In the past few years, messaging apps such as Slack, Kik, LINE, Viber and WhatsApp have exploded in popularity. In fact, according to Statista, the number of messaging app users is expected to grow from 1.82 billion in 2017 to 2.48 billion in 2021. People prefer messaging through these apps because they are a convenient replacement to SMS technology. They also have more advanced features such as image and video sharing, group chats, video and audio calls, and others.
Instant messaging functionality has also made its way into other more established apps such as Uber, Twitch, Periscope, Twitter and Instagram. In these cases, the added functionality quickly becomes a core feature, essential to the way the users interact with the apps. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what the SaaS market has to offer in terms of in-app real time messaging solutions.
Hosted and self-hosted chat services
Companies that want to add real time chat functionality to their app have three options: either develop the functionality from scratch, buy the SDKs and APIs and simply add ready-made code to the app, or a combination of the previous two options. The second option is known as a hosted chat service, and the third option as a self-hosted chat service.
The advantage of the hosted chat service is the simplicity with which it can be implemented. All you have to do is connect to the hosted messaging solution via APIs and SDKs, and your app will have chat enabled. You do not have to worry about developing or maintaining any code, as that will be covered by the third party provider. However, there are some issues with this solution. To start, all customization will have to be implemented by the service provider, and it will be at a cost. You will also be charged based on usage, and as such, you will have to pay more as your app grows.
The self-hosted solution comes with its own code that you can buy and install on your own servers. This will give you the option to customize your chat functionality, and the throttle on usability will simply depend on your server. However, the workload will be heavier. You will have to handle all backend development tasks, provide support, and maintain the application. This solution works best for apps that will typically see a large number of users.
Choosing the right hosted or self-hosted service
There are currently four chat services that stand out: Layer, Pusher, PubNub, and MongooseIm. The first three companies offer a variety of hosted services that will cover almost every programming language and framework out there, with the latter company offering a self-hosted service that is best suited for massive apps that rely on scalability. We recommend checking each one of these options out in order to find the best solution for your app.