and multiple push certificates available to everyone for free!
  • Parse Analytics
    • Completely free! (including advanced analytics)

New customers will begin using this model today. If you’re an existing customer, you have six months to opt-in. We expect folks to move over quickly as we’re confident that this is a better model for everyone. At 30 requests/sec, an app can send us 77.76 million API requests in a month before needing to pay a dime. That’s over 70X what we offered before!

Thanks for trusting us with your apps. We appreciate your business and are working hard to make sure that Parse is the best way to build great apps across all platforms.

Check out the new pricing page and FAQ for all the details.

Ilya Sukhar
April 30, 2014

RedTape Design Builds Alicia Keys Vault with Parse

Alicia Keys Vault displayed on a Macbook ProIn September of 2013, a partner at RedTape Design, a brand design studio in NYC, was asked if anyone was free to meet with someone in the lobby to talk about building a music website. RedTape agreed and they were surprised to find that the person waiting in the lobby was Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys.

Ms. Keys told the RedTape team about a collection of her music that nobody had ever heard that she wanted to find a way to share with her fans. At their next meeting, Ms. Keys showed the team a safe in the closet at her personal studio. Within the safe was years of material that no one else had ever heard, from VHS tapes to old school reel to reels, and CDs and tapes from the past 16 years. There were also photos, videos, and an archive of every magazine Ms. Keys had been on the cover of. She wanted to give all of this content to her fans, for free.

Ms. Keys had several exciting ideas about how she wanted to share her safe of material. The RedTape team was confident that they could build what she was asking for, but noted that with mockups, design, development, servers, setup, staging and testing, it would take 8 months to complete. When Ms. Keys said she wanted a finished product in 2 months, the team started to look for solutions that would help them deliver. When they found Parse, they found the tool they needed to complete the Alicia Keys Vault on time.

The RedTape team used Parse Core for several aspects of the project and reports that Parse provided them with the scale to handle the burst of simultaneous page requests that occurred on launch day, when they saw as high as 100 signups per minute, alongside over 2 million in-vault events. The app also uses Parse Core for social login, with 82% of users who registered for Alicia Keys Vault opting to use Facebook login. Additionally, Parse’s ability to work side-by-side with other developer tools provided further opportunities for the RedTape, who found that the seamless integration between Parse and MailChimp allowed them to create a way to re-engage fans.

Now, with Parse providing the competitive edge that they need to help them grow their business at scale, RedTape is working on building similar apps and web presences for other artists. The team is hard at work on RedTapeX, a website and app that will reinvent the way artists interact with their fans, so check out the Alicia Keys Vault today and stay tuned for more great Parse-powered mobile and web apps out of the RedTape team!

Courtney Witmer
April 25, 2014

Showtime Turns to Parse to Power Next Gen TV Experiences

Example of Showtime Sync on a TVMore and more television viewers are multitasking during viewing, often engaging with content related to the show they are watching. Rather than try to combat this behavior, Showtime decided to embrace the opportunity and develop a multi-platform interactive experience that syncs to television programming. “We wanted to serve this audience of active fans with high-end synchronized content that enhances the viewing experience and provides deeper engagement,” said Showtime’s VP of Interactive Television, David Preisman.

SHO Sync offers fans enhanced viewing for many of the series on Showtime, including Homeland, Shameless, Ray Donovan, and Penny Dreadful. The second screen SHO Sync app is available for iPhone and iPad and, in an industry first, viewers can now interact on Smart TVs using their remote control.

The SHO Sync app uses Automated Content Recognition (ACR), to accurately synchronize interactive content with the program being viewed. According to Preisman, “Many subscribers watch Showtime series time shifted, from Showtime Anytime, Showtime On Demand or from a DVR. The ACR technology utilized by SHO Sync ensures that the interactive content is always synchronized with the show no matter how they choose to watch.” Fans can vote in polls, answer trivia, learn more about key characters, and make predictions. Interactive play earns users points, badges, and bragging rights, and everything in the app can be shared.

“When we were developing SHO Sync we heard about Parse from one of our developers, so we decided to give it a try. We were looking for a cloud-based backend to power SHO Sync across multiple platforms and with the free account, we decided to take it for a test run,” explains Preisman.

The development and launch of this complex product required close collaboration between Showtime, and developers from A Different Engine and Bottle Rocket. “What’s great about Parse is that it’s dead simple to use,” said Seth Piezas, Senior Developer, A Different Engine. “I’m a big fan of developing only code that is unique to a project. Being able to fall back on the existing data, analytics, and code management and reporting web UI is a fantastic win.” He added, “In this day and age, I think if you are building anything more than what makes your product unique you are simply focusing on the wrong thing. Parse lets you focus on your product.”

Showtime needed to integrate with half a dozen systems for content, images, data processing, and gamification. Parse allowed them to perform much of this integration once, in the cloud, to reduce the integration effort on the client applications. Showtime uses Parse Data and Cloud Code for common APIs so the TV and mobile client apps can access many of the various backend services and data processing.

“Our Interactive TV and Mobile teams strive to develop breakthrough apps where the technology goes away and the viewer can immerse themselves in the story,” says Preisman. “Since our launch in early 2013, Parse has provided a reliable cloud based solution, allowing our teams to focus on the user experience.”

Showtime offers SHO Sync for over 250 episodes of original programming. You can learn more about SHO Sync and check out a demo video here.

Courtney Witmer
April 18, 2014

Meme, Inc Uses Parse in Top-Grossing Xtreme Slots

Xtreme Slots app open on iPhone 5Meme, Inc was co-founded in 2008 by Diego Yanivello, Mauro Vazquez, and Gonzalo Oxenford. A three-person company until this year, when they decided to expand their team to support other platforms, all of their games are built in house, from the math models and coding, to the illustrations and sound design.

With successful titles like Catcha Mouse, which climbed up to the #1 position in the App Store charts in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Spain and Australia during the early days of the iTunes App Store, the team turned to Parse when they started working on newest title, Xtreme Slots.

A social casino game, Xtreme Slots launched on iOS in December of 2012 and on Facebook Canvas in November of 2013. The game began with 12 slot machines on the iOS version when it was first released, but after updates every two weeks to offer new slot machines and features, there are now 40 slots available to game players.

Looking for a unique, complete cloud storage service the team found Parse on Facebook and incorporated Parse into the development of Xtreme Slots. The app stores user data, sends emails, and enables Facebook Login with Parse Core, and sends targeted messages to specific players with Parse Push.

Like many apps, Xtreme Slots stores players’ progress using Parse Data. Not just a great tool for keeping track of levels and ranking, though, the team has also found that this lets them prevent user abuses that could arise from using different devices or platforms to repeat the same action, like collecting free gifts. They also use Cloud Code in Parse Core to perform validations before saving users’ progress, use scheduled jobs to send e-mails to users with promotions for upcoming events, and are in the process of developing new social features using Cloud Code and scheduled jobs.

One important Parse Core feature for the app is Social Login. The app allows people to log in with Facebook via the Parse Facebook SDK so they don’t need to create an account and remember new usernames and passwords. With a core aspect of the game’s structure dependent on social interaction, and Facebook sitting at #1 in social gaming, enabling Facebook Login with Parse was an easy decision for the team. The team has also found that having users log in with Facebook allows them to offer users more options to earn virtual currency, share the experience with their friends, compete on the leaderboards, and other new features that are still in development.

Company co-founder Gonzalo Oxenford reports that,

From our experience, Parse is a great solution for small teams that cannot afford to develop and maintain their own servers (and is worth it for large teams as well). We were looking for an OODB when we ran into Parse, and quickly fell in love with features like Push and Cloud Code. It is very well documented, easy and intuitive to use. Parse is a growing community, which means you’ll see a very active forum were you can learn from others’ experiences. They are constantly supporting the tool and adding new features, which makes it more interesting. The Basic plan is free and offers a generous free quota so you can try Parse by yourself and see if it fits your needs.

With 1M installs since launch, 300k monthly active users and 115k daily active users, it’s no surprise that Xtreme slots has reached as high as #150 in the US iPad App Store’s overall top grossing apps. And, at #24 in the overall grossing apps in the Australian iPhone App Store, it’s currently the second most downloaded casino app in Australia.

Download Xtreme Slots on iOS today or play on Facebook Canvas now. Also keep an eye out for the Android release, coming soon!

Courtney Witmer
April 4, 2014

FOX International Channels Uses Parse Push to Keep Audiences Engaged

FOX International Channels (FIC), part of 21st Century FOX (NewsCorp), is one of the top globalized TV businesses. Recognizing the need to create an online strategy to continue its growth, FIC set up departments in global regions focused on creating digital content. With Latin America emerging as the most developed region, Leonardo Rosales, Web Production Executive Director for Fox Latin American Channels, turned to Parse to power Push notifications for their mobile strategy.

FOX Sports Review on an Macbook on the left and Copa Bridgestone Libertadores on an iPhone 5 on the right.

Charged with developing mobile and web apps on all major platforms that will attract both new and existing users, Leonardo oversees the development of mobile apps for FIC brands. Beginning with a focus in Latin America, the team has developed two apps that use Parse Push to keep their audiences engaged.

Inspired by the success of a 2010 World Cup Facebook game built in partnership with Three Melons that had 17M installs in 6 months, the team adjusted to the new mobile market with Fox Sports Review. A soccer game built on Unity and available on Facebook (and coming to iOS and Android in April), the app lets you re-play the best goals in history.

The second app is a companion to Copa Bridgestone Libertadores, the most popular club soccer tournament in Latin America. Created after the team decided not to have a central sports app but to build one app for each tournament to get the best of organic traffic and appeal to specific segments, the app provides minute-by-minute coverage of games, news, videos, and galleries. One of the most exciting features, though, is that Leonardo’s team is integrating the live TV coverage with Parse-powered push notifications to enable TV audiences to participate in polls, with live results posted to TV using web services. Currently in beta testing, the team hopes to have the feature available by the first half of April, 2014.

According to Leonardo, if they hadn’t decided to use Parse for Push,

It would have taken a lot of time and resources for us to implement our own solution. Our developers would have to start from scratch: learn how to do it, best practices, etc. and then implement it. We don’t have the IT infrastructure, and don’t know how to build it, so it would have been a pain to put everything together. Parse is already up and running for a budget price.

Copa Bridgestone Libertadores is available to soccer fans now on iOS and Android, with over 600,000 installs to date. Fox Sports Review is now available on Facebook here and will be available on iOS and Android in April. The FOX International Channels and FOX Sports teams also have several more exciting Parse-powered apps on their road map over the next few months, so stay tuned for those as well!

Courtney Witmer
March 28, 2014

CyberAgent Uses Parse Push to Power Pashaoku Auction App

CyberAgent iTunes App Store screenshotsCyberAgent, Inc. is a leading online media and advertising company based in Tokyo, Japan. In addition to their media ventures, the company also develops social games and other apps, including Ameba, a popular Japanese blogging platform. CyberAgent came to Parse when they developed Pashaoku, a user-to-user auction service that became a subsidiary company, Pashaoku, Inc., in February of 2013.

Pashaoku (パシャオク) was designed with ease of use in mind, enabling users to create auction listings in less than 30 seconds. Optimized for smartphones, the app was developed based on the idea that all someone needs to post an auction is to snap a picture. In fact, the name says it all: “pasha” is the word for the “click” of a camera shutter, and “oku” is an abbreviation of the word for “auction.”

In addition to allowing people to create their own instant auctions, the company collaborates with celebrities to auction personal items and opportunities to participate in special events with them. For example, the chance to go on a triple-date with Japanese comedy trio “Panther” was recently auctioned off for ¥567,001 (about $5,600 USD).

The team working on Pashaoku turned to Parse when they started looking for a service to send mass push notifications to users on both iOS and Android. Parse’s Push services became the main draw for CyberAgent, who use it to send out targeted notifications to users. For example, when someone creates a new auction, a notification is sent to all of his or her followers.

In addition to push, Pashaoku also stores targeting data in Parse. App developer Caesar Wirth, an iOS and Android developer who worked on the iOS version of Pashaoku, explains that, “Since Parse is so flexible, it is easy to add or remove targeting criteria. We keep Parse synchronized with our own database, so everything is always up to date.” After using Parse in Pashaoku, Caesar continues:

I am a big fan of the data querying system and history log. We send pushes to certain subsets of users, and some of our queries can get a little complex. Parse handles it all. Afterwards, we can look back and see everything we sent, and to whom, so we can reproduce anything we want.

Parse provides such a stable and flexible infrastructure, that it would take many man hours to develop something internal. With the correct strategy, you could probably have something up and running within a matter of days as opposed to weeks. Even a free account provides many of the benefits.

With 520K+ downloads on iOS and 300K+ on Android, Pashaoku is still going strong long after its initial release. You can learn more about CyberAgent and the story behind its success here.

Courtney Witmer
March 26, 2014

Concrete Software Uses Parse for Push in PBA® Bowling Challenge

PBA Bowling being played on a white iPhone 5Concrete Software is a 25 person company in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a passion for building and publishing “rock solid” mobile games. Building games for feature phones (using J2ME), BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Palm OS since 2003, one of their biggest hits to date is PBA® Bowling Challenge. A freemium bowling game with multiplayer, career mode, more than 10 tournaments, and the real PBA players to play against, the app was built through close work with the Professional Bowlers Association.

Concrete Software turned to Parse to add push notifications to their apps. They use notifications to push relevant information to players, such as advertisements for limited sales and important updates with significant bug fixes or additions. Co-founder Keith Pichelman appreciates that, “Parse makes push messages simple without having to host messaging servers ourselves. We’re also excited about the recent addition to support Google Cloud Messaging (GCM).”

Regularly appearing in the top 50 grossing top 50 most downloaded US Arcade and US Sports apps, the app has also been featured in the iTunes Store in countries around the world and has over 8 million installs to date. You can play PBA® Bowling Challenge on Facebook and download it for free download on iOS and Android.

Courtney Witmer
March 21, 2014