WebRTC vs WebSocket: Key Differences & Which One is Right For You?

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In the realm of real-time communication, both WebRTC and WebSockets play crucial roles but serve different purposes. WebSocket is a protocol that enables bi-directional communication between a client and server, while WebRTC facilitates direct peer-to-peer communication between web browsers without requiring any plugins or external software. WebSocket was introduced in 2010 as part of the HTML5 specification to overcome the limitations of traditional HTTP, which is designed for request-response communication and doesn't support real-time data transfer. WebSocket allows clients and servers to communicate with each other in real-time without frequent connection requests, making it ideal for applications requiring low latency and high responsiveness. WebRTC, on the other hand, is a free and open-source technology that enables real-time communication between web browsers and mobile applications using simple APIs. It supports audio and video calling, chat, file sharing, and screen sharing without any additional software or plugins. WebRTC utilizes media codecs, encryption, and network protocols to provide secure and efficient real-time communication. In terms of data transfer, WebSocket supports text and binary data, while WebRTC facilitates audio, video, and data exchange between peers. Both technologies use different transport protocols - TCP for WebSocket and UDP for media in WebRTC, along with TCP for its data channel. WebSockets require a custom signaling mechanism to establish connections, whereas WebRTC has built-in mechanisms for NAT traversal. Additionally, WebRTC supports automatic reconnection capabilities, handling network interruptions seamlessly without manual intervention. The choice between WebRTC and WebSocket depends on the specific requirements of the application at hand. While WebRTC is commonly used for real-time communication in web applications, it often ends up using WebSocket for signaling purposes. Ultimately, both technologies have their unique strengths and can coexist to deliver powerful real-time communication experiences.


Date published
June 21, 2023


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By Matt Makai. 2021-2024.