What went wrong?

Most observers are scratching their heads over the surprising announcement that Facebook is winding down Parse, the app-hosting service it bought in 2013 as part of a larger effort to woo mobile developers.

Developers will have a year to move their apps off of Facebook’s servers, and can download a version of Parse’s software to run on top of a Node.js server—likely hosted on erstwhile Parse rivals like Salesforce’s Heroku or Amazon Web Services.

A Move That’s Hard To Parse

The move comes after an exceptionally busy year for Parse. Facebook had made Parse the centerpiece of its revived F8 developer conference and expanded it to the Internet of Things.

In retrospect, though, the addition of support for Heroku, a rival app-hosting service, might have presaged this move—not to mention the departure of Parse CEO and cofounder Ilya Sukhar in August, which he told ReadWrite was “very amicable.”

In 2013, Sukhar told ReadWrite that Parse and Facebook together would help developers “build, grow, and monetize” apps and that

“… [as] you watch Parse going forward, Parse will become the underlying layer that people build on and pull in various Facebook services when they need them. That’s how the product will evolve with the union of the two.”

The best read I have on Facebook’s move to shutter Parse is that developers aren’t having trouble with the plumbing anymore. It’s growth and monetization that are the real challenges—and Facebook’s social network and advertising tools take care of those.

Still, the shutdown—even with a year to migrate—casts a shadow over Facebook’s improving relationship with developers, at a time when it needs to woo them to build not just social and mobile apps, but VR apps for Oculus, chat apps for Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and more.

Without Parse, those developers will just have to go elsewhere to start building everything Facebook needs to make the many parts of its online empire work.

Photo of Ilya Sukhar by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite