XMPP or Websockets: What should you choose for your Mobile Chat Application

XMPP or Websockets: What should you choose for your Mobile Chat Application

The communication trend has changed with the internet opening up the communication channel and web-based live chat applications exploiting its capabilities. Traditional SMS conversations have now become obsolete and the USP for live chat service providers is no longer the cost of the message sent but instead the effectiveness and experience delivered by their chat application.

Messaging protocols like WebSockets and XMPP are two of the most widely used instant messaging protocols in the market - being used by messaging apps like Whatsapp, Telegram, and Hike.

If you are planning to launch a live chat application, then read along till the end to discover:

  • What are XMPP and WebSockets protocols?
  • What are their pros and cons?
  • Which protocol should you use in your mobile application?

Let’s begin.

Understanding XMPP and WebSockets:

To put it bluntly, XMPP and WebSockets are communication protocols that allow machines to communicate with each other. These protocols define the 5 key elements of the communication process:

  • Rules
  • Syntax
  • Semantics
  • Synchronization
  • Error recovery methods.

Using XMPP and Websockets the developers do not have to worry about purchasing any cloud storage space for saving any client data as all the data is saved locally on the client devices and the servers are used to act as an intermediate between the chat participants.

XMPP or Websockets: What should you choose for your Mobile Chat Application

Let’s take a deeper look into both XMPP and Websockets to understand them.

How XMPP messaging works

Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) originally referred to as Jabber, is one of the most preferred choices for building a real-time chat application - mostly because it is open source, and extensible. Developed and maintained by the Jabber open source community, XMPP servers provide their own cloud storage with no limits of chat participants.

Some famous chat applications built on XMPP includes Google talk (now deprecated) and Whatsapp.

To develop a chat application using XMPP, you will need the following resources:

  • Java, C or Erlang developer
  • Ejabberd or similar Jabber server for message delivery system setup
  • YAWS server to manage concurrent processes.
  • Mnesia database to store data on the servers rather than on client’s mobile devices.

XMPP uses XML to exchange data between client and server. Whenever a client connects to an XMPP server using a chat application, they transmit information with each other which is also known as an XML “Stanza”. Stanza is a basic unit of communication in XMPP.

In an XMPP based communication, there are 3 types of Stanzas:

  • Message: Used to exchange messages.
  • Presence: Used to exchange online and subscription status.
  • IQ (Info/Query): Used to control dynamic settings of the communication that is controlled over the server.

Based on a decentralized architecture, XMPP based communications assign a unique address (XMPP address), that consists of an IP address, Domain name, and username to all the users in a chat for processing the communication channel. The data is further binded with a secure transport layer such as TCP/IP or HTTP before it is exchanged between the users.

Advantages of XMPP

  • Extensible: XMPP can be used to send different message types including text, pictures, videos, and audios
  • Decentralized architecture: Which means anyone can set up an XMPP server
  • Security: XMPP allows developers to set up a separate storage server which can have its own encryption and security standards
  • Flexibility: Can connect to non-Jabber programs as well using special gateway services

Disadvantages of XMPP

  • No default way to assure message delivery: XMPP doesn’t provide the ability to request message delivered confirmation by default. The developers need to set up message receipts manually.
  • No default support for binary data transfer: XMPP uses XML for data transmission which doesn’t support binary data transfers by default. Because of this, protocols like HTTP are used to overcome this limitation.
  • In-band media files transfer limit: In-band data needs to be first encoded as base64 before they are transferred using XMPP. Due to this, large data such as file transfers are sent outside of the band with coordinates to in-band messages.
  • Slow speed: The decentralized architecture of XMPP allows anyone to run his/her own server, however, it does eat up on the speed of the connection.

How Websockets messaging works

The WebSocket messaging protocol is built to support full-duplex communication between a client application and the communication server. With WebSockets, the data is sent and received in real-time over a TCP connection, between two or more peers.

Being able to support a full duplex connection, WebSocket based connections are also termed as a persistent (or always on) connection and data can be shared between two client applications without the need of any request by the recipient.

Websocket communication works as follows:

  1. To establish a connection, a WebSocket handshake is performed through an HTTP request which is sent by the client to the server.
  2. If the request is valid (i.e the server supports WebSockets), the server acknowledges the request by sending a unique identifier in the header.
  3. The updated URL replaces the original HTTP connection with a Websocket connection.
  4. With the websockets now in place, the client app can be used to exchange data in real-time.
  5. The data/messages are exchanged as “Frames” with WebSockets which can be one or many depending upon the content of the message. The client data/message within the frames are marked using XOR encryption.
  6. Unlike XMPP, the server for WebSockets is centralized and socket communications are established using the server API.

Advantages of WebSockets

  • Speed: With a centralized and persistent communication connection, WebSockets are the fastest online communication method.
  • Unlimited open sessions: There can be an unlimited number of user sessions on a single app.
  • Less network traffic: As multiple users are connected through a single connection, the network latency is not overused.
  • Faster message deliverability: With low network latency and ability to send data from the server to a client without the client ever having to request it using traditional AJAX requests. This means there is an almost negligible delay in receiving the message after sending it.

Disadvantages of WebSockets

  • Low Security: Although WebSockets utilize WSS(Websockets of SSL), the technology is still new and prone to attacks like XSS and DDOS.
  • Incompatible with Telnet client: As Websocket connection needs to mask and frame the data being sent, this makes it incompatible with a telnet client.
  • No default way to delay message deliverability: As an active WebSocket connection always keeps the ports open, hence there is no default way to delay the message delivery

Which one should you pick?

As we reach towards drawing out a conclusion, it is quite clear that both XMPP and WebSockets are two different approaches to setting up a chat application. While XMPP assures rich security and lacks speed, WebSockets delivers the complete opposite. What you choose among the two must always depend upon your business model.

Are you unsure about which technology will suit the best for your business needs? Then get in touch with mobile app developer at The Brihaspati Infotech to consult and hire mobile app developer for developing a robust chat application. We provide best in class app consultation and development services based on in-depth analysis of your business model to guarantee.

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The Brihaspati Infotech
The Brihaspati Infotech
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