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Client-Side WebSocket Support

Client side WebSocket support is available through @scala[Http().singleWebSocketRequest]@java[Http.get(system).singleWebSocketRequest], @scala[Http().webSocketClientFlow]@java[Http.get(system).webSocketClientFlow] and @scala[Http().webSocketClientLayer]@java[Http.get(system).webSocketClientLayer].

A WebSocket consists of two streams of messages, incoming messages (a @unidoc[Sink]) and outgoing messages (a @unidoc[Source]) where either may be signalled first; or even be the only direction in which messages flow during the lifetime of the connection. Therefore a WebSocket connection is modelled as either something you connect a @unidoc[Flow[Message, Message, Mat]] to or a @unidoc[Flow[Message, Message, Mat]] that you connect a @unidoc[Source[Message, Mat]] and a @unidoc[Sink[Message, Mat]] to.

A WebSocket request starts with a regular HTTP request which contains an Upgrade header (and possibly other regular HTTP request properties), so in addition to the flow of messages there also is an initial response from the server, this is modelled with @unidoc[WebSocketUpgradeResponse].

The methods of the WebSocket client API handle the upgrade to WebSocket on connection success and materializes the connected WebSocket stream. If the connection fails, for example with a 404 NotFound error, this regular HTTP result can be found in WebSocketUpgradeResponse.response

@@@ note Make sure to read and understand the section about Half-Closed WebSockets as the behavior when using WebSockets for one-way communication may not be what you would expect. @@@


Messages sent and received over a WebSocket can be either @unidoc[TextMessage] s or @unidoc[BinaryMessage] s and each of those has two subtypes Strict (all data in one chunk) or Streamed. In typical applications messages will be Strict as WebSockets are usually deployed to communicate using small messages not stream data, the protocol does however allow this (by not marking the first fragment as final, as described in RFC 6455 section 5.2).

The strict text is available from @scala[TextMessage.Strict]@java[TextMessage.getStrictText] and strict binary data from @scala[BinaryMessage.Strict]@java[BinaryMessage.getStrictData].

For streamed messages @scala[BinaryMessage.Streamed]@java[BinaryMessage.getStreamedData] and @scala[TextMessage.Streamed]@java[TextMessage.getStreamedText] will be used. In these cases the data is provided as a @unidoc[Source[ByteString, _]] for binary and @unidoc[Source[String, _]] for text messages.


singleWebSocketRequest takes a @unidoc[WebSocketRequest] and a flow it will connect to the source and sink of the WebSocket connection. It will trigger the request right away and returns a tuple containing the @scala[Future[WebSocketUpgradeResponse]]@java[CompletionStage<WebSocketUpgradeResponse>] and the materialized value from the flow passed to the method.

The future will succeed when the WebSocket connection has been established or the server returned a regular HTTP response, or fail if the connection fails with an exception.

Simple example sending a message and printing any incoming message:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketClientExampleSpec.scala { #single-WebSocket-request }

Java : @@snip { #single-WebSocket-request }

The websocket request may also include additional headers, like in this example, HTTP Basic Auth:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketClientExampleSpec.scala { #authorized-single-WebSocket-request }

Java : @@snip { #authorized-single-WebSocket-request }


webSocketClientFlow takes a request, and returns a @scala[@unidoc[Flow[Message, Message, Future[WebSocketUpgradeResponse]]]]@java[@unidoc[Flow[Message, Message, CompletionStage[WebSocketUpgradeResponse]]]].

The future that is materialized from the flow will succeed when the WebSocket connection has been established or the server returned a regular HTTP response, or fail if the connection fails with an exception.

@@@ note The @unidoc[Flow] that is returned by this method can only be materialized once. For each request a new flow must be acquired by calling the method again. @@@

Simple example sending a message and printing any incoming message:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketClientExampleSpec.scala { #WebSocket-client-flow }

Java : @@snip { #WebSocket-client-flow }


Just like the @refStand-Alone HTTP Layer Usage for regular HTTP requests, the WebSocket layer can be used fully detached from the underlying TCP interface. The same scenarios as described for regular HTTP requests apply here.

The returned layer forms a @scala[@unidoc[BidiFlow[Message, SslTlsOutbound, SslTlsInbound, Message, Future[WebSocketUpgradeResponse]]]]@java[@unidoc[BidiFlow[Message, SslTlsOutbound, SslTlsInbound, Message, CompletionStage[WebSocketUpgradeResponse]]]].

Half-Closed WebSockets

The Akka HTTP WebSocket API does not support half-closed connections which means that if either stream completes the entire connection is closed (after a "Closing Handshake" has been exchanged or a timeout of 3 seconds has passed). This may lead to unexpected behavior, for example if we are trying to only consume messages coming from the server, like this:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketClientExampleSpec.scala { #half-closed-WebSocket-closing-example }

Java : @@snip { #half-closed-WebSocket-closing }

This will in fact quickly close the connection because of the @scala[Source.empty]@java[Source.empty()] being completed immediately when the stream is materialized. To solve this you can make sure to not complete the outgoing source by using for example @scala[Source.maybe]@java[Source.maybe()] like this:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketClientExampleSpec.scala { #half-closed-WebSocket-working-example }

Java : @@snip { #half-closed-WebSocket-working }

This will keep the outgoing source from completing, but without emitting any elements until the @scala[Promise]@java[CompletableFuture] is manually completed which makes the @unidoc[Source] complete and the connection to close.

The same problem holds true if emitting a finite number of elements, as soon as the last element is reached the @unidoc[Source] will close and cause the connection to close. To avoid that you can concatenate @scala[Source.maybe]@java[Source.maybe()] to the finite stream:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketClientExampleSpec.scala { #half-closed-WebSocket-finite-working-example }

Java : @@snip { #half-closed-WebSocket-finite }

Scenarios that exist with the two streams in a WebSocket and possible ways to deal with it:

Scenario Possible solution
Two-way communication Flow.fromSinkAndSource, or for a request-response protocol
Infinite incoming stream, no outgoing @scala[Flow.fromSinkAndSource(someSink, Source.maybe)]@java[Flow.fromSinkAndSource(someSink, Source.maybe())]
Infinite outgoing stream, no incoming @scala[Flow.fromSinkAndSource(Sink.ignore, yourSource)]@java[Flow.fromSinkAndSource(Sink.ignore(), yourSource)]

Automatic keep-alive Ping support

Similar to the @refserver-side kee-alive Ping support, it is possible to configure the client-side to perform automatic keep-alive using Ping (or Pong) frames.

This is supported in a transparent way via configuration by setting the: akka.http.client.websocket.periodic-keep-alive-max-idle = 1 second to a specified max idle timeout. The keep alive triggers when no other messages are in-flight during the such configured period. Akka HTTP will then automatically send a Ping frame for each of such idle intervals.

By default, the automatic keep-alive feature is disabled.

Custom keep-alive data payloads

By default, pings do not carry any payload, as it is often enough to simply push any frame over the connection to ensure the connection stays healthy (or detect if it was severed), however you may configure them to carry a custom payload, to do this you can provide a function that will be asked to emit the payload for each of the ping messages generated:

Scala : @@snip WebSocketExampleSpec.scala { #websocket-client-ping-payload }

Java : @@snip { #websocket-client-ping-payload }

Uni-directional Pong keep-alive

A Ping response will always be replied to by the client-side with an appropriate Pong reply, carrying the same payload. It is also possible to configure the keep-alive mechanism to send Pong frames instead of Ping frames, which enables an uni-directional heartbeat mechanism (in which case the client side will not reply to such heartbeat). You can configure this mode by setting: akka.http.client.websocket.periodic-keep-alive-mode = pong.