Building the backend to power your dream app is one of the walls that stops front-end developers from even attempting to prototype their own app designs.
It’s got to run fast but efficiently on whatever infrastructure you decide to use. It has to work with any platform you might build a client for. If something goes wrong, it undermines all of the other work you’ve done to make your customers happy.
Y Combinator-backed Treeline is trying to break down that intimidation by stripping the job of building a backend down to its essence: building the pipelines data flows through in an application or service.
“Building the front end of an application is like putting together a house of cards,” Treeline co-founder and CEO Mike McNeil told me during an interview today. “You have to keep track of a bunch of parts and make a series of precise moves in order to build something that actually looks like a structure. It’s difficult to set up, but if you mess up, the fallout isn’t that bad. Building the backend, however, is like stacking wine glasses: it’s not that hard, but if you make a mistake it’s a bigger issue to deal with.”
Treeline’s approach to backend development might look familiar to those who’ve played with visual scripting tools. Instead of coding out everything yourself (or, more likely, coding out what you have to and piecing together bits from Google and Stack Overflow for the rest), Treeline lets you create “Machines” by inserting pre-made logical bits and filling in what data is needed and what should be done with it.
For now, McNeil says Treeline is primarily for indie developers comfortable building the user-facing side of an app themselves, but who would need assistance to build out a scalable backend. To simplify things for that kind of user even further, the team just rolled out free app hosting, so you don’t need to worry about deploying early builds over to a hosting platform. McNeil himself admits that the new feature is a bit slow at launch, but in the long term he says the plan is to provide app hosting to even the largest users (for a fair fee, of course).