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SocketCluster Protocol V1


SocketCluster implements a protocol on top of the WebSockets protocol to allow clients to communicate with a SocketCluster server. This protocol is made up of multiple layers (some of which are optional), these are:

  • The event layer
  • The pub/sub layer [optional]
  • The authentication layer [optional]

In order to make a simple SC client, you do not need to implement all the layers - Only the first 'event layer' is required - This will allow your client to expose a socket.emit('eventName', data) and socket.on('eventName', handlerFunction).

The event layer

Emitted events

An emitted event is a simple JSON string with this format:

  // The name of the event
  event: 'eventName',

  // Any JSON-compatible data type (e.g. String, Number, Date, Object).
  data: eventData,

  // Each emitted event can have call ID (if specified, it needs to be unique for the life of the
  // client session) - You can use UUID strings, but for efficiency, we recommend using
  // a number starting a 1 and incrementing it with each event sent.
  // For additional efficiency, you only need to specify the cid if you expect a response (rid) from
  // the other side of the connection.
  cid: 11

To emit an event, you just need to send a JSON string like the one above through an open WebSocket connection linked to a SocketCluster server. Note that the server might also emit event messages to the client - You should listen for those incoming messages on the WebSocket; they will have the same format as above.

Event responses

Whenever a client emits an event to the server, the server can (optionally) send a matching response to that event in the following format:

  // In SC, an event message may have a cid; a response message must have a matching rid.
  // You should only have a single matching response for each cid.
  "rid": 11,

  // Any JSON-compatible data type (e.g. String, Number, Date, Object) sent back by the server.
  "data": responseData

Note that if you receive an event message from the server, you can optionally send back a response message to this by sending a JSON string like that one above to the server - But you need to make sure that the rid you provide matches the cid of the original event.

In SC, sending back a response to an event is always optional (depends on user logic); the client or server might decide to throw an error if a response to an event has not been received after a certain timeout or it could have no timeout.

As an example; for the SocketCluster JavaScript client, if the user provides a callback to the socket.emit('eventName', data, callback) then we will throw an error if the server does not send back a response after ackTimeout. However, if the user does not provide a callback to socket.emit('eventName', data) then the client will assume that we don't expect a response to that event and so it will not throw an error in that case.

The SocketCluster handshake

Before you can send custom events to the SocketCluster server, you first need to establish a WebSocket connection to a SocketCluster server and then perform a handshake to initiate the socket.

As soon as the WebSocket connection is opened, your client should emit a special #handshake event to the server, the #handshake event message should look like this:

  event: '#handshake',

  // To implement authentication, we will need to pass an object here, but
  // we don't need to worry about this for now - So you can just leave
  // this as an empty object.
  data: {},

  // This can be any number/string, just make sure that it is unique for the life of the client session.
  cid: 1

As soon as it receives the event, your server should send back a handshake response event message in this format:

  // The rid will match the cid from the #handshake event.
  "rid": 1,
  "data": {
    // This is the ID for the SC connection assigned by the server.
    "id": "Y7Uw-jHCJP-gld4QAAAA",

    // Because we did not send any auth token, this will be false.
    "isAuthenticated": false,

    // SC uses a ping/pong mechanism for checking if a connection is alive.
    // This value is the number of milliseconds of inactivity after which the SC server
    // will mark this connections as dead.
    "pingTimeout": 10000

Ping and pong - Connection health check

As mentioned above, SC has a ping/pong mechanism for checking whether or not a connection is still alive. This is to account for scenarios were a connection might close without sending a proper #disconnect event or close control frame. For example, if the user's internet drops out suddenly, there would be no way to tell that the socket is no longer connected.

For the ping/pong protocol, the SocketCluster server will periodically send a ping message to the client and the client has to answer every ping with a pong message.

The ping message which comes from the server is just the string:


Whenever you get this message from the WebSocket, your client needs to send back this string as soon as possible:


The strings #1 and #2 were chosen because they are relatively short (compared to sending JSON objects). Note that there are three kinds of strings which have special meaning within SocketCluster:

  1. Ping/pong strings (I.e. #1 and #2)
  2. Event packets (I.e. JSON objects that have an event property)
  3. Response packets (I.e. JSON objects that have an rid property)

Every other kind of string/binary packet will be interpreted as a raw message and should trigger a raw event on the client socket.

The pub/sub layer

Coming soon....