4 min readUpdated Oct 7, 2022

The Periodic Table of Realtime: a compendium for all things event-driven and related

Presenting the Ably Periodic Table of Realtime putting in a single place all the disparate, well, elements of the realtime and event-driven space.

Users increasingly demand realtime, synchronous digital experiences. This demand is growing exponentially and presents serious engineering challenges. Event-driven architectures meet the challenge head-on, filling the requirements gap, and establishing themselves as an indispensable, integral part of the solution.

The concept of realtime is hard to define: we gave it a good try in our What is Realtime? blog post, but it can also be thought of as the sum total of all its constituent parts, be it patterns, protocols, specific technologies, package solutions, or various other bits and pieces in motion.

Many of these appear in the ever-excellent and highly informative Real-Time Web Technologies Guide by Phil Legetter, which was part of the inspiration for our Periodic Table of Realtime.

All these components end up defining realtime in a collective way, including realtime-adjacent concepts like long-polling, or more historical, foundational technologies like HTTP, without which none of us would be here and now. We also included different realtime solutions that work for different stacks with different features and distinctive implementations, so that you can get a good view of the realtime landscape.

To help illustrate the need and the impact of these technologies in a less fragmented way, we’ve organized the landscape into a bird’s-eye visual: a central jumping-off point that the community hopefully finds useful.

We wanted to accomplish several things with the Periodic Table of Realtime Elements. One was to make sure that both the beginner and the experienced engineer could get something from it. We wanted it to be easy to use, interactive, and with something informative behind it all.  

We also felt it would be a good opportunity to showcase some of the aspects of our recently rolled out visual branding. Naturally, as part of this ideation process, we’ve got some t-shirts of the Periodic Table of Realtime Elements in the works. Let us know if you’d like one!

Ably's Periodic Table of Realtime combines elements of event-driven technologies (realtime and related) into a single periodic-table-like construct.
The Periodic Table of Realtime

How does one use it? It's basically like the periodic table, but without any atomic weights, just some groupings of players in and aspects of the realtime sphere. You click on some tiles of interest, read the excerpt, and click through to read relevant content at the end of the rainbow. Learning stuff about the stuff that realtime is made of.

Compiling these elements of interest certainly filled in some blanks for a number of us Ablyans working on it, and we ended up gaining a better understanding of the landscape surrounding realtime and event-driven topics. And we know it will provide a number of our readers in the developer community with a clearer picture, too.

Naturally, none of this is static and will be updated along the way, ideally with your help. Do send us a note with feedback, elements that we should include, the latest info on any of the technologies (some of it was surprisingly hard to find!), and any corrections of die-hard typos that escaped and survived several rounds of hunting parties.

For now, here’s our “state of realtime” as we see it in the current zeitgeist, recording for posterity some of the more recent, salient bits that we are aware of in our little corner of the internet.

If you like it, please share it.

If you have feedback, contact us.

If you want to talk realtime solutions to real-world problems at scale, we live the stuff, so get in touch via our contact page above.

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