What Is WebSocket: Introduction And Usage

Introduction to WebSockets, its usage, and why to use PieSocket's managed WebSocket Server API

What is WebSocket?

WebSocket is a computer communication protocol that operates over HTTP, and it provides a two-way communication channel between a client and a server. It works over the HTTP protocol and is implemented using the “HTTP upgrade header.”

In short, any URL that starts with “ws://” (non-secure) or “wss://” (secure) points to a WebSocket Server. They usually operate on ports 80 and 433, respectively.

Usage of WebSockets

Imagine a scenario where you want to inform a user on your website/app of a change on the server or database without reloading the whole page/screen.

You can either use HTTP polling (making REST API calls each x second to fetch status) or WebSockets.

WebSockets are way more efficient than HTTP polling in following ways:

  • Less memory/CPU usage
  • Fewer internet data usage
  • Faster than polling
  • Easier to implement

Unlike HTTP requests, a WebSocket connection stays open, and the server can send downstream data to the client anytime during the connection lifetime.

You can see WebSockets in use on almost every interactive modern website or app. Few examples are Facebook chat, Location tracking apps, Stock market monitoring websites, etc.

How to use WebSockets

Two components create a WebSocket system.

  • A WebSocket client
  • A WebSocket server

WebSocket Client

Your browser is the best example of a WebSocket client. All modern browsers support WebSocket API, which is used to connect to a WebSocket server.

Tutorial: How to use WebSocket with Javascript

If you wish to implement WebSocket with a mobile app, WebSocket client libraries are available for AndroidiOS.

You can develop a custom WebSocket client for any platform that supports HTTP/TCP protocol connections.

WebSocket Server

A WebSocket server is a process running on your system that listens to WebSocket connections and handles the communication with clients trying to connect to it.

There are many libraries available that can help you build a WebSocket server. Following is a list of a few:

Google ” WebSocket server,” and you will probably find an existing library to implement a WebSocket server.

While it is easy to create a WebSocket server, it’s hard to maintain one. If you want to save yourself the time to set up and maintain a scalable WebSocket server cluster, you can use PieSocket’s WebSocket Server API.

I hope this article helps you in your WebSocket journey. Feel free to leave a comment!