3 Reasons To Think Offline First

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The increasing reliance on apps, mobile devices and an internet connection means that we want to be connected wherever and whenever we want. As much as this connectivity has become a minimum requirement for people, the technology to support this can often fall short.

To build applications that are truly always available, you need to take an offline first approach. Offline First means building your application from the ground up with an expectation that networks fail, there are coverage blind spots and users don’t care about much of this; they just want their app to work.

To highlight some of the key thinking behind offline first, let’s have a look at three key projects that have happened recently.

  1. HospitalRun

HospitalRun is a great example of why people are so passionate about offline first, and a reminder of its importance. Designed to allow medical records to be carried to remote clinics, HospitalRun is tailor-made for usability at healthcare facilities in the developing world.

HospitalRun is an open source Ember application that uses PouchDB – the in-browser version of Apache CouchDB – to function when there’s no internet connection, and CouchDB to sync when there is. HospitalRun shows the world-changing potential of offline first.

  1. Apache CouchDB 2.0 Release

CouchDB is one of the core databases for people who build for offline first. Last year saw the release of CouchDB 2.0, which added new capabilities brought in from the BigCouch fork created by the IBM Cloudant team. The whole notion of offline replication comes from CouchDB, so offline first is a key driver for CouchDB users.

CouchDB 2.0 allows users to access a big data cluster pulling up and down to all of their devices. Some of the biggest benefits this clustering brings with CouchDB 2.0 are:

  • Fault tolerance: data can be stored on more than one machine, eliminating the need for manual failover instances.
  • Performance: data sharding distributes workloads across multiple nodes in a cluster, reducing the amount of work of each individual machine.
  • Capacity: storing data in multiple nodes means that you’re not limited to the capacity of one machine, providing required scalability.

Listen to the New Builders podcast interview with leading CouchDB committers Jan Lenhardt and Robert Newson, discussing the CouchDB 2.0 launch.

  1. PouchDB Updates

PouchDB is the open source, JavaScript database designed to run within a browser. Inspired by CouchDB, Pouch is a great tool for developers looking to build applications that can work offline as well as online. June 2016 saw the release of version 5.4.0, which finally unbundled its core modules, breaking up its old architecture to support users who want their PouchDB experience to be slimmer or more customised.

Over its six-year life cycle to date, the codebase of PouchDB had steadily crept up. It also includes some large native dependencies that could take a long time to run on the first installation of node programs. This decoupling of modules has opened up a lot of possibilities to mix-and-match when building your own version of PouchDB.

Listen to two New Builders podcast interviews with leading PouchDB community members on hand for Offline Camp California – Nolan Lawson and Max Ogden,.

Offline Events

With the community being focused on being offline, it takes that thinking to its events. No digital conference or hotel suite presentation, the Offline Camp philosophy brings people back to their school holiday roots with a disconnected, open thinking environment designed to foster collaboration and innovation. Centred around a series of passion talks, attendees can brainstorm and develop their thinking for disconnected applications.

This Spring, Offline Camp is coming to Europe for the first time. The event will take place in Berlin on April 28- May 1. Sadly, it is already sold out, but you can add your name to the wait-list if you’re eager to get involved.

Why not take a look at Cloudant, IBM’s DBaaS, built for modern applications that want to work seamlessly in a disconnected world?

Visit IBM Marketplace to learn more and / or don’t hesitate to contact me at  if you are having any questions.

Cloud Data Services Representative

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