Horizon is a realtime, open-source backend for JavaScript apps.
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RethinkDB Fusion

RethinkDB Fusion is an open-source developer platform for building realtime, scalable web apps. It is built on top of RethinkDB, and allows app developers to get started with building modern, engaging apps without writing any backend code.

NOTE: "Fusion" is a codename that we'll likely change in the future. See https://github.com/rethinkdb/fusion/issues/7.

Fusion consists of two components:

  • Fusion server -- a middleware server that connects to/is built on top of RethinkDB, and exposes a simple API/protocol to front-end applications.
  • Fusion client library -- a JavaScript client library that wraps Fusion server's protocol in a convenient API for front-end developers.

The first version of Fusion will expose the following services to developers:

  • Sync -- a streaming API for building realtime apps directly from the browser without writing any backend code.
  • Auth -- an authentication API that connects to common auth providers (e.g. Facebook, Google, GitHub).
  • Identity -- an API for listing and manipulating user accounts.
  • Permissions -- a security model that allows the developer to protect the data from unauthorized access.
  • Geolocation -- an API that makes it very easy to build location-aware apps.
  • Session management -- manage browser session and session information.
  • Presence -- an API for detecting presence information for a given user and sharing it with others.

Upcoming versions of Fusion will likely expose the following additional services:

  • Plugins -- a system for extending Fusion with user-defined services in a consistent, discoverable way.
  • Backend -- an API/protocol to integrate custom backend code with Fusion server/client-libraries.

Why Fusion?

While RethinkDB is poised to be an excellent database for building realtime apps, empirically there is still too much friction for most developers. To get started they have to learn ReQL, understand changefeeds, and figure out how to thread changefeeds through their backend code. The learning curve is quite steep, and most of the initial work involves boilerplate code that's pretty far removed from the primary task of building a realtime app.

Fusion sets out to solve this problem. Developers can start building apps using their favorite front-end framework using Fusion's APIs without having to write any backend code.

Since Fusion stores data in RethinkDB, once the app gets sufficiently complex to need custom business logic on the backend, developers can incrementally add backend code at any time in the development cycle of their app.


How do you start Fusion?

This is still being designed, but roughly it will look like this:

# Start RethinkDB
$ rethinkdb

# In another terminal, start Fusion
$ fusion --rethinkdb-host localhost --rethinkdb-port 28015
Clients can connect directly from the browser on port 8181

What does the code look like?

The API is still in development, but roughly here is what you'd write on the front-end for a todo list application:

// Connect to fusion
this.fusion = new Fusion('localhost:8181');

// When a user adds a todo item
onAddItem: function(e) {
    item: this.state.text;

// Listen to updates from other users
init: function() {
      .on('added', function(item) {
        // add the item to the data model
      .on('removed', function(item) {
        // remove the item from the data model

How is Fusion different from Firebase?

There are a few major differences:

  • Fusion is open-source. You can run it on your laptop, deploy it to the cloud, or deploy it to any infrastructure you want.
  • Fusion will allow you to build complex enterprise apps, not just basic applications with limited functionality. Since Fusion stores data in RethinkDB, once your app grows beyond the basic Fusion API, you can start adding backend code of arbitrary complexity that has complete access to a fully-featured database.
  • Since Fusion is build on RethinkDB, we'll be able to expose services that are much more sophisticated than simple document sync (e.g. realtime analytics, streams on joined tables, etc.)

How is Fusion different from Meteor?

Fusion has philosophical and technical differences with Meteor that will result in vastly different developer experiences.

Fusion is a small layer on top of RethinkDB with a narrow, purpose-built API designed to make it very easy to get started building realtime apps without backend code. Fusion isn't prescriptive -- you can use any front-end framework without any magic/customizations, and once your app outgrows the Fusion API you can use any backend technology (e.g. Node.js, Python, Ruby) and any backend framework (e.g. Rails, Express, Koa, etc.)

By contrast, Meteor is a much more prescriptive framework. Fusion is a reasonably small component that has a very clean separation with the database and the frontend, while Meteor is a much more monolithic experience.

Another major difference is architectural -- Meteor uses a LiveQuery component built by tailing MongoDB's oplog. This approach is fundamentally limited -- it's impossible to do many operations efficiently, and even the basic functionality is extremely difficult to scale.

Fusion is built on RethinkDB, so the LiveQuery functionality is in the database. This allows for much more sophisticated streaming operations (e.g. feeds on joins and aggregations once RethinkDB supports them), and scalability is dramatically simpler because the database has all the necessary information to allow for a scalable feeds implementation.

How will Fusion be licensed?

We still have to figure out the exact license, but Fusion will be fully open-source (we'll probably use MIT or Apache).

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