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WebRTC vs WebSocket: The Difference Between WebRTC and WebSocket

WebRTC vs WebSocket: The Difference Between WebRTC and WebSocket

WebRTC and WebSocket are different ways for browsers and apps to communicate in real time. WebRTC enables browsers to connect directly to share audio, video, and data without a server. WebSocket, on the other hand, uses a client-server model often for chat apps. This WebRTC vs WebSocket article looks at the main differences and similarities in detail.

What is WebRTC?

Web Real-Time Communication, often shortened to WebRTC, is an open-source project enabling real-time communication between web browsers and mobile apps. WebRTC allows developers to add real-time voice, video, and data capabilities to their apps without plugins or third-party software.

WebRTC uses:

  • STUN and TURN protocols to establish and maintain peer-to-peer connections.
  • ICE protocol to negotiate the best data route between devices.
  • RTP and RTCP transmit and receive audio and video.

Major browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari support WebRTC. It is also supported on mobile platforms like Android and iOS.

WebRTC is used for:

  • Video calling in platforms like Google Meet and Zoom.
  • Voice over IP calls.
  • Real-time file sharing.
  • Collaboration tools like whiteboard and drawing apps.

Overall, WebRTC is easy to use and widely supported, which makes WebRTC an excellent choice for adding real-time communication to apps.

WebRTC: Pros and Cons

WebRTC is a free, open-source technology that allows real-time communication between two or more devices over the Internet. It can be used for video calls, voice calls, and file sharing.

Pros of WebRTC

  1. Easy to use: WebRTC is a relatively easy technology to use. Many libraries and frameworks are available that make it simple to integrate into web applications.
  2. Secure: WebRTC uses end-to-end encryption to protect the privacy of your data. The message is private and can only be seen by the sender and receiver.
  3. Platform-independent: WebRTC works on all major browsers and platforms, including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari.
  4. Low latency: WebRTC has low latency, meaning there is a short delay between when you send a message and when the other person receives it. This makes it ideal for real-time applications such as video calls and voice calls.
  5. Bandwidth-efficient: Lastly, WebRTC is bandwidth-efficient, which means that it can work well even on slow internet connections.

Read more: if you are interested in going deeper on the topic, here is a deep dive into What is Network Bandwidth? 

Cons of WebRTC

  1. Not yet widely adopted: WebRTC is still a relatively new technology, and it has yet to be widely adopted by all browsers and platforms. This can make it difficult to find applications that use WebRTC.
  2. Can be complex to implement: Despite the benefits, WebRTC can be tough to implement, especially for more advanced features such as group calling and file sharing.
  3. Can be CPU-intensive: WebRTC can be CPU-intensive, especially for high-quality video calls. This can make it challenging to run WebRTC applications on devices with limited processing power.

How WebRTC works

WebRTC lets web browsers talk directly to each other. The browsers connect without going through a server. This makes the connection faster. Below is a simple demonstration of how WebRTC works:

Firstly, WebRTC uses STUN to help browsers find their public IP addresses. This works even if the browsers are behind a router using NAT. NAT lets multiple devices share one public IP address.

Secondly, Once the browsers know their public IP addresses, they use ICE to figure out how to connect to each other. ICE tries different ways to connect the browsers directly. It can also use TURN servers or STUN servers if needed.

Finally, After the browsers connect, they can start sending audio and video to each other. The data is encrypted using SRTP to keep it secure. This allows the browsers to transmit media reliably.

WebRTC Sample Code

To understand WebRTC, let’s look at a short code example that shows how WebRTC works.

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>WebRTC Sample</title>
<!-- Video elements to show local and remote video streams -->
<video id="localVideo" autoplay playsinline muted></video>
<video id="remoteVideo" autoplay playsinline></video>

// Getting video elements from the DOM
const localVideo = document.getElementById('localVideo');
const remoteVideo = document.getElementById('remoteVideo');

// WebRTC Configuration (Using public STUN servers)
const configuration = {
    iceServers: [
        { urls: '' },
        { urls: '' }

// Create a new RTCPeerConnection using the configuration
const pc = new RTCPeerConnection(configuration);

// Set up event listener to get and display remote video streams
pc.ontrack = function(event) {
    remoteVideo.srcObject = event.streams[0];

// Function to start the call
async function startCall() {
    try {
        // Get local media stream
        const stream = await navigator.mediaDevices.getUserMedia({ video: true, audio: true });
        localVideo.srcObject = stream;

        // Add tracks from local stream to peer connection
        stream.getTracks().forEach(track => {
            pc.addTrack(track, stream);

        // Create offer, set local description and send the offer to the other peer
        const offer = await pc.createOffer();
        await pc.setLocalDescription(offer);
        // Here, you would typically send the offer to the other peer using a signaling server

    } catch (err) {
        console.error('Error starting call:', err);

// Call the function to start the video chat


What is WebSocket

WebSocket provides real-time communication between a client and a server. It creates a continuous, two-way connection instead of the request-response pattern used in HTTP. This allows for instant data flow without the client having to ask for it. WebSocket is useful for chat, gaming, and trading apps that require constant updates.

In addition, WebSocket connects faster than HTTP. It has less overhead because it does not need all the headers and cookies required in HTTP requests. Once the WebSocket link is made, the client and server can exchange data freely. They do not need to open and close multiple connections.

Overall, WebSocket is a major step forward for real-time apps. Its persistent connections provide constant streams of data with low overhead. The two-way messaging and flexibility offered by WebSocket make it ideal for modern web development needs.

WebSocket: Pros and Cons

WebSocket is a great technology, but it has some limitations. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of WebSocket in this section.

WebSocket Pros

  1. Real-time communication: To begin with, WebSockets allow two-way communication between the client and server in real time. This makes WebSockets well-suited for apps that need to send data back and forth instantly, like chat, multiplayer games, and stock trading platforms.
  2. Low latency: Moreover, WebSockets have very low latency, which means that data is transferred quickly between the client and the server. Hence, it’s vital for applications that require fast updates, such as online gaming.
  3. Efficient bandwidth usage: WebSockets only use a small amount of bandwidth, which is important for applications that are used over mobile networks or other limited bandwidth connections.

WebSocket Cons

  1. Not supported by all browsers: While WebSockets are supported by most major browsers, there are a few that do not yet support them. This can be a problem if you need to support a wide range of browsers.
  2. Can be complex to implement: Furthermore, WebSockets can be more complex to implement than other communication protocols, such as HTTP. This is because they require both the client and the server to be able to understand the WebSocket protocol.
  3. Can be susceptible to abuse: Lastly, WebSockets can be used to send large amounts of data, which can be abused by malicious users. This is why it is important to implement security measures to protect against abuse.

How WebSocket Works

WebSockets make a connection between a client and a server that stays open. This open connection lets the client and server talk to each other in real time without needing to make a new connection every time.

The WebSocket connection starts with an HTTP handshake. The client sends a request to the server asking to “Upgrade” to WebSockets. The server sends back a response that also agrees to “Upgrade” to WebSockets. This back-and-forth sets up the WebSocket connection.

Once the WebSocket connection is set up, the client and server can send messages to each other. The messages can be text or binary data. They use the same protocol as HTTP but without the limits. For example, WebSocket messages can be bigger than 1024 bytes. Also, one side can send a message without waiting for a reply from the other side.

The open WebSocket connection lets the client and server exchange messages freely in real time. They don’t need to keep making new connections for each message.

WebSocket Sample Code

server code (using Node.js and ws library)

const express = require('express');
const http = require('http');
const WebSocket = require('ws');

const app = express();

// Initialize a simple http server
const server = http.createServer(app);

// WebSocket server instance initialization
const wss = new WebSocket.Server({ server });

wss.on('connection', (ws) => {
    // Connection is up, let's add a simple event
    ws.on('message', (message) => {
        // Log the received message
        console.log('received:', message);

        // Echo the message back
        ws.send(`Hello! You sent -> ${message}`);

    // Send an initial message
    ws.send('Hi there, I am a WebSocket server');

server.listen(8080, () => {
    console.log('Server started on http://localhost:8080');
Client (HTML with JavaScript)

Client-side code

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>WebSocket Sample</title>
    // Establish a connection to the WebSocket server
    const socket = new WebSocket('ws://localhost:8080');

    // Connection opened
    socket.addEventListener('open', (event) => {
        socket.send('Hello Server!');

    // Listen for messages from the server
    socket.addEventListener('message', (event) => {
        console.log('Message from server:',;

    // Error Handling
    socket.addEventListener('error', (event) => {
        console.error('WebSocket error:', event);

    // Closing the connection
    socket.addEventListener('close', (event) => {
        console.log('WebSocket closed:', event);

Differences Between WebRTC and Websockets

WebRTC and WebSockets are two ways for computers to talk to each other in real time. With WebRTC, the computers talk directly to each other. This works well for things like video calling where you want it to be fast. But WebRTC is hard to set up and not all browsers support it.

With WebSockets, the computers talk through a server in the middle. This works better for things like chat where you want it to be reliable. But it can be slower than WebRTC.

The table below summarizes the differences between WebRTC and WebSockets:

Transport protocolUses UDPUses TCP
Connection typePeer-to-peerClient-server
Real-time communicationSupportsSupports
Bandwidth usageLowerHigher
SecurityMore secureLess secure
Browser supportMost browsersAll major browsers
ComplexityMore complexLess complex
Use casesVideo calling, live streaming, file sharingReal-time chat, stock trading, gaming

So if you need things to be fast, use WebRTC. If you need a more reliable connection, use WebSockets. You have to think about what is more important for your app.

You may also like: XMPP vs WebSocket: How to Choose for Chat App?


WebRTC and WebSocket are useful real-time technologies, but each has different pros. WebRTC is best for direct streaming between peers. WebSocket is better for reliable chat-style messaging. Look at what matters most for your app. For one toolkit with both, ZEGOCLOUD SDK supports WebRTC and WebSocket. This lets you make many kinds of real-time apps easily. With the right tech pick, you can build great apps people love. Sign up to get started!

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