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Websocket vs WebRTC

Today, we're covering two technologies that have transformed the way we build real-time applications on the web: WebSocket and WebRTC. What's the difference between the two? Which one should you use for your next project? Let's dive in and explore these two technologies together, defining each, comparing their strengths and weaknesses, and discussing when you might want to use one over the other.

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What is a WebSocket?

WebSocket is a communication protocol that enables full-duplex, bi-directional communication between a client (typically a web browser) and a server over a single, long-lived connection. This connection helps overcome the limitations of traditional HTTP, where communication is initiated by the client and limited to request-response cycles. WebSocket is fantastic for applications that require real-time updates or live interactions, such as chat applications, online gaming, or stock trading platforms.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC, short for Web Real-Time Communication, is a set of open-source protocols and APIs that allow web browsers to establish real-time, peer-to-peer (P2P) communication without the need for any additional plugins or extensions. WebRTC enables users to stream audio, video, and data directly between browsers, making it perfect for video conferencing, live streaming, or P2P file sharing applications.

Comparing WebSocket and WebRTC

Now that we've defined WebSocket and WebRTC, let's talk about how they compare.

Communication model: WebSocket enables bi-directional communication between a client and a server. In contrast, WebRTC enables peer-to-peer communication between clients (browsers), with servers playing a limited role in the initial connection setup and signaling.

Connection setup: WebSocket connections are established through a single handshake process with a server, while WebRTC requires a more complex process involving the exchange of signaling data (e.g., SDP, ICE candidates) between peers to establish a direct connection.

Data transfer: WebSocket is primarily used for exchanging text and binary data, while WebRTC supports a broader range of data types, including audio, video, and generic data channels.

Latency: WebRTC's peer-to-peer communication often results in lower latency compared to WebSocket, as data doesn't need to travel through a server, which can be especially beneficial for real-time applications, such as video conferencing or online gaming.

Examples of when to use each technology:

Now that we've compared WebSocket and WebRTC, let's discuss some scenarios where you might want to use one over the other.


Chat applications: WebSocket is a fantastic choice for chat applications that require real-time communication between users and servers, enabling instant message delivery and updates.

Live updating dashboards: WebSocket's bi-directional communication makes it perfect for updating dashboards with real-time data from a server, such as monitoring systems or analytics platforms.


Video conferencing: WebRTC's ability to handle real-time audio and video streams makes it the go-to technology for building video conferencing applications.

P2P file sharing: Since WebRTC enables direct communication between browsers, it's a great choice for building P2P file sharing applications that don't require intermediary servers to handle data transfers.

In the end, WebSocket and WebRTC are both fantastic technologies that serve different purposes when it comes to real-time communication on the web. It's essential to consider your specific use case, requirements, and the type of data you'll beexchanging when deciding which technology to use for your project.

WebSocket excels in scenarios where real-time, bi-directional communication between clients and servers is required, such as chat applications or live-updating dashboards. On the other hand, WebRTC shines when it comes to direct peer-to-peer communication, particularly for applications involving audio, video, or P2P file sharing.

So, there you have it, a friendly comparison between WebSocket and WebRTC. Remember, the key to choosing the right technology is understanding your project's requirements and how each technology fits those needs. As you embark on your next real-time web adventure, keep these differences in mind, and you'll be well on your way to building fantastic applications that delight users and stand the test of time.

Happy coding, and until next time, cheers!