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Polling vs Streaming

Polling and streaming are two distinct methods for data transmission between clients and servers, especially in the context of web applications and APIs. Understanding their differences is crucial for designing efficient and responsive systems.

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  • Polling is a technique where the client periodically sends requests to the server to check for new data.
  • The server processes each request and sends a response, whether or not new data is available.

Key Features

  • Active Client Requests: Client initiates requests at regular intervals.
  • Simple to Implement: Easier to set up compared to streaming.
  • Controlled Frequency: The frequency of requests is defined by the client.

Use Cases

  • Email Clients: Checking for new emails at regular intervals.
  • Social Media Feeds: Updating feeds with new content periodically.
  • System Monitoring: Regularly checking the status of systems or services.



  • Streaming involves establishing a continuous, open connection between the client and the server, allowing data to be sent as soon as it's available.
  • It's more like a continuous flow of data, as opposed to the discrete requests in polling.

Key Features

  • Continuous Data Flow: Data is sent in real-time as it becomes available.
  • Reduced Latency: Immediate data transmission for real-time applications.
  • Server-Initiated Updates: The server sends updates without waiting for a client request.

Use Cases

  • Live Video/Audio Broadcasting: Streaming live media content.
  • Real-Time Analytics: Streaming analytics data as it's generated.
  • Financial Trading Platforms: Real-time updates of market data.

Key Differences

  1. Communication Pattern: Polling involves discrete, periodic requests by the client, while streaming maintains a continuous flow of data.
  2. Data Latency: Streaming provides data with lower latency compared to polling.
  3. Server Load: Streaming can maintain a constant connection, potentially increasing server load, while polling involves repeated separate requests.
  4. Complexity: Streaming is generally more complex to implement and maintain than polling.
  5. Applicability: Streaming is better suited for applications requiring real-time data delivery, while polling is often used for less time-sensitive data.

In conclusion, the choice between polling and streaming should be based on the specific needs of your application, especially regarding real-time data requirements and the capacity to handle server load and complexity.