5 Interesting Facts about the Technology behind Online Chat
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Online chat refers to the form of communication that is carried out over the internet. It involves text message transmission in real-time between two parties (sender and receiver). These messages are usually short so that the other party can participate easily and quickly. It creates a similar feeling to the conversation that is spoken. This is the difference between online chat and other forms of internet communication that involve text such as emails, internet forums, etc.
Online chat is capable of addressing point-to-point communication, as well as multicast communication between one sender and numerous receivers. It may also include video and voice chat and web conferencing services.
Simply, online chat refers to a video or text-based, one-on-one chat, or one-to-many chat that uses Internet Relay Chat, instant messengers, and talkers and MUDs. Online chat also includes web-based applications that make direct communication possible. Also, when it’s in an environment with multi-users, it is usually anonymous.
Online businesses today are experiencing a rise in popularity. With more and more people turning towards online businesses to meet their daily demands, they also have more responsibility to provide a better user experience. This is where live chat technology comes into play.
This technology is now proving to be suitable for excellent customer service. Moreover, it ensures that customers have a pleasant experience with the business. Online chat makes sure that the customers have their queries answered within a short period. This has led to a significant increase in conversion rate for many brands.
If this has aroused your interest, here’s more. We’ll go through 5 five less-known facts about how online chat works.
Interesting Facts About Online Chat
The Technology Stack behind an Online Chat App
In order to create an online chat app there are some technologies that you have to use. The technology stack that is listed below plays a crucial role in building an online chat app.
1. Server: YAWS, Ejabberd server
- YAWS – this web server is responsible for storing multimedia files
- Ejabberd server – this is an open-source server that runs on the Erlang programming language. It can also run under some OS. This server is responsible for some of the features of the online chat app such as the one-on-one messaging, multi-user chat (MUC) – group chat, offline messages (store and forward), simple blocking extensions and privacy settings, contact list and presence, personal event protocol (PEP) – typing indicator, etc.
2. Programming language: Erlang
Erlang is a multi-purpose language that can be used in building real-time systems.
3. Protocol: XMPP
This is the technology used in creating instant messages. Its major function is in ensuring real-time operation. One of its duties is a presence indication.
4. Database management: MySQL and Mnesia
- MySQL – this is the database management system for general purposes.
- Mnesia – this server is very much a real-time database. The message cycles are shorter, and it uses a middleware that’s message-oriented and based on XML.
5. Operating system: Freebsd
This operating system is like Unix and focuses on stability, speed, and features.
Picture 1. Operating system Freebsd
Building an Online Chat App
In order to build an online chat app, there are some basic things that you need:
- Server: this allows you to store the message and also sends notifications.
- Client: this allows you to send and receive messages
- Transportation channel between the server and the client.
Each of these components is different from the other, and here is how.:
- Custom (database + backend language) – it is very cheap and offers much more flexibility. However, you will be required to configure the models, routes, API responses, and database connections.
- Backend service – this server gives you the routes, responses, and database, and leaves you with the data to define alone. It is quick to implement, but scaling is also essential.
- API Calls – these calls send back some data to the client.
- Web Sockets – these are persistent channels that give room for information to flow forward and backward and enable notifications and real-time communications.
Some advantages to this backend service are:
- It does almost all of the work and saves you time so you can put more attention to the client.
- You have easy ways to transport and develop an app from the client’s side.
The biggest disadvantage to this is the cost. However, once the app already uses data enough to become expensive, you’ll have time to change the backend.
Picture 2. Online chat needs a server, client and transportation channel
Programming Language for Real-Time Online Chat
The programming language that is the most ideal for real-time online chat is any that can support multi-threading feature and socket programming. But the target platform on which the application will run is the major determinant of the best programming language.
The Erlang programming language is used primarily because of its speed, and lightweight thread that can hold millions of connections. It is ideal for mobile devices, but if the online chat runs on a desktop OS, then the perfect programming language is Java. This allows it to run on all OS of desktops. You can adapt it, so it works on mobile devices by making a few changes to it. This is also the same thing with the C#. However, you must be careful when making the app work across platforms. You can use Xamarin to ensure that the C# code also works on mobile apps.
It is also possible with C/C++, but building with this will take a lot of time and effort. Languages for scripting are usually unsuitable for this purpose. If you use a scripting language, things might get complicated, and you’ll regret it.
How Real-Time Online Chat App Works
Online chat apps have become a significant part of our lives today. But how does this technology work?
If two people want to communicate, there has to be a receiver address. It might be possible to get a unique identity for a certain device when there are fewer clients. On the other hand, it’s harder on a large scale, since it’s challenging to know the address for all clients.
An example of how WhatsApp works
As one of the most popular online chat apps, there’s such a thing as WhatsApp server that we connect to through the network. It is the server that knows both the sender and receiver’s address.
In this case, there can only be one of three possibilities:
- Both sender and receiver are online (connected to the WhatsApp server). Messages that are sent are forwarded directly to the receiver.
- The receiver is offline, but the sender is online. The information sent to the receiver is kept in a database for when they come online or connect to the server. Then the information is taken from the database and sent to the receiver.
- The sender is offline, but the receiver is online. The information that the sender sent is kept in local storage. When they go online, the server gets the message and then forwards it to the receiver.
A machine that is known as a load balancer is the first to receive the connection request. The load balancer has a purpose: to ensure that all servers have equal loads so that the communication is quicker. When someone sends a connection request, the load balancer sends the request to the less busy server before finally transmitting it to the receiver.
Read What is Live Chat?
Testing a Chat App
Online chat apps can and should be tested. The following are tests that you need to run on an online chat. You must verify that:
- The user presence shows (online, offline, unavailable, available) have to be correct.
- Users can carry out a text chat.
- Users can carry out or send a request for a video call to another online user. The recipient user(s) must see a prompt of whether to accept or reject the call.
- Users can cancel a call if they want to.
- Users can call again after cancelling the previous call.
- They can disconnect the call.
- If disconnected, users can call again.
- During the call, sound can be muted temporarily while the video is played and vice versa.
- The user is able to text/chat while video calling.
- If one person wants to disconnect the chat, then the connection shouldn’t fail with others.
- Sound recording/video recording functionality works correctly.
- If a user doesn’t accept a call request, the call log has to show and appear to the called user.
- Mute/unmute is working correctly.
- If two users (A & B) are on a video call, other users should see them as busy if they are doing a one-on-one video call.
- There is no time lag and video/audio quality is good while video calling.
- It works well on all supported browsers and platforms.
This article highlights some of the interesting facts about this technology. It’s one of the most convenient tools and allows people to relate well in their various aspects of life.
What is your favorite online chat app? Let us know in the comments.
Leon Collier is a blogger from Edinburgh and works in the best essay writing service UK. He is an ideal essay writer for you as he writes for the best essay writing websites. He loves to write about everything: pop culture, history, travel, self-development, education, and marketing. When he is not writing, you can find him behind a book or playing tabletop games with his friends. Follow him on Twitter @LeonCollier.
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