Apple has quietly added a server-side API to CloudKit, following an announcement on the developer news blog. This will enable developers to add a lot of functionality to apps powered by CloudKit, enabling developers to interact with the iCloud CloudKit database outside of user interaction with iOS, Mac or web apps. The web service API enables developers to run independent code on servers that can add, delete and modify records in the CloudKit stack.
Until now, interaction with CloudKit has been limited to the APIs Apple provided in apps. Although this was useful, it lacked the options for more advanced use — most modern apps rely on servers to perform tasks whilst users are away. With the addition of the web API, developers can create many more types of applications using CloudKit as the backend. For instance, an RSS reader app can now add new feed items to the CloudKit stack from the server. Before, this action could only occur when a user opened a CloudKit-powered app, which was essentially impractical and meant developers had to use other tools.
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Expect CloudKit adoption to rise with this announcement. The server capabilities dramatically increase the chance that a developer can use CloudKit for their new app where they wouldn’t have been able to before, as so many modern apps rely on some kind of persistent server component. The lack of native SDKs for non-Apple platforms may continue to limit uptake, however.
Parse, a similar cloud framework, has recently announced it will shut down next year. With the inclusion of a server side request endpoint, CloudKit is now positioned to fully replace Parse as a cloud database engine. The timing of the CloudKit announcement is probably coincidental, but it serves to attract ex-Parse users who are now actively looking for a new platform to build on. Developers can find more information on adopting the new CloudKit features here. For users, expect to see more capable iOS and Mac apps built on top of CloudKit in the future.