node.js – Differences between and websockets

The Question :

513 people think this question is useful

What are the differences between and websockets in node.js?
Are they both server push technologies? The only differences I felt was,

  1. allowed me to send/emit messages by specifying an event name.

  2. In the case of a message from server will reach on all clients, but for the same in websockets I was forced to keep an array of all connections and loop through it to send messages to all clients.

Also, I wonder why web inspectors (like Chrome/firebug/fiddler) are unable to catch these messages (from from server?

Please clarify this.

The Question Comments :

The Answer 1

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Its advantages are that it simplifies the usage of WebSockets as you described in #2, and probably more importantly it provides fail-overs to other protocols in the event that WebSockets are not supported on the browser or server. I would avoid using WebSockets directly unless you are very familiar with what environments they don’t work and you are capable of working around those limitations.

This is a good read on both WebSockets and Socket.IO.

The Answer 2

601 people think this answer is useful


There are few common misconceptions regarding WebSocket and Socket.IO:

  1. The first misconception is that using Socket.IO is significantly easier than using WebSocket which doesn’t seem to be the case. See examples below.

  2. The second misconception is that WebSocket is not widely supported in the browsers. See below for more info.

  3. The third misconception is that Socket.IO downgrades the connection as a fallback on older browsers. It actually assumes that the browser is old and starts an AJAX connection to the server, that gets later upgraded on browsers supporting WebSocket, after some traffic is exchanged. See below for details.

My experiment

I wrote an npm module to demonstrate the difference between WebSocket and Socket.IO:

It is a simple example of server-side and client-side code – the client connects to the server using either WebSocket or Socket.IO and the server sends three messages in 1s intervals, which are added to the DOM by the client.


Compare the server-side example of using WebSocket and Socket.IO to do the same in an Express.js app:

WebSocket Server

WebSocket server example using Express.js:

var path = require('path');
var app = require('express')();
var ws = require('express-ws')(app);
app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  console.error('express connection');
  res.sendFile(path.join(__dirname, 'ws.html'));
});'/', (s, req) => {
  console.error('websocket connection');
  for (var t = 0; t < 3; t++)
    setTimeout(() => s.send('message from server', ()=>{}), 1000*t);
app.listen(3001, () => console.error('listening on http://localhost:3001/'));
console.error('websocket example');


Socket.IO Server

Socket.IO server example using Express.js:

var path = require('path');
var app = require('express')();
var http = require('http').Server(app);
var io = require('')(http);
app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  console.error('express connection');
  res.sendFile(path.join(__dirname, 'si.html'));
io.on('connection', s => {
  console.error(' connection');
  for (var t = 0; t < 3; t++)
    setTimeout(() => s.emit('message', 'message from server'), 1000*t);
http.listen(3002, () => console.error('listening on http://localhost:3002/'));
console.error(' example');



Compare the client-side example of using WebSocket and Socket.IO to do the same in the browser:

WebSocket Client

WebSocket client example using vanilla JavaScript:

var l = document.getElementById('l');
var log = function (m) {
    var i = document.createElement('li');
    i.innerText = new Date().toISOString()+' '+m;
log('opening websocket connection');
var s = new WebSocket('ws://''/');
s.addEventListener('error', function (m) { log("error"); });
s.addEventListener('open', function (m) { log("websocket connection open"); });
s.addEventListener('message', function (m) { log(; });


Socket.IO Client

Socket.IO client example using vanilla JavaScript:

var l = document.getElementById('l');
var log = function (m) {
    var i = document.createElement('li');
    i.innerText = new Date().toISOString()+' '+m;
log('opening connection');
var s = io();
s.on('connect_error', function (m) { log("error"); });
s.on('connect', function (m) { log(" connection open"); });
s.on('message', function (m) { log(m); });


Network traffic

To see the difference in network traffic you can run my test. Here are the results that I got:

WebSocket Results

2 requests, 1.50 KB, 0.05 s

From those 2 requests:

  1. HTML page itself
  2. connection upgrade to WebSocket

(The connection upgrade request is visible on the developer tools with a 101 Switching Protocols response.)

Socket.IO Results

6 requests, 181.56 KB, 0.25 s

From those 6 requests:

  1. the HTML page itself
  2. Socket.IO’s JavaScript (180 kilobytes)
  3. first long polling AJAX request
  4. second long polling AJAX request
  5. third long polling AJAX request
  6. connection upgrade to WebSocket


WebSocket results that I got on localhost:

WebSocket results - module

Socket.IO results that I got on localhost:

Socket.IO results - module

Test yourself

Quick start:

# Install:
npm i -g
# Run the server:

Open http://localhost:3001/ in your browser, open developer tools with Shift+Ctrl+I, open the Network tab and reload the page with Ctrl+R to see the network traffic for the WebSocket version.

Open http://localhost:3002/ in your browser, open developer tools with Shift+Ctrl+I, open the Network tab and reload the page with Ctrl+R to see the network traffic for the Socket.IO version.

To uninstall:

# Uninstall:
npm rm -g

Browser compatibility

As of June 2016 WebSocket works on everything except Opera Mini, including IE higher than 9.

This is the browser compatibility of WebSocket on Can I Use as of June 2016:

enter image description here

See for up-to-date info.

The Answer 3

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Im going to provide an argument against using

I think using solely because it has fallbacks isnt a good idea. Let IE8 RIP.

In the past there have been many cases where new versions of NodeJS has broken You can check these lists for examples…

If you go to develop an Android app or something that needs to work with your existing app, you would probably be okay working with WS right away, might give you some trouble there…

Plus the WS module for Node.JS is amazingly simple to use.

The Answer 4

28 people think this answer is useful

Using Socket.IO is basically like using jQuery – you want to support older browsers, you need to write less code and the library will provide with fallbacks. uses the websockets technology if available, and if not, checks the best communication type available and uses it.

The Answer 5

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Comparing them is like comparing Restaurant food (maybe expensive sometimes, and maybe not 100% you want it) with homemade food, where you have to gather and grow each one of the ingredients on your own.

Maybe if you just want to eat an apple, the latter is better. But if you want something complicated and you’re alone, it’s really not worth cooking and making all the ingredients by yourself.

I’ve worked with both of these. Here is my experience.


  • Has autoconnect

  • Has namespaces

  • Has rooms

  • Has subscriptions service

  • Has a pre-designed protocol of communication

    (talking about the protocol to subscribe, unsubscribe or send a message to a specific room, you must all design them yourself in websockets)

  • Has good logging support

  • Has integration with services such as redis

  • Has fallback in case WS is not supported (well, it’s more and more rare circumstance though)

  • It’s a library. Which means, it’s actually helping your cause in every way. Websockets is a protocol, not a library, which SocketIO uses anyway.

  • The whole architecture is supported and designed by someone who is not you, thus you dont have to spend time designing and implementing anything from the above, but you can go straight to coding business rules.

  • Has a community because it’s a library (you can’t have a community for HTTP or Websockets 😛 They’re just standards/protocols)


  • You have the absolute control, depending on who you are, this can be very good or very bad
  • It’s as light as it gets (remember, its a protocol, not a library)
  • You design your own architecture & protocol
  • Has no autoconnect, you implement it yourself if yo want it
  • Has no subscription service, you design it
  • Has no logging, you implement it
  • Has no fallback support
  • Has no rooms, or namespaces. If you want such concepts, you implement them yourself
  • Has no support for anything, you will be the one who implements everything
  • You first have to focus on the technical parts and designing everything that comes and goes from and to your Websockets
  • You have to debug your designs first, and this is going to take you a long time

Obviously, you can see I’m biased to SocketIO. I would love to say so, but I’m really really not.

I’m really fighting not to use SocketIO. I dont wanna use it. I like designing my own stuff and solving my own problems myself. But if you want to have a business and not just a 1000 lines project, and you’re going to choose Websockets, you’re going to have to implement every single thing yourself. You have to debug everything. You have to make your own subscription service. Your own protocol. Your own everything. And you have to make sure everything is quite sophisticated. And you’ll make A LOT of mistakes along the way. You’ll spend tons of time designing and debugging everything. I did and still do. I’m using websockets and the reason I’m here is because they’re unbearable for a one guy trying to deal with solving business rules for his startup and instead dealing with Websocket designing jargon.

Choosing Websockets for a big application ain’t an easy option if you’re a one guy army or a small team. I’ve wrote more code in Websockets than I ever wrote with SocketIO in the past, and all I have to say is … Choose SocketIO if you want a finished product and design. (unless you want something very simple in functionality)

The Answer 6

6 people think this answer is useful (with my emphasis)

What Socket.IO is not

Socket.IO is NOT a WebSocket implementation. Although Socket.IO indeed uses WebSocket as a transport when possible, it adds some metadata to each packet: the packet type, the namespace and the packet id when a message acknowledgement is needed. That is why a WebSocket client will not be able to successfully connect to a Socket.IO server, and a Socket.IO client will not be able to connect to a WebSocket server either. Please see the protocol specification here.

// WARNING: the client will NOT be able to connect!
const client = io('ws://');

The Answer 7

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Socket.IO uses WebSocket and when WebSocket is not available uses fallback algo to make real time connections.

The Answer 8

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Even if modern browsers support WebSockets now, I think there is no need to throw SocketIO away and it still has its place in any nowadays project. It’s easy to understand, and personally, I learned how WebSockets work thanks to SocketIO.

As said in this topic, there’s a plenty of integration libraries for Angular, React, etc. and definition types for TypeScript and other programming languages.

The other point I would add to the differences between and WebSockets is that clustering with is not a big deal. offers Adapters that can be used to link it with Redis to enhance scalability. You have ioredis and for example.

Yes I know, SocketCluster exists, but that’s off-topic.

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