Random Thoughts by Fabien Penso

Sunsetting Faast

TL;DR — I’ve decided to sunset Faast, the Push app I’ve been running for years. Expect it to stop working within weeks, probably by the end of April. I’ll switch to using Reeder myself for my RSS feeds, I didn’t find anything for push.

Faast is a push application I’ve created years ago, with its previous version Push4 back to 2009. The Appstore has changed a lot since, and you’ve probably already read many blog posts from indie developers saying they can’t make a living from it. That’s true now more than ever, and the only sustainable way to be an iOS developer full time is to freelance for other bigger brands (I’m glad I don’t have to do that, I’ve been a CTO for various projects for years).

I’ve been running Faast at my loss for years, mostly because I use it daily. The difference between Faast and most other mobile apps is it required servers, and those are very expensive to run. They gathered RSS feeds, tweets and emails for you, and sent pushes through Apple Push Notification servers. Faast had a specific case: it required high server-wise skills, and high frontend-wise skills as well. I know both sides, but it still involves way too much work and Apple makes it hard for developers. You have to spend time every year to update your app, add features and make sure new iOS releases don’t break your app.

AppStore users aren’t willing to pay for products any more, unless it includes candies and expensive in-app purchases for skipping levels. They don’t understand how difficult it is to write an application like Faast, and they complain very easily without remembering the app developer is a real Human, who they don’t need to threat. I’m happy to be out of the Apple Appstore too.

I’d like to publicly thanks K. Payandeh who designed the Application icon and helped so much about the design. I love this icon and I’m sad to see it go, it felt like part of my iPhone for so long.

Faast servers and technologies

Server wise, Faast used 12 servers (used to be on 2 but I switch back to more smaller servers) and its monthly cost went from €350 per month to about €160 recently, but I’d expect most other developers to pay more than that. I’ve optimized them a lot.

A lot of technologies were involved in Faast, like:

  • PubSubHubBub: trying to make RSS feeds real-time, I’d say about 30% of the feeds I was fetching had it enabled;

  • Apple Push Notifications;

  • Ansible: for provisioning;

  • DigitalOcean: for cheaper servers, I used to have bare-metal servers but these days they don’t make sense;

  • A Ruby on Rails 4.2 stack (the upgrade from previous version was painful);

  • Sidekiq: This is a must use for anyone using a Ruby framework. I processed hundreds of millions jobs through it;

If I had to write this project from the ground up now, I would probably move to AWS Lambdas with ServerLess or Google Cloud Functions.

Numbers at the time of this post

  • 92,665 users, 99 paid users (monthly plans). That’s 0.1% but it includes users all the way back from June 2009;
  • 158,668 RSS feeds;
  • 10,326 Twitter accounts;
  • 6,050 connected devices;

Thank you if you were one of the user, I’m as sad to see it go than you are. I’ll trash the servers, delete all pushes, all tokens and credentials by the end of April.