How a Real-Time Chat Application Works

For a long time, exchanging information between two people in different locations has always been central to support relationships in social and business environments. Exchange of information between parties is itself a business on its kind, and the faster the speed to relay information, the higher the efficiency of that communication method. Methods of communication have grown rapidly supported by the extensive development of technology and the spread of the internet.

The most significant feature of the chat application is their ability to relay information immediately the information is sent. The data to be transmitted can be as complex as a video or an image or a simple as a 2 letter word. Modern versions of many chat applications can support voice and video calls, text messages, emotion icons, among other types of messages.

This is an article giving a brief explanation of how real time chat API work to relay information between users.

How a Real-Time Chat Application Works

We begin by understanding the major components that support the operations of a chat application.

Main Components That Support the Functioning of a Chat Application

There are three main three operating components required for a chat application to function as intended; they include:

  • The Messaging Application
  • A Dedicated Application Server
  • A Stable, Internet-based Connection

The Messaging Application

This is the part of the chat system that is accessed by the user of the application from a mobile phone or a personal computer. The messaging application marks the start of the user interface and is usually designed with features to allow the user to type, edit, and send a message.

To support interaction, the messaging application should offer a text box for the user to compose a text message. The text box typically has a “Send” or “Enter” buttons to initiate the sending of the written message. The user should compose other types of messages using emotion icons and stickers within the messaging application.

Dedicated Application Server

The messaging application must connect to a server for it to function as intended. A server may be a physical or virtual machine automated/programmed to receive and share messages between users who are connected to the server. The user’s connection to a server may be through a computer or a mobile application such as a real time chat API.

Servers come in different types, sizes, and work efficiency but receive an instant message sent from many computers or mobile applications in diverse places. The server also has the capabilities to separate different messages from different users such that messages are never mixed up, and one user receives the wrong message.

A server also has the capability of identifying a user using predetermined credentials required to access information stored in the server for a given user. Usually, credentials may be in the form of the name of the user and a password. The user must have first created an account for him/her before accessing information stored in the server. This is an important security feature to safeguard data privacy.

A Stable, Internet-based Connection

The means of connectivity is the power linking a server to a chat application on the mobile phone or the computer. One might have the message already composed of the chat application and also have a dedicated application server. The internet is the connectivity component required to transmit information between the application and the application server.

In this next part, we discuss how information is relayed between the chat application and the application server once a steady internet connection has been established.

The following is the communication process of a chat application:

Establishing a Connection between the Chat Application and the Application Server

The initial connection between the chat application and the application server will have the server identify the new connection as a new user. The user’s identity is still anonymous until the required access-credentials, as generated from the chat application, can be remitted to the server for authentication and storage.

This user-identification level is sufficient to support communication where the users are many, and their identities need not be revealed to other users/recipients. However, proper identification will be required when the message is exchanged between one user directly to another user as the server would not be able to determine the recipient of the message without proper identification.

Identification of the User

In this stage, users need to identify themselves to the server by keying credentials of their usernames and passwords. The username and passwords are created during the sign-up stage after the chat application has been installed on the phone or the personal computer.

The application server gives a unique tracking/mapping code to a user upon correct user identification. Tracking of individual users is uniquely done per user. As more users register and access the server, such that messages are not mixed up, and one user receives information meant for another user.

Communication

This is the main objective of all other processes. The process of exchanging information begins when the sender types and sends the message from the message application endpoint. The server receives the message. The received message and the sender of the message are also distinctly identified.

The server disseminates the received information to the recipient according to commands from the point of sending. The connection to the recipient of the message is identified and labeled differently to the sender’s connection such that the message does not end up in the wrong destinations.

Conclusion

The main limitation of real-time chat applications is that there is limited interoperability between servers belonging to different chat applications. For instance, one cannot send a message from WhatsApp Messenger to Facebook Messenger directly and in real-time. This is because the server for the two chat companies is also different.

Exchange of information on chat applications in real-time is very critical for social and business networking. The message is received instantaneously, provided a stable internet connection between the users and the servers. The simplicity of data exchange from chat applications is made possible by a complex network of programs and processes between message applications and application servers.

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