Ably vs Sendbird: Chat solutions compared
Discover why Ably is the better choice for building scalable, feature-rich chat experiences with superior quality of service guarantees.
What is Ably?
Ably is a realtime experience infrastructure provider. Our realtime APIs and SDKs help you build live chat experiences, without having to worry about managing and scaling messy realtime infrastructure.
Our globally-distributed, multi-region network offers unrivaled guarantees around performance, data integrity, reliability, and scalability:
<65 ms median latency.
Guaranteed message ordering and (exactly-once) delivery, even in unreliable network conditions.
Redundancy at regional and global levels, with a 99.999% uptime SLA.
Dynamic elasticity, with the ability to send billions of messages to millions of channels and chat users.
We offer flexible building blocks like pub/sub messaging, presence, and message interactions, so you can build rich 1:1 and group chat experiences, with diverse features, including online/offline status indicators, reactions, typing indicators, read receipts, and many more.
What is Sendbird?
Sendbird is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that provides APIs and SDKs to enable messaging, chat, and voice and video calling in web and mobile apps.
The Sendbird Chat product is the primary Sendbird offering for building chat experiences. It’s an API-based service that gives developers tools to add realtime, 1-on-1, and group chat functionality to their apps.
Ably vs Sendbird Chat: feature comparison
The purpose of this comparison is to help you make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing a solution to choosing the best chat solution for your project. We’ll cover a set of topics we think are essential to ask of any technology that helps you deliver chat experiences.
Performance, reliability, scalability, and messaging guarantees
Before considering anything else, you need to trust your chat provider can deliver a dependable service at scale. Performance, reliability, scalability, and superior messaging guarantees are critical factors for any solution that enables the building of chat applications. These characteristics directly impact the user experience and can make or break the success of any chat experience.
99.999% uptime SLA for all paid pricing plans.
This amounts to roughly 8h 40m of service downtime/unavailability per year.
<65ms round-trip latency (P99)
We are only limited by the amount of capacity that Amazon AWS can provide us, which is practically limitless.
That’s why Ably is able to send billions of messages to millions of concurrently-connected devices, over millions of pub/sub channels.
Note that every component of the Ably service affected by increased load is designed to automatically scale pre-emptively to meet demand.
Claims it can scale to 1 million+ concurrent connections per client app.
Public chat channels can sustain up to 100K users.
Private chat channels are limited to 20k users.
Infrastructure / datacenters
Ably has datacenters in 7 regions:
Our network also consists of 385 edge acceleration points of presence (PoPs) distributed all over the world.
The Sendbird infrastructure consists of 8 datacenters distributed in different regions (US West & East, Europe, Asia Pacific, Australia).
The Ably service comes with a globally-distributed, multi-region mesh architecture, with no single point of congestion, and no single point of failure.
You are required to choose a single AWS data center for an app to reside in. This can lead to increased latency, and negatively impacts reliability and availability - if the region goes down, then all apps hosted there are affected.
Guaranteed message ordering
We have not identified any documentation that indicates whether or not Sendbird Chat guarantees message ordering.
Guaranteed message delivery (exactly-once)
We have not identified any documentation that indicates what kind of messaging semantics are supported by Sendbird Chat.
Automatic reconnections with continuity
Every Sendbird Chat SDK supports automatic reconnections (for scenarios where clients briefly disconnect).
However, it is unclear if upon reconnection no message will be lost, sent multiple times, or delivered out of order.
It’s natural you’ll want to make sure the platform you choose for chat has a robust feature set, provides the functionality you need right now, and has the functionality to support you as you grow and your needs change.
1-to-1 & group chat
Ably offers pub/sub channels, a flexible pattern that’s ideal for 1-to-1, 1-to-many (broadcast), and many-to-many chat communication.
Private and public group chat
Ably allows you to set various permissions for authentication tokens, so you can control which clients have access to any given chat channel.
Chat UI components
We don’t provide chat UI components, but you can easily integrate Ably into whatever frontend presentation tier you want, regardless of framework or client technology.
This way, you have full freedom to customize the presentation tier and UX of your chat app.
Ably provides a unified API to deliver notifications, including native iOS and Android push notifications.
Message history (persisted data)
If persisted history is not enabled, Ably retains the last two minutes of instantaneous “live” message history in memory.
If persisted history is enabled, messages will be stored on disk for up to 72 hours.
You can also persist the last message published on a channel for up to one year.
Rewind / load previous messages
With Ably, you can build chat experiences with rich features, including:
Diverse feature set, including:
Supported languages, integrations, and protocols
The modern internet is a web of different programming languages, platforms, protocols, and services built on top of other services. This isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so a chat provider that offers SDKs in different languages, 3rd party integrations, and multi-protocol capabilities is what you should be aiming for.
25+ realtime (and REST) client library SDKs targeting every major language and development platform:
In addition, we also provide MQTT, message queue (AMQP), and STOMP client libraries.
Sendbird Chat offers 7 client SDKs:
3rd party integrations
We offer a wide variety of integrations, so you can easily connect Ably to your preferred tech stack.
Streaming & queuing platforms
(NEW) You can automate the provisioning, management, and testing of Ably realtime infrastructure via our Terraform integration.
Limited number of integrations:
Sendbird Chat offers no integrations with components like databases, event streaming platforms (e.g., Kafka), or serverless platforms.
The Ably protocol, which is used for realtime communication between the Ably servers and client SDKs is WebSocket-based. Note that we offer fallback transports such as XHR Streaming and XHR polling, for environments where WebSockets aren’t supported.
We believe interoperability is key, so we also support additional protocols:
WebSockets are used to maintain persistent connections between the Sendbird server and client SDKs. The documentation doesn’t indicate whether or not a fallback transport is supported (useful for environments where WebSocket connections are blocked).
The Sendbird Chat Platform API uses HTTP.
Sendbird Chat doesn’t support any other messaging protocols, such as MQTT, SSE, or AMQP.
Security and compliance
256-bit AES encryption using private keys. This way, message payloads are opaque, can never be decrypted by Ably, and can only be decrypted by other clients that share your secret key (end-to-end encryption).
TLS/SSL and AES-256 encryption.
Ably authentication capabilities:
Access tokens and ephemeral session tokens.
Also supports JWTs (but you will have to reach out to Sendbird support first to enable this functionality).
Configurable chat roles & permissions
Ably allows you to set various permissions for API keys and tokens (e.g., right to subscribe to channels and presence events, right to publish, right to retrieve message history).
SOC 2 Type 2, HIPAA, GDPR, EU and US-only data storage.
ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2.
Data governance is not a concern with Ably. We only store data such as chat messages for short periods of time (2 minutes in case persistent data isn’t enabled, and up to 72 hours if it is enabled).
We offer integrations with tools like Kafka, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon SQS, and we support queues and webhooks, so you can easily move your chat data into your own long-term storage, and govern it as you see fit.
Data is stored by Sendbird.
Pricing and support
Is the pricing model flexible, scalable, and clear? What support options are available?
Our free package allows you to build a proof of concept and explore Ably’s features.
The free package comes with:
No credit card required.
The free package allows a maximum of 100 monthly active chat users (MAUs) and 10 peak concurrent connections.
There are 2 paid tiers: Pay As You Go, and Committed Use.
Pay As You Go pricing is calculated as follows:
Compared to the Free tier, the Pay As You Go plan offers a couple of extra benefits, such as data replication across regions, and a 99.999% uptime SLA.
If you are looking to exceed 25.000 channels, 25.000 connections, or 2.5 billion messages, we recommend the Committed Use tier.
Similar to the Pay As You Go tier, Committed Use offers a 99.999% uptime SLA. In addition, it comes with volume discounts and add-ons like:
There are 3 paid tiers: Starter (from $399/ month), Pro (from $599/ month), and Enterprise (custom pricing).
The Starter and Pro tiers start from 5k MAUs, while the Enterprise tier is advertised as being suitable for use cases with millions of MAUs.
There are some feature availability differences between the 3 tiers. For example, the Starter tier can’t implement delivery receipts, and can only use limited chat moderation features. Another example - the Enterprise tier comes with paid add-ons (e.g., private dedicated servers) that aren’t available for the other tiers.
Pricing increases as the number of MAUs increases. For example, the Starter package with 25K MAUs costs $1.199/ month. The Pro package with 25K MAUs is as expensive as $1.799/ month.
Note that there’s a cap on the number of peak concurrent connections: 5% of MAUs. If you exceed the number of MAUs or peak concurrent connections, you will have to pay for overages. It’s unclear how much you’ll be charged for overages, but it’s something to bear in mind if you have a growing number of MAUs, and you’re expecting bursts of chat clients connecting simultaneously.
Customer support is included in the package you choose - Free, Pay As You Go, or Committed Use (we don’t charge extra specifically for support).
Live chat and email support are available for all Aby users, irrespective of their plan.
The Committed Use plan comes with additional support channels and benefits, including:
For the Free and Pay As You Go plans, support is available between 9AM-5PM (UK & US East business hours). Meanwhile, for Committed Use customers, support is available 24/7, all year round.
Guaranteed response times:
The base customer support plan (which is included in any paid package) offers best-effort response time, irrespective of the issue’s priority. The base plan is available for 9 hours per day.
There are also 4 paid support plans (L1-L4). For example, L4 costs 10% of your monthly expenditure (or a minimum of $10.000/month). It comes with a guaranteed response time of 1-6 hours (depending on issue priority). L4 support is available 24/7, and there are some extra benefits (e.g., customer success manager).
Note: This comparison was created based on documentation and resources freely available online. The content was last updated on 09 Feb 2023 for Sendbird Chat, and on 23 Feb 2023 for Ably. Be sure to double-check everything before you make any decisions. If you do find anything incorrect or out of date, then please let us know.
Learn how organizations benefit from using Ably to deliver live chat experiences
HubSpot relies on Ably to power live chat between 128.000 businesses and their customers across 120 countries.
Ably has proven highly cost-effective, delivering a 60% upfront CAPEX saving and a further $300.000 saving every year in reduced infrastructure and engineering costs, compared with a self-built solution. Read HubSpot case study.
Ably makes realtime just work – without it, our product would literally stop working - but it is so much more than that. Ably is now a business-critical part of our organisation-wide infrastructure and a key innovation partner that our engineers really like working with. The support and communication are just outstanding and that is huge for us - we really see Ably as a partner in our growth.
With Ably’s help, Guild is able to deliver seamless live chat experiences for more than 5.000 professional communities and groups.
Ably has helped Guild cut time to market by months, and reduce development costs by an estimated £75.000+. Backed by Ably’s realtime infrastructure, Guild has enjoyed stellar growth - up to 500% year on year since launch. Read Guild case study.
Traditional ‘chat-in-a-box’ messaging apps are quite prescriptive. For Guild’s community and networking features, we wanted realtime infrastructure that could expand standard chat functionality. Using Ably infrastructure from the start of our product development process meant we could be sure we weren’t going to be constrained when it came to implementing innovative features. Ably’s enterprise functionality allows us to tailor realtime innovations specific to the use cases of our different customer groups.
Power not only chat, but all your realtime use cases with Ably
Unlike Sendbird Chat, Ably goes far beyond live chat experiences. We can help you with many other realtime use cases:
Broadcast realtime event data, such as live scores and traffic updates.
Facilitate multiplayer collaboration on shared projects and whiteboards.
Deliver cross-platform push notifications at scale.
Keep your backend and frontend in realtime sync.
Add realtime asset tracking capabilities to urban mobility and food delivery apps.