How to use the Firebase Database to keep a list of Firebase Authentication users

Handling User Account Data in the Realtime Database

The Firebase auth system is the source of a users uid, displayName, photoURL, and maybe email. Password based accounts set these persistent values in the auth system via the .updateProfile method. Storing these values in the Realtime Database, rDB, users node poses the issue of stale data. Display names, for example, may change. To keep these values in synch use local storage in concert with .onAuthStateChange.

on every .onAuthStateChange

  • getItem('displayName') and getItem('photoURL')
  • compare to user.displayName and user.photoURL
  • if different
    • setItem('displayName') and setItem('photoURL')
    • db.ref.child('users').update the values of displayName and/or photoURL

.onAuthStateChange fires on every page load or reload, as well as on every auth state change. It potentially fires often, e.g. multi page apps. However reading and writing to local storage is synchronous and very fast so there will be no noticeable impact on app performance.

How to save user profile data

Every authenticated user has a Firebase uid that's unique across all providers and is returned in the result of every authentication method.

A good way to store your user's data is to create a node to keep all the users's data and to protect it using your security rules

- Database

{
   "users": {
      "uid1" : {
         "name": "Steve",
         "surname": "Jobs"
      },
      "uid2" : {
         "name": "Bill",
         "surname": "Gates"
      }
   }
}

- Security

{
    "rules": {
        "users": {
            "$uid": {
                // If node's key matches the id of the auth user
                ".write": "$uid == auth.uid"
            }
        }
    }
}

The $uid in the above rules is a so-called "dollar variable", which ensures that the rules under it are applied to all child nodes of users. For more information see the documentation on Using $ Variables to Capture Path Segments.

Why save user data in the database

Firebase Authentication allows the users of your app to sign-in with social providers or their email+password. But what if you want to store additional information about a user, beyond what Firebase Authentication allows you to specify?

Or what if you want to display a list of the users in your app? Firebase Authentication doesn't have an API for this.

Most developers solve this problem by storing the additional information in a separate database. This topic covers how to store such information in the Firebase Realtime Database.