What is a Real-Time App?
A Real-Time App (RTA) is a piece of software that implements a feature that works in a time span user perceives as immediate. The term is most commonly used for apps performing real-time connections with the server or between users to provide an instant, connected experience.
There are many components that power RTAs, and even more concepts behind them. This includes real-time messaging and a database. Let’s see how these parts fit together.
Real-Time Messaging (RTM) is an instantaneous transmission of data between two or more points (clients, servers, etc.) RTM is used to transfer data such as video, audio, or text, corresponding to apps such as text communicators, video conferencing apps, games, and others.
Other examples include sending real-time in-app notifications or integrating with the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
RTM becomes much more versatile and useful when used alongside a Real-Time Database (RTDB). Such a database relies on real-time processing for handling workflows with continuous updates. This differs from traditional, persistent databases and is more suited for real-time data updates.
Real-Time Database vs. Traditional Database
RTDB can differ architecturally from other databases or just be an extension on top of a traditional database. This ensures proper implementation of necessary features such as timing constraints or data consistency persistence.
Controlling timing and consistency assures that clients always have the same, up-to-date data. It also controls when and how updates are applied when multiple users interact with the same piece of data.
RTDBs commonly use RTM through WebSockets or other Real-Time Communication (RTC) protocols. This allows them to notify the users about data changes, thus syncing the data without requiring another request.
Other characteristic features of RTDBs include great scalability and offline synchronisation. It’s worth noting that these features usually come with Backend as a Service (BaaS) offerings – common in RTDB space.
With that said, RTDBs also have some disadvantages when compared to traditional databases.
First off, they’re harder to implement and require more hardware resources. This ensures the reliability of the real-time connection and keeps track of and notifies the connected users of any changes.
Also, RTDBs are often NoSQL and come with limited querying capabilities.
While that shouldn’t be a problem for most real-time use cases, it’s still worth noting that traditional databases are better at some tasks, especially when you need complex querying capabilities.
Realtime Apps Use Cases
With RTM and RTDB, you can build really complex and entertaining real-time experiences. Examples include chats and audio/video communicators, but also many more.
Real-time data powers all collaborative experiences. Multi-user editors, project management tools, automation, and many more. Having the most up-to-date data is crucial in areas such as investing, trading, accounting, banking, traveling, and more. That’s how information is being exchanged, stocks are being traded, and reservations are made.
Games can also be considered real-time apps. With massive multiplayer experiences, built-in chats, cross-device sync, and more – games are among the most demanding RTAs.
Real-Time Popular Apps
- Facebook Messenger
Real-time apps, as well as messaging and databases powering them, are what’s driving modern, connected software. With open-source tools and BaaS offerings, making real-time apps has never been easier.
What is a Real-Time application?
A Real-Time App (RTA) is a piece of software that implements a feature that works in a time span user perceives as immediate.
What is Real-Time messaging?
Real-Time Messaging (RTM) is an instantaneous transmission of data between two or more points (clients, servers, etc.)
What is a Real-Time database?
A RTDB relies on real-time processing for handling workflows with continuous updates. This differs from traditional, persistent databases and is more suited for real-time data updates.