animesh kumar

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Posts Tagged ‘WebSocket

WebSocket support in Android’s Phonegap apps

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We are developing a small game which can be played from multiple users using variety of clients, web-browser, Android, iPhone, iPad etc. It’s like, there is a server and all clients connect to this server, and send and receive messages. We decided to use WebSocket for underlying connection between clients and server, and Phonegap to build clients. Our idea is to write the client once and then run it on variety of platforms. Since, Phonegap enables app development using HTML, CSS and JavaScripts, it generously fits into our requirement.

But Phonegap doesn’t support WebSocket yet, it’s in their Plan-of-Action for 1.x release though. So, it was needed to be addressed. I found Mathias Desloge’s PhoneGap-Android-HTML5-WebSocket project. It was good but it used old* packages. I would have preferred to use java.nio.* for better and efficient non-blocking behavior. So, I decided to write my own small library.

Library can be found here: websocket-android-phonegap.

How to use?

  1. Copy Java source into your source folder.
  2. Copy websocket.js in your assets/www/js folder
  3. Attach com.strumsoft.websocket.phonegap.WebSocketFactory to WebView, like
    	public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    		// attach websocket factory
    		appView.addJavascriptInterface(new WebSocketFactory(appView), "WebSocketFactory");
  4. In your page, create a new WebSocket, and overload its method ‘onmessage’, ‘onopen’, ‘onclose’, like
    	// new socket
    	var socket = new WebSocket('ws://');
    	// push a message after the connection is established.
    	socket.onopen = function() {
    	// alerts message pushed from server
    	socket.onmessage = function(msg) {
    	// alert close event
    	socket.onclose = function() {

How it works?

When you create a new WebSocket object in your page, behind the scene, websocket.js delegates the responsibility to com.strumsoft.websocket.phonegap.WebSocketFactory to instantiate new com.strumsoft.websocket.phonegap.WebSocket object.

		// websocket.js
		// get a new websocket object from factory (check
		this.socket = WebSocketFactory.getWebSocket(url);

WebSocketFactory simply instantiates a new WebSocket object, connects it to the designated server and returns the instance.

// com.strumsoft.websocket.phonegap.WebSocketFactory

public WebSocket getWebSocket(String url) throws URISyntaxException {
	WebSocket socket =  new WebSocket(appView, new URI(url));
	socket.connect();   // connects to server
	return socket;

Now, whenever an event occurs, say, ‘onmessage’, WebSocket class delegates that event to Javascript.

// com.strumsoft.websocket.phonegap.WebSocket

public void onMessage(String message) {
	appView.loadUrl(buildLoadData("message", message));
private String buildLoadData(String _event, String _data) {
	String _d =  "javascript:WebSocket.on" + _event + "(" + 
				+ "\"_target\":\"" + webSocketId + "\"," + 
				"\"_data\":'" + data + "'" + 
				"}" + 
	return _d;

Finally, ‘WebSocket.onmessage’ from websocket.js is called. It parses the payload, finds out the target WebSocket object, and calls the corresponding event on the target object with event data.

	// websocket.js
	// static event methods to call event methods on target websocket objects
	WebSocket.onmessage = function (evt) {
		WebSocket.registry[evt._target]['onmessage'].call(global, evt._data);

That’s it!


(Date: Thu Aug 25 12:40:52 IST 2011)

There was a serious bug! The Websocket connection runs in a separate thread to manage persistent state with the server. And the front end Javascript (websocket.js) stays within UI/Main thread. And Android doesn’t want other threads to communicate with UI thread directly. These threads must employ an additional thread to bridge the communication. So, here is the fix!

	// a message is sent to server! 
	public void send(final String text) {
		// new thread
		new Thread(new Runnable() {
			public void run() {
				if (instance.readyState == WEBSOCKET_STATE_OPEN) {
					try {
					} catch (IOException e) {
				} else {
					instance.onError(new NotYetConnectedException());

	// when a message is received
	public void onMessage(final String msg) {
		// post a new thread to View Runnable() {
			public void run() {
				appView.loadUrl(buildJavaScriptData(EVENT_ON_MESSAGE, msg));

Commit link:

Written by Animesh

February 3, 2011 at 11:52 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , , ,

WebSocket and node.js: why shud’ya care?

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Traditional HTTP messages are heavy. Every message is sent with HTTP headers. Now, let’s say you have an application that has a real-time component, like chat or some twitter client or may be some traffic analysis stuff. And let’s say you have around 100,000 users connected to your app. To make your app real-time, you need to have a mechanism which will enable server to push data almost as soon as this data becomes available. You could do it in two ways: Write a script which will connect to server every few seconds to check if there is any data. With each attempt, full set of HTTP headers moves back and forth between client and server. That’s not very efficient. To save yourself with all these bandwidth hassles, you could use a popular trick known as long-polling, where your browser connects to server and server holds the connection open until there is some data available to be pushed.

Now, let’s assume that there are 100,000 users connected to your app and every 10 seconds some data is sent from server to clients. Following HTTP specs, every time some data is sent, full set of headers are shared between client and server. This is how they look,

Request header

GET / HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: ...some long user agent string...
Accept: */*

Response header

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2011 17:32:19 GMT
Server: Apache
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.2.3
Connection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

That’s approximately 350 bytes of data, per user every 10 seconds. That’s roughly 28,400,000 bits per second of network throughput for 100,000 users. Roughly 26.7 Mbps for only HTTP headers. Gosh!


WebSocket comes to resue. With web sockets, once a handshake is done between client and server, messages can be sent back and forth with a minimal overhead. That’s awesome. You do a handshake while establishing the connection, and of course handshaking needs all those HTTP headers, but after that, you only need to send the data… no headers. This greatly reduces the bandwidth usage and thus improves the performance. Let’s see how. This is how handshake headers look like,

Handshake Request header

GET /demo HTTP/1.1
Upgrade: WebSocket
Connection: Upgrade
WebSocket-Protocol: sample

Handshake Response header

HTTP/1.1 101 Web Socket Protocol Handshake
Upgrade: WebSocket
Connection: Upgrade
WebSocket-Location: ws://
WebSocket-Protocol: sample

And now, the connection has been established and data can freely flow between server and client without having to exchange any HTTP headers until this connection is closed or broken and you do another handshake. Imagine how much bandwidth you are saving! Whoa!


Let’s write a simple application to see and learn how this thing actually works. This application will have a server all the clients will connect to, and whenever one client writes something to the server, all clients will be notified.

Here is our server, written in Node.js. Let’s name it server.js

Note: Though you can very well write a web socket server using Node’s native APIs, however I chose to use Micheil Smith‘s node-websocket-server library. This library is simple, elegant and very easy to work with. It works by wrapping and extending Node’s server object.

var sys = require("sys");
// Library
var	websocket = require('./lib/node-websocket-server/lib/ws/server');

// create web socket server
var server = websocket.createServer();
// listen on port 8078

// when the server is ready
server.addListener("listening", function() {
  sys.log("Listening for connections on localhost:8078");

// when a traditional HTTP request comes
server.addListener("request", function(req, res) {
	res.writeHead(200, {
		"Content-Type" : "text/plain"
	res.write("This is an example WebSocket server.");

// when a client websocket connects
server.addListener("connection", function(conn) {

	// when client writes something
	conn.addListener("message", function(message) {

		// iterate thorough all connected clients, and push this message
		server.manager.forEach(function(connected_client) {
			connected_client.write(JSON.stringify( + ": " + message));

Now, let’s write a simple client. We will create one HTML file and run it in Google Chrome. Let’s name is client.html

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>WebSocket - Simple Client</title>
    <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
    <script type="text/javascript">

	$(function() {
		// bind form
		$('#payload-form').submit(function() {
			var payload = ($("input#payload").val());
			socket.send(payload);  // write to server
			return false;

		// open websocket
		var socket = new WebSocket('ws://localhost:8078');

		socket.onopen = function() {
	    	// Web Socket is connected. send an initial random message.
	    	socket.send(Math.floor(Math.random()*11) + ' >> Hi, I am Mr. so-and-so!');
		// append to '#log' whatever server pushes.
		socket.onmessage = function(ev){
			msg = JSON.parse(;
			$('#log').append(JSON.stringify(msg) + '</br>');
	<div id='payload-container'>
		<form id='payload-form'>
			<input type='text' name='payload' id='payload' value='Hello World' style="width:500px;"/>
			<input type='submit' value='push'/>

	<div id='log' style='display:block; border:1px solid lightgray;'></div>

Now, run your server, and open your client in multiple Chrome windows/tabs.

// run server
$ node server.js

That’s it! Was is fun? I will write more on how to establish WebSocket connections from a Java client in the next blog.

Written by Animesh

January 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm