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Version: 2022sp

Lecture 7

Lecture Slides

Assignment 4 (Due 4/22 at 11:59pm)

Final Project Team Matching Form due Sunday, 4/17 at 11:59 PM (no slip days)


If you have too many .then() calls within each other, you might build a PYRAMID OF DOOM ☠.

Adding the async keyword to a function designates that function as an asynchronous function

Within these async functions we can use await to designate which lines need to be “awaited” upon to resolve

// .then
const fetchData = () => {
.then((response) => response.json())
.then((d) => setData(d));

// async/await
const fetchData = async () => {
const response = await fetch('');
const posts = await response.json();

Intro to Databases and Firebase

A lot of the apps we have been making work and maintain states throughout the lifetime of the app, but lack one critical feature - if we restart the app or refresh the page, all of our data disappears! We need some kind of persistent storage for this data: through—you guessed it—a database.

Why do we need a database for our backend?

  • Data stored within Node.js is per instance
  • Most applications require persistence
  • Data analysis
  • Performant data location
  • Offloading unneeded data from memory

MySQL + Relational Databases

  • Stores data in tables, utilizing rows and tables.
  • Is relational (think a tuple)
  • Has a schema

NoSQL and Firestore

We will focus on NoSQL

  • Many NoSQL implementations are schema-less or have a partial schema
  • Firestore is a cloud-hosted NoSQL database
  • Very flexible and can be used with most popular languages
  • Uses documents to store data
  • Efficient querying for data


  • SQL databases have a predefined schema, whereas NoSQL databases can abide to any structure you want it to.
  • NoSQL databases are better suited for large sets of data, but not for complex queries.
  • SQL databases tend to be less expensive for smaller datasets, but also less flexible.
  • SQL leans towards strong consistency whereas NoSQL favors eventual consistency (i.e. there may be some delay in getting the response back)
  • SQL databases tend to be vertically scalable (need more computing power on one machine to store more data) while NoSQL databases tend to be horizontally scalable (can distribute storage and compute power on multiple machines)
  • Examples of SQL databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL
  • Examples of NoSQL databases: Firebase, MongoDB

What is Firebase?

  • Firebase is a Backend as a Service (BaaS) offered by Google
    • Allows you to store data
    • Host websites
    • Authentication
  • NoSQL DB
    • Not only SQL
    • Non relational

Why Firebase?

  • Real-time operations
  • Firebase Authentication
  • Built-in analytics
  • Also supports hosting/deployment
  • Integration with other Google services
  • Structure we’re familiar with!

Getting Started With Firestore

If you're having trouble setting up your project, feel free to refer to this video of me setting one up from scratch. If you still have questions, feel free to post on Ed or come to Office Hours! Let's finally start talking about how we can perform operations on our database using Typescript.

Firestore Data Model

Firstly, a Firestore database is NOSQL, document-model database generally comprised of multiple collections, which may house differing data. To take a simplified example, a Cornell database could have some of the following collections: people, courses, locations. Certain collections may be broken up into multiple collections, such as breaking up people into staff and students or even into subcollections, which we will not discuss but they exist for those who are interested, as we could simply distinguish different people with a field, such as role: Student | Staff. The id of a collection, which is what is used to access it, is generally a descriptive name of the collection.

A typical model, including that of Firestore, has collections comprised of documents, or docs for short, which would be the "items" we want to store. Going back to our Cornell example, our people collection would probably have documents pertaining to students or staff at Cornell, with each document being uniquely identified by a unique id, like netid. Within each document, we may have fields like age and address, so in this way, documents can be thought of as Objects. But as you may have already noticed, some documents would have fields that others don't - students may have a major field while staff may have a salary field. As it turns out, that's totally ok! Generally speaking, having more uniform document fields across a collection gives stronger guarantees about each document and is often a more natural fit, but Firestore does not require us to have uniform fields within all the documents of a collection, which gives us a layer of flexibility.

Using the following code, we can create references to both the people collection and specific docs such as the jt568 doc (which represents me!).

const peopleCollectionRef = collection(db, 'people');
const jasonDocRef = doc(db, 'people', 'jt568');

For a graphical representation, we can take a look at the slide 38 of Lecture 7. In this example, we are looking at the peter doc (the doc's id is peter) and this document is under the users collection (the collection's id is users). The fields for the peter document are full_name and year. Typically it would not be good practice to just use a first name as a document id because that may not be unique, but we used it anyways for simplicity of demoing.

Firestore Operations

We generally refer to database operations as CRUD, which stands for:

  • Create/Insert - Create a document (will fail if the document exists)
  • Read/Find/Query - To search for documents based on their properties
  • Update - Update an existing document (will fail otherwise)
  • Delete - Delete an existing document


To create a document in Firestore, we primarily use the setDoc function. Here's an example of setting a document in our people database.

await setDoc(jasonDocRef, { year: '2023', notes_writer: true });

setDoc will write to the document jason within the people collection, creating it if it does not yet exist.

An alternative approach if you strictly want to add and never overwrite a doc is addDoc. Here's the same code but using addDoc.

await addDoc(peopleCollectionRef, { year: '2023', notes_writer: true });

Note, though, that using the latter means the generated will be random, so you would probably want to add the name into a field. The same behavior with autogenerated ids can be replicated with setDoc by omitting the name of the document in the doc() call.


To read data in Firestore, we first need to take a snapshot of the data we want to read. Then, we check if that snapshot of the document we want actually exists before trying to extract its data.

Here's a simple example logging my data. Notice I log and not docSnap because the former is where the data actually resides.

const docSnap = await getDoc(jasonDocRef);
if (docSnap.exists()) {
console.log('Document data:',;
} else {
console.log('No such document!');

We can also perform querying on collections, where we filter the database with certain criteria. Here's a simple example of looking for all people in people who are in the year 2023.

const query = query(peopleCollectionRef, where('year', '==', 2023));
const querySnapshot = await getDocs(query);
querySnapshot.forEach((doc) => {
console.log(, ' => ',;

Line by line, we first construct a query for the collection that narrows it down for us. Next, we take a snapshot of all such documents in the query, and lastly, we perform the same approach. We do not need to check if each doc exists because we are using a for loop, and if a doc does not exist, it simply would not be part of the for loop.

We can also order our search results. Here is an example of ordering by alphabetical order descending.

const query = query(peopleCollectionRef, orderBy('name', desc));
// using getDocs to get all documents that match
const querySnapshot = await getDocs(query);
querySnapshot.forEach((doc) => {
console.log(, ' => ',;

We can actually combine multiple queryConstraints (like where and orderBy) by listing them out as multiple parameters within query.


Updating a document will only replace the specified fields within a doc and maintain unmodified fields. So the following code keep the notes_writer field but change year and cat_or_dog.

await updateDoc(jasonDocRef, { year: '2022', cat_or_dog: 'cat' });


Deleting a document removes it from the collection.

await deleteDoc(jasonDocRef);

Sample code

This week's sample code can be found in the files under this directory.