Welcome!

Related Topics: IoT User Interface, Agile Computing

IoT User Interface: Article

Instant Instant Messaging: Just Add Web Sockets

Chat requires full-duplex communication

Chat rooms and live peer-to-peer chat on the web are high on the list of stunning rich application features that can still drop jaws. Facebook recently launched an integrated web chat implementation to much fanfare. Their impressive Erlang and C++ chat infrastructure showcases real-time web techniques and live, interactive interface elements. However, following Facebook's lead is actually not that hard if you use the right approach.

The two main difficulties faced by Facebook, Google, or any other web giant that wishes to deploy a chat application are scaling out an inconceivably large messaging back end and sending real-time messages to the browser. The first problem is one that many of us would like to have, but few actually encounter. The second problem is getting much, much easier to solve. Web chat is about to go mainstream, thanks in large part to a new HTML 5 feature called Web Sockets.

Chat Is Full-Duplex; the Web Is Not
The challenges in bringing real-time messaging (chat, for example) to web applications stem from the fundamental design of the web. It is, after all, a system designed for navigating hypertext documents. The request-response model is perfect for document retrieval, but it's less perfect for an application platform. Some applications are exceptionally bad fits.

Chat requires full-duplex communication. That is, data must be able to flow bidirectionally. This is a clear necessity for chat, as messages may originate on either the server or the client and must be transmitted without delay. After all, instant messaging is of little use if it isn't instantaneous. HTTP explicitly eliminates the ability to send information over the network in either direction at will at the same time.

Since nearly anything is possible, some tenacious developers have shoehorned full-duplex communication into existing web browsers. Comet long-polling, iframe streaming, and other techniques have all been applied in pursuit of this goal. Each technique has weaknesses, however, and even Comet techniques that allow data to stream down from the server cannot avoid initiating a new request for each upstream message. While a new request might not seem like much, each HTTP action causes several hundred bytes of header data to be generated, transmitted, and parsed. Even when bandwidth and computing resources are cheap, the additional latency incurred by a full round trip hurts real-time interactivity.

Using today's browser technology for both upstream and downstream, there is significant overhead to real-time communication. Despite this, some have been willing to stomach the complexity and inefficiency to run applications like chat on the web without succumbing to the temptation of proprietary plugins.

HTML 5 Web Sockets
The HTML 5 standard specifies new APIs for storage, drawing, drag-and-drop, and other areas that have made web programming painful. Browsers have already begun incorporating parts of HTML 5 (canvas, for example) even though the specification is far from complete. The HTML 5 Communication section includes two additional connectivity features: Server-Sent Events, a standardization of HTTP push, and Web Sockets, a cross-domain safe, full-duplex connection. Server-Sent Events will make real-time updates and notifications easy, and Web Sockets provide the functionality necessary to build chat for the web without the previously required hackery.

More Stories By Frank Salim

Frank Salim is a polyglot programmer with a keen interest in making life easier for his fellow coders. He leads WebSocket development at Kaazing and is the front man for Kaazing's open source project at kaazing.org. Salim is an open source advocate and a committer in several open source projects. He is a regular author and contributor to the online tech magazine Comet Daily.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
393rocker 11/02/09 10:02:00 AM EST

do u have a source code of implementing IM? if i start from the scratch..

Latest Stories
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Niagara Networks will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
We’ve been doing it for years, decades for some. How many websites have you created accounts on? Your bank, your credit card companies, social media sites, hotels and travel sites, online shopping sites, and that’s just the start. We do it often without even thinking about it, quickly entering our personal information, our data, in a plethora of systems. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the information we are providing. It could be very personal information (think of the security questions you ...
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Tintri VM-aware storage is the simplest for virtualized applications and cloud. Organizations including GE, Toyota, United Healthcare, NASA and 6 of the Fortune 15 have said “No to LUNs.” With Tintri they mana...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
Whether they’re located in a public, private, or hybrid cloud environment, cloud technologies are constantly evolving. While the innovation is exciting, the end mission of delivering business value and rapidly producing incremental product features is paramount. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Kiran Chitturi, CTO Architect at Sungard AS, will discuss DevOps culture, its evolution of frameworks and technologies, and how it is achieving maturity. He will also cover various st...
Creating replica copies to tolerate a certain number of failures is easy, but very expensive at cloud-scale. Conventional RAID has lower overhead, but it is limited in the number of failures it can tolerate. And the management is like herding cats (overseeing capacity, rebuilds, migrations, and degraded performance). Download Slide Deck: ▸ Here In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing for the HGST Cloud Infrastructure Business Unit, discusse...
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...