The complete guide to Instant Messaging and in-application chat.
by Erlang Solutions
What you need to know about Instant Messaging and chat applications
Have you got the message? Chat is a critical feature for almost every business, in virtually every industry. Now, more than ever, digital communication is relied upon to share information and keep our contacts and users in touch. We’ve created bespoke chat applications for use cases as varied as large scale medical or digital health providers, industry-leading financial service providers and modern dating apps. For business-to-consumer uses, chat is a great way to turn your app or business into a community, keeping users engaged and adding a social element to your applications. On the other hand, in the B2B space, chat applications can be used to increase collaboration and productivity. In fact, external research conducted by one of our clients TeleWare found that instant messaging was the most in demand feature for a financial service app.
In this blog, we’ll look at some of the key considerations for an Instant Messaging service as well as the must-have features of the modern chat application and how MongooseIM 4.0 stacks up to deliver what you need.
Build vs buy
One of the first considerations a company needs to make when implementing a chat offering is whether to use an out-of-the-box product-as-a-service or software-as-a-service offering or build your own chat. Below we weigh up the pros and cons of each approach.
Benefits of buying
The key benefits of an out-the-box purchase solution is that you are able to deploy quickly. The bigger players in this space often offer a comprehensive set of integrations and require little to no development from your team. They also provide users with a familiar user-interface, which means they’re incredibly quick for anyone to learn how to use. All of this means you can be up-and-running quickly with the peace-of-mind that you’re using a tried and tested solution.
Cons of buying
Both product-as-a-service and software-as-a-service options create the ongoing overhead of a subscription fee by their very nature. Over time, this cost inevitably adds up, making it a more expensive offering. Another drawback is that bought options are designed as one-size-fits-all products and seldom offer flexibility for bespoke features and changes. These options offer next to no control and data ownership is often shared. This makes it hard for your users to control their privacy and hard for your chat solution to meet any needs other than the most vanilla offering.The customer service and support can also be variable. All of this creates a huge potential for complication if something stops functioning in what is essentially a blackbox solution.
Benefits of building
Building provides you with the flexibility to create a specific chat solution for your needs and own every step in the functionality. In theory, building can be more affordable over the long-term as it reduces the ongoing costs of a software-as-a-service offering. An owned solution also minimises the risk of major changes in your chat application no longer being compitable with the rest of your application.
Cons of building
When building goes wrong, it is the most costly option, with high upfront and ongoing maintenance costs. Building your own chat application can run into difficulties when the app starts to scale (which is exactly when you want them least). Lastly, building something bespoke means there is no support or community to help you troubleshoot.
The MongooseIM way
MongooseIM is a massively scalable, battle tested, open-source chat server that has been proven to be able to handle 10’s of millions of connections with ease. With MongooseIM you have the freedom and flexibility to use the open-source product and develop it to your needs, or you can engage our experts to build bespoke features for you. Our team also offers the peace-of-mind of support should you ever need it. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to develop and own your chat solution without the cost or risk of starting from scratch.
The most desired features in a chat application
With over a decade’s experience in building chat applications, we know the features required to ensure a success, taking everyone from the end-user to the DevOps team into consideration. Below is a list of the most used and desired features and how MongooseIM stacks up.
It goes without saying that a chat application should allow users to reliably send and receive messages in real-time. MongooseIM’s scalability ensures that no matter what the spikes or loads of your user-base is, no important message will be lost in transit.
Push notifications are one of the most valuable parts of a modern chat application. Even if your user is not logged into the application, they’ll still be informed of the message. For B2C applications, that increases the chances of bringing them back to your app and for B2B applications, it ensures no important message goes missed, without requiring your team to be logged into a chat application at all times. MongooseIM has an in-house developed push notification management system, MongoosePush, which is designed to integrate with MongooseIM to easily enable push notifications for your chat app.
MongooseIM rarely works alone, usually it is coupled with other microservices. We offer a rest API that these services can call, and an event pusher for MongooseIM to notify them, thus providing a two-way communication with other microservices over the REST API.
An easy to use API makes your chat application faster and easier to embed and integrate into your chat. We offer a REST API, which is simple, modern and easily understood by most developers. This can be used for both backend integration and client / service development.
Group chat is one of the most popular features in social settings, and one of the most in-demand features for business collaboration. MongooseIM offers a multi-user chat functionality that is reliable and seamless for users whilst minimising demands on your server. We also provide a light-weight implementation of multi-user chat, tailored for mobile devices.
File Transfer and sharing
For a majority of use cases, allowing users to share and transfer files makes a chat more usable, keeping them engaged on your platform longer. MongooseIM uses an out-of-band transfer method which reduces the workload on the server side whilst still enabling an easier to use experience for users to share files within the chat application.
Batch permissions allow for privacy and control of access to information. MongooseIM uses access control lists to offer this functionality. Our chat applications have been approved by regulatory bodies in the health care and financial services worldwide.
As an application built in XMPP, MongooseIM uses the tried and tested mod_roster functionality to allow for users to manage and customise their address books within the chat application.
History and version control
If something goes wrong, history and version control is vital. Having access to previous versions means you always have a proven version to fall back on. MongooseIM has a public history of its source code which you have access to at all times.
Contact sharing from within a chat application encourages connections between groups of users, helps to grow user bases and increase collaboration.
Four key MongooseIM integrations
Instant Messaging and Kubernetes
Kubernetes has become an extremely popular platform-agnostic deployment tool and has powerful cloud management automation. The MongooseIM Helm Chart makes it easy to install MongooseIM and MongoosePush to Kubernetes.
Structured Log Management for chat solutions
Humio is a modern log management tool that provides complete observability to your team. Our new structured logging allows you to integrate with log management tools just like Humio to identify, prevent and resolve bottlenecks, poor usage patterns in production and other recurring issues in your system.
Instant Messaging metrics
WombatOAM is another tool to help you understand what is going on under-the-hood in your system. WombatOAM specialises in giving you visibility on the metrics of your system so you can identify trends and prevent problems arising. This includes allowing you to create automated alarms based on customisable performance metrics such as CPU usage.
Aysnchrounous message delivery
In complex systems RabbitMQ can be used as an asynchronous message broker. MongooseIM is able to handle the instant messaging between users’ smartphone while RabbitMQ connects these devices to other software systems.
Make sure your users get the message
MongooseIM 4.0 has just been released. In this release, we’ve gone a step further to ensure an easy to use product for developers, users and a DevOps alike. Explore the changes on GitHub
If you need help with the perfect chat solution for your needs, talk to our team of scalability experts. We’re always happy to help.