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Socket.IO vs SocketCluster: What are the differences?


In this article, we will explore the key differences between Socket.IO and SocketCluster. Both Socket.IO and SocketCluster are popular frameworks for real-time applications, but they have some distinct differences that set them apart.

  1. Scalability: Socket.IO is a library that provides real-time bidirectional communication between clients and servers. It supports multiple transports, including WebSocket, AJAX long polling, and more. However, Socket.IO does not inherently provide scalability features out of the box. On the other hand, SocketCluster is a full-featured, scalable real-time framework built on top of Socket.IO. SocketCluster provides built-in horizontal scalability, allowing you to scale your application across multiple cores or machines effortlessly.

  2. Clustering: Socket.IO does not provide built-in clustering capabilities. If you want to cluster your Socket.IO server to handle high traffic loads, you need to implement clustering manually using tools like Node.js cluster module or external load balancers. SocketCluster, as its name suggests, provides built-in clustering functionality. It simplifies the process of setting up and managing clusters, making it easier to handle large numbers of concurrent connections.

  3. Authentication: Socket.IO does not have built-in authentication support. If you want to add authentication to your Socket.IO application, you need to implement it yourself. SocketCluster, on the other hand, provides built-in authentication mechanisms. It supports various authentication strategies like JWT (JSON Web Tokens) and OAuth, making it easier to secure your real-time application.

  4. Presence Channels: Socket.IO does not provide built-in support for presence channels. Presence channels allow you to track the online status of users in real-time applications. With Socket.IO, you have to implement presence functionality manually. SocketCluster, on the other hand, has built-in support for presence channels. It offers convenient APIs to track the presence of users, making it easier to build real-time applications that require user presence tracking.

  5. Pub-Sub Architecture: Socket.IO follows a publish-subscribe (pub-sub) pattern, where clients subscribe to specific events and receive messages when those events are published. However, it does not provide a full pub-sub architecture. SocketCluster, on the other hand, is built on top of the pub-sub model. It provides a powerful pub-sub mechanism that allows you to scale your real-time applications by decoupling publishers and subscribers.

  6. Scalable RPC (Remote Procedure Call): SocketCluster provides a scalable RPC mechanism out of the box. With SocketCluster, you can easily define remote procedures on the server and call them from the client using RPC. This simplifies the process of building real-time applications that require remote method invocations. Socket.IO does not provide a built-in RPC mechanism.

In summary, Socket.IO is a versatile library for real-time bidirectional communication but lacks built-in scalability, clustering, authentication, presence channels, a complete pub-sub architecture, and scalable RPC. SocketCluster, on the other hand, is a full-featured real-time framework built on top of Socket.IO that provides these additional features, making it a better choice for applications that require scalability, clustering, authentication, presence tracking, pub-sub architecture, and RPC.

Advice on Socket.IO and SocketCluster
Needs advice

We are starting to work on a web-based platform aiming to connect artists (clients) and professional freelancers (service providers). In-app, timeline-based, real-time communication between users (& storing it), file transfers, and push notifications are essential core features. We are considering using Node.js, ExpressJS, React, MongoDB stack with Socket.IO & Apollo, or maybe using Real-Time Database and functionalities of Firebase.

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Replies (3)
Timothy Malstead
Junior Full Stack Developer at Freelance | 7 upvotes 路 469.6K views

I would recommend looking hard into Firebase for this project, especially if you do not have dedicated full-stack or backend members on your team.

The real time database, as you mentioned, is a great option, but I would also look into Firestore. Similar to RTDB, it adds more functions and some cool methods as well. Also, another great thing about Firebase is you have easy access to storage and dead simple auth as well.

Node.js Express MongoDB Socket.IO and Apollo are great technologies as well, and may be the better option if you do not wish to cede as much control to third parties in your application.

Overall, I say if you wish to focus more time developing your React application instead of other parts of your stack, Firebase is a great way to do that.

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Hello Noam 馃憢,

I suggest taking a look at Ably, it has all the realtime features you need and the platform is designed to guarantee critical functionality at scale.

Here is an in depth comparison between Ably and Firebase

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Hey Noam,

I would recommend you to take a look into 8base. It has features you've requested, also relation database and GraphQL API which will help you to develop rapidly.

Thanks, Ilya

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Pros of Socket.IO
Pros of SocketCluster
  • 219
  • 143
  • 141
    Event-based communication
  • 102
    Open source
  • 102
  • 26
    Binary streaming
  • 21
    No internet dependency
  • 10
    Large community
  • 6
    Push notification
  • 5
    Ease of access and setup
  • 1
  • 12
    Cluster mode is awesome
  • 8
  • 7
  • 4
  • 4
  • 4
    JWT based Authentication
  • 3
    Pub-Sub API
  • 3
    Open source
  • 2
    Client Libraries

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Cons of Socket.IO
Cons of SocketCluster
  • 12
    Bad documentation
  • 4
    Githubs that complement it are mostly deprecated
  • 3
    Doesn't work on React Native
  • 2
    Small community
  • 2
    Websocket Errors
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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is Socket.IO?

    It enables real-time bidirectional event-based communication. It works on every platform, browser or device, focusing equally on reliability and speed.

    What is SocketCluster?

    SocketCluster is a fast, highly scalable HTTP + realtime server engine which lets you build multi-process realtime servers that make use of all CPU cores on a machine/instance. It removes the limitations of having to run your Node.js server as a single thread and makes your backend resilient by automatically recovering from worker crashes and aggregating errors into a central log.

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