Using WebSocket to build an interactive web application :: Learn how to the send and receive messages between a browser and the server over a WebSocket
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This guide walks you through the process of creating a "hello world" application that sends messages back and forth, between a browser and the server. WebSocket is a very thin, lightweight layer above TCP. It makes it very suitable to use "subprotocols" to embed messages. In this guide we’ll dive in and use STOMP messaging with Spring to create an interactive web application.

What you’ll build

You’ll build a server that will accept a message carrying a user’s name. In response, it will push a greeting into a queue that the client is subscribed to.

Create a resource representation class

Now that you’ve set up the project and build system, you can create your STOMP message service.

Begin the process by thinking about service interactions.

The service will accept messages containing a name in a STOMP message whose body is a JSON object. If the name given is "Fred", then the message might look something like this:

    "name": "Fred"

To model the message carrying the name, you can create a plain old Java object with a name property and a corresponding getName() method:



Upon receiving the message and extracting the name, the service will process it by creating a greeting and publishing that greeting on a separate queue that the client is subscribed to. The greeting will also be a JSON object, which might look something like this:

    "content": "Hello, Fred!"

To model the greeting representation, you add another plain old Java object with a content property and corresponding getContent() method:



Spring will use the Jackson JSON library to automatically marshal instances of type Greeting into JSON.

Next, you’ll create a controller to receive the hello message and send a greeting message.

Create a message-handling controller

In Spring’s approach to working with STOMP messaging, STOMP messages can be routed to @Controller classes. For example the GreetingController is mapped to handle messages to destination "/hello".



This controller is concise and simple, but there’s plenty going on. Let’s break it down step by step.

The @MessageMapping annotation ensures that if a message is sent to destination "/hello", then the greeting() method is called.

The payload of the message is bound to a HelloMessage object which is passed into greeting().

Internally, the implementation of the method simulates a processing delay by causing the thread to sleep for 1 second. This is to demonstrate that after the client sends a message, the server can take as long as it needs to process the message asynchronously. The client may continue with whatever work it needs to do without waiting on the response.

After the 1 second delay, the greeting() method creates a Greeting object and returns it. The return value is broadcast to all subscribers to "/topic/greetings" as specified in the @SendTo annotation. Note that the name from the input message is sanitized since in this case it will be echoed back and re-rendered in the browser DOM on the client side.

Configure Spring for STOMP messaging

Now that the essential components of the service are created, you can configure Spring to enable WebSocket and STOMP messaging.

Create a Java class named WebSocketConfig that looks like this:



WebSocketConfig is annotated with @Configuration to indicate that it is a Spring configuration class. It is also annotated @EnableWebSocketMessageBroker. As its name suggests, @EnableWebSocketMessageBroker enables WebSocket message handling, backed by a message broker.

The configureMessageBroker() method implements the default method in WebSocketMessageBrokerConfigurer to configure the message broker. It starts by calling enableSimpleBroker() to enable a simple memory-based message broker to carry the greeting messages back to the client on destinations prefixed with "/topic". It also designates the "/app" prefix for messages that are bound for @MessageMapping-annotated methods. This prefix will be used to define all the message mappings; for example, "/app/hello" is the endpoint that the GreetingController.greeting() method is mapped to handle.

The registerStompEndpoints() method registers the "/gs-guide-websocket" endpoint, enabling SockJS fallback options so that alternate transports may be used if WebSocket is not available. The SockJS client will attempt to connect to "/gs-guide-websocket" and use the best transport available (websocket, xhr-streaming, xhr-polling, etc).

Create a browser client

With the server side pieces in place, now let’s turn our attention to the JavaScript client that will send messages to and receive messages from the server side.

Create an index.html file that looks like this:



This HTML file imports the SockJS and STOMP javascript libraries that will be used to communicate with our server using STOMP over websocket. We’re also importing here an app.js which contains the logic of our client application.

Let’s create that file:



The main piece of this JavaScript file to pay attention to is the connect() and sendName() functions.

The connect() function uses SockJS and stomp.js to open a connection to "/gs-guide-websocket", which is where our SockJS server is waiting for connections. Upon a successful connection, the client subscribes to the "/topic/greetings" destination, where the server will publish greeting messages. When a greeting is received on that destination, it will append a paragraph element to the DOM to display the greeting message.

The sendName() function retrieves the name entered by the user and uses the STOMP client to send it to the "/app/hello" destination (where GreetingController.greeting() will receive it).

Make the application executable

Although it is possible to package this service as a traditional WAR file for deployment to an external application server, the simpler approach demonstrated below creates a standalone application. You package everything in a single, executable JAR file, driven by a good old Java main() method. Along the way, you use Spring’s support for embedding the Tomcat servlet container as the HTTP runtime, instead of deploying to an external instance.



Logging output is displayed. The service should be up and running within a few seconds.

Test the service

Now that the service is running, point your browser at http://localhost:8080 and click the "Connect" button.

Upon opening a connection, you are asked for your name. Enter your name and click "Send". Your name is sent to the server as a JSON message over STOMP. After a 1-second simulated delay, the server sends a message back with a "Hello" greeting that is displayed on the page. At this point, you can send another name, or you can click the "Disconnect" button to close the connection.


Congratulations! You’ve just developed a STOMP-based messaging service with Spring.