WebSockets are a computer communications protocol that provide data and information between two parties over a single connection. WebSockets are a great way to add real-time functionality to your app, revolutionizing the web development space as we know it. In this article, we’ll discuss eight Node.js WebSocket libraries that you should consider in 2022:
To get started with any of these libraries, you’ll need to install npm and Node.js on your local machine. Before jumping in, let’s cover some important background on WebSockets.
How do WebSockets work?
Traditionally, a client and a server communicate by following the request/response cycle. However, WebSockets allow you to communicate between a client and a server in a nonstandard way.
WebSockets provide an open connection between the server and the client, allowing for easy, immediate, two-way communication between the server and the client without polling the server. WebSockets are particularly useful for building real-time applications, like real-time messaging, live streaming, push notifications, tracking, financial updates, and sports updates, to name a few.
Now that we know how WebSockets work, let’s take a look at a few Node.js libraries that you can use to make developing with WebSockets easier.
With over 7k stars on GitHub and almost 7 million weekly downloads on npm at the time of writing, SockJS is arguably one of the best WebSocket libraries for Node.js. SockJS follows the rules of the HTML5 WebSocket API and provides objects similar to WebSocket.
ws is a fast, easy-to-use, well-documented, and thoroughly-tested WebSocket client and server implementation that supports almost all browsers. As a result, ws is a favorite, go-to library for many developers, meaning its community is active and robust.
Installing ws is pretty simple and can be done with one of the following commands:
npm install ws // npm i ws
To get started with the ws WebSocket library, check out the documentation.
npm install --save-optional bufferutil
The command above allows you to efficiently perform operations like masking and unmasking the data payload of the WebSocket frames.
npm install --save-optional utf-8-validate
To efficiently check whether a message contains a valid UTF-8, run the command above.
Created in 2010, Socket.IO is a popular WebSocket library used by various large companies like Trello and Microsoft. Socket.IO is reliable, offering features like load balancing, support for binary streaming, handling proxies, and more.
Additionally, Socket.IO includes features like supporting connections established in the presence of proxies or load balancers and broadcasting over a network. WebSocket does not support either of these activities.
With nearly 55k stars on GitHub and about 3 million downloads on npm weekly, Socket.IO is a great library to keep an eye on in 2022. The documentation is very straightforward, meaning even an inexperienced developer should be able to get started in little to no time.
Extracted from the Faye project, Faye WebSocket is a multi-purpose WebSocket that makes it easy to command the pre-existing WebSocket connections in a Node.js app.
Faye WebSocket provides only the standard WebSocket API and the necessary classes for building WebSocket clients and servers in Node. It does not provide the server itself or offer any other abstractions.
To install Faye WebSocket, run
npm install faye-WebSocket. The README part of the Faye project provides the necessary documentation for getting started.
SocketCluster is a highly scalable framework and a real-time HTTP server engine that enables you to build multi-process, real-time servers using all of the available CPU cores at once. With SocketCluster, the backend avoids running the Node.js server as a single thread, working more efficiently and remaining resilient.
The SocketCluster framework supports client-server and group communication through pub/sub channels. It uses local area networks (LAN) to connect the components of clusters. SocketCluster is optimized to recover from a failure or disconnection easily and without data loss.
Sockette is a WebSocket wrapper that allows you to reuse instances without having to declare all event listeners multiple times. Sockette is a very lightweight library, just about 367 bytes according to the GitHub page. If a connection is lost, Sockette automatically reconnects.
Considering that Sockette is a small tool, it is best to declare all event listeners at the point of initialization. To install and get started with Sockette, run the command below:
npm install -- save sockette
The Feathers framework uses the Socket.IO module so that you receive and give updates in real-time. It also gives you control over your data through sockets, flexible plugins, and a RESTful API and resources.
Feathers offers the ultimate combination of automation and control. With Feathers, you can maintain complete control over how your API acts while still benefiting from the tools supplied.
At the time of writing, the project has almost 14k stars on GitHub and 26k weekly downloads on npm. Feathers also includes an excellent documentation and is well known for being lightweight and easy to integrate with different databases.
To install the Feathers.js library, run the command below:
npm install -g @feathersjs/cli
In this article, we reviewed eight libraries for using WebSocket in Node.js, covering the features, popularity, and documentation for each. We also covered some background on how WebSockets offer real-time communication between the client and server. These libraries are worth keeping an eye on in 2022 when you’re building Node.js applications. I hope you enjoyed this article!
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