API v 1.2


Presence enables clients to be aware of other clients that are currently “present” on a channel. Each member present on a channel has a unique self-assigned client identifier and system-assigned connection identifier, along with an optional payload that can be used to describe the member’s status or attributes. Presence allows you to quickly build apps such as chat rooms and multiplayer games by automatically keeping track of who is present in real time across any device.

Using the Ably REST API it is possible to obtain the set of members currently present on a channel, or obtain the presence history for the channel, if persistence is enabled for that channel.

Since the Ably REST API is stateless, and REST clients do not have realtime connections to the Ably service, it is not possible to enter or leave a channel via the REST API. Find out more about using presence with the Realtime API.

A single clientId may be present multiple times on the same channel via different client connections. As far as Ably is concerned, these are different members of the presence set for the channel, however they will be differentiated by their unique connectionId. For example, if a client with ID “Sarah” is connected to a chat channel on both a desktop and a mobile device simultaneously, “Sarah” will be present twice in the presence member set with the same client ID, yet will have two unique connection IDs. A member of the presence set is therefore unique by the combination of the clientId and connectionId strings.

If you would prefer to just dive into code and see some examples of how to use presence via the REST API, then we recommend you take a look at our REST tutorials.

Whenever a member enters or leaves a channel, or updates their member data, a presence event is emitted to all presence subscribers on that channel. Subscribing to presence events makes it incredibly easy to build an app that shows, in real time, any changes to clients connected to Ably and present on a channel.

The following presence events are emitted:

A new member has entered the channel
A member who was present has now left the channel. This may be a result of an explicit request to leave or implicitly when detaching from the channel. Alternatively, if a member’s connection is abruptly disconnected and they do not resume their connection within a minute, Ably treats this as a leave event as the client is no longer present
An already present member has updated their member data. Being notified of member data updates can be very useful, for example, it can be used to update the status of a user when they are typing a message
When subscribing to presence events on a channel that already has members present, this event is emitted for every member already present on the channel before the subscribe listener was registered

In addition to the clientId for members on a channel, it is also possible to include data when entering a channel. Clients can update their data at any point which will be broadcasted to all presence subscribers as a :updateupdate event.

See the Realtime Presence Member data documentation for more info.

The Presence object exposes a get method allowing a client to retrieve an array of all members currently present on the channel. In the REST client library this method directly queries Ably’s REST presence API. No presence state is cached in the library itself, unlike in the Realtime client library.

channel.presence.get(function(err, membersPage) { console.log(membersPage.items.length + ' presence members in first page'); if(membersPage.hasNext()) { membersPage.next(function(err, nextPage) { ... }); } });

It is common for the presence of multiple channels to be needed. If you wish to obtain the presence of multiple channels within a single operation, you can make use of the REST batch API.

The Presence object exposes a history method allowing a client to retrieve historical presence events on the channel.

History provides access to instantaneous “live” history as well as the longer term persisted history for presence channels. If persisted history is enabled for the channel, then presence events will typically be stored for 24 – 72 hours. If persisted history is not enabled, Ably retains the last two minutes of presence event history in memory.

The following example retrieves the first two pages of historical presence events published.

var presence = channel.presence; presence.history(function(err, eventsPage) { if(err) { console.log('Unable to get presence history; err = ' + err.message); } else { console.log(eventsPage.items.length + ' presence events received in first page'); if(eventsPage.hasNext()) { eventsPage.next(function(err, nextPage) { ... }); } });

See the presence history documentation for further details of the supported query parameters.

View the Presence API Reference.