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What are WebSockets?

WebSockets are a communication protocol that provides two-way, full-duplex communications between an application and a server over a long-lasting connection.

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Unlike HTTP requests, WebSockets allow for real-time, bidirectional communication between the client application and the server that persists until the connection is terminated. Apps that require instant updates or frequent data exchanges (e.g., in-app messaging) often use WebSockets, as this protocol eliminates the data overhead of repeatedly opening and closing connections.

Key features of WebSockets

  • Full-duplex communication: WebSockets enable simultaneous two-way communication between client and server, allowing each to send data independently without waiting for the other to initiate communication.

  • Persistent connection: Unlike HTTP methods that close the connection after each request-response cycle, WebSockets allow continuous data exchange by remaining open until termination.

  • Low latency: Since there’s no need to reestablish a connection, WebSockets allow for low-latency communication that’s essential to real-time applications.

  • Efficient data transfer: Compared to HTTP requests and responses, WebSockets offer a lightweight protocol that works to exchange data quickly.

  • Less network traffic: WebSockets reduce the data overhead of networks by keeping the connection open, thereby reducing the need to send metadata like headers repeatedly.

Use cases supported by WebSockets

  • Real-time chat: WebSockets enable instant messaging and real-time chat functionality, allowing messages to be sent and received without delay.

  • Real-time collaboration: WebSockets can be used to build collaborative applications where multiple users can edit or interact with shared content simultaneously.

  • Live updates: WebSockets facilitate the delivery of live updates or notifications, such as the current stock prices, game scores, or social media feeds.

  • Push notifications: WebSockets push updates and notifications from the API server to the application in real time.
  • Live streaming and online gaming: WebSockets allow large online user groups to communicate simultaneously without lag or heavy network traffic.

WebSockets are a communication protocol used in client-server communication. It’s valuable for real-time chat, live streaming, online gaming, and other use cases that rely on two-way communications at scale.

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