Building Interactive Web Applications Made Easy Building Interactive Web Applications Made Easy

Introduction is a popular JavaScript library that enables real-time bidirectional communication between web clients and servers. It is commonly used to add real-time capabilities to Node.js applications. In this article, we will learn how to get started with Socket for building real-time apps.


Some key features of include:

  • Real-time bidirectional communication between client and server
  • Fast and reliable data transfer using WebSocket protocol
  • Fallback to HTTP long-polling in older browsers
  • Supports broadcasting to multiple sockets
  • Automatic reconnection support
  • Works on all platforms – browser, mobile, desktop etc.

Socket is built on top of the WebSocket protocol and provides additional features like broadcasting, namespacing, middleware etc. It handles the intricacies of ensuring real-time connectivity across different browsers seamlessly.

Basic Example

To use in Node.js, first install it:

npm install

On the server:

// index.js

const io = require('')();

io.on('connection', socket => {
  // socket object for each client
  console.log('Client connected'); 


This creates a Socket server instance listening on port 3000 for incoming connections.

On the client side:

<!-- index.html -->

<script src="/"></script>

  const socket = io(); // connect to server
  socket.on('connect', () => {

The Socket client library establishes the WebSocket connection.

Handling Events

Socket uses events for real-time messaging between clients and server.

Server can listen to events from a client:

socket.on('message', msg => {

And emit events that clients can listen to:

socket.emit('greet', 'Hello!');

Client can emit events that the server can listen to:

socket.emit('message', 'Hi!');

And listen to events emitted by the server:

socket.on('greet', msg => {
  console.log(msg); // Hello! 

This allows real-time synchronous communication.


To group events into separate channels, Socket provides namespaces:

// server 

const adminNamespace = io.of('/admin');

adminNamespace.on('connection', socket => {
  // admin related events

const userNamespace = io.of('/user'); 

userNamespace.on('connection', socket => {
  // user related events  

Namespaces help structure events from different modules separately.

Broadcasting Events

Socket allows broadcasting events to all connected sockets or selective groups:

io.emit('message', 'Hello to all'); // all clients 

adminNamespace.emit('message', 'Hi admins'); // all in admin namespace

socket.broadcast.emit('msg', 'Hello others'); // all except this client

This makes it easy to push real-time notifications to relevant users.

Disconnection Handling tracks disconnections automatically and fires a disconnect event:

socket.on('disconnect', () => {
  console.log('Socket disconnected');

This also works when namespaces are used. Disconnection handling enables real-time tracking of connected clients.

Comparison between vs WebSocket

Auto reconnectYesNo
Fallback optionsPolling, etcNone
Browser supportAll browsersMost browsers
Events and namespacesSupportsNo native support
Client librariesJS, C++, SwiftJS primarily
Use casesReal-time apps, Chat, NotificationsGames, Apps needing raw speed vs WebSockets

Socket provides WebSocket comparable bi-directional communication while also handling tricky reconnects, fallbacks and namespace multiplexing across browsers seamlessly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does work with plain WebSockets?

Socket uses WebSocket as the primary transport. But it provides fallback options and other benefits on top of raw WebSockets.

  • When should vs WebSockets be used?

Socket is suitable for most real-time apps. Raw WebSockets make sense for cases where performance is critical like games or financial apps.

  • Can connect to non-Node.js servers?

Yes, Socket clients can connect to other server technologies like Python, Ruby, Java etc. The server just needs to use a compatible Socket library.

  • Does require Node.js on the client?

No, Socket provides client libraries for web browsers, iOS, Android, C++, etc. Real-time apps can be built without Node.js on client.

  • What are the limitations of

There is a slight overhead compared to raw WebSockets. Beyond a certain scale, custom WebSockets server and client handling code may be needed.


Socket is the standard way of enabling real-time capabilities in Node.js applications. Its robust WebSocket based transport mechanisms combined with events, namespaces and broadcasting makes it indispensable for modern real-time apps. Socket smooths over cross-browser inconsistencies in WebSockets and provides the flexibility needed for most use cases.

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