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  3. Add an Avatar Stack for live collaborative experiences
3 min readPublished Jul 19, 2022

Add an Avatar Stack for live collaborative experiences

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What is an Avatar Stack?

An Avatar Stack visually represents users who are connected in a digital space. It is an important feature for a variety of multiuser applications from chat to collaborative spaces.

Avatar Stacks can also include information about user connection state such as online, offline and last seen information which helps to understand recent activity.

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Test Ably’s Avatar Stack implementation in realtime!

Click below to try Ably's Avatar Stack implementation and to browse through the code that powers it.

Test the demo. Open on multiple browser windows/devices, or share with a friend. See new Avatars instantly appear and become greyed out as soon as a tab is closed.

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Where can I use Avatar Stacks?

Avatar Stacks can add value to a range of live experiences online. Some example use cases are:

  • Showing members of a chat room

  • Collaborating with others in a virtual space (e.g. document, deck, sheet)

  • Showing recipients in a 1-1 chat

  • Visualising the audience in a virtual event

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Advanced Avatar Stack functionality

You can incorporate more functionality within your Avatar Stack such as:

  • Displaying user profile information including username, name, status, description

  • Avatar customisation with the ability for users to include a profile picture, initials etc.

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How to add an Avatar Stack to your product

With Ably, it is easy to add an Avatar Stack to your product.

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Step 1: Sign up to Ably

Visit our sign up page to start using Ably for free. Simply upgrade when you need to ramp up usage past 6M Monthly messages, 200 Peak concurrent channels, 200 Peak concurrent connections. Once you are signed up, download one of our SDKs to get started.

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Step 2: Start using Ably Channels, Presence, and History

Ably Channels

Channel is the unit of distribution of messages. Messages can be anything and a channel can represent a chat room, direct messaging, a virtual event etc. Users or their devices can connect to a specific channel. The Avatar Stack is not related to messages in a channel, but the digital place where an Avatar Stack can be used is the channel itself.

Ably Presence

Presence allows you to automatically track who is present in a channel. This feature is used to update the Avatar Stack when users or their devices connect or disconnect from a channel. This provides visibility of user activity in realtime.

Some key methods to help you get started are:

Ably History

History provides access to historical messages, including presence events for up to 2 minutes. This can be used to see who has disconnected from the channel. This enables the Avatar Stack to see who is offline and to show when the user was last seen.

You'll need to do the following to get started with adding an Avatar Stack to your application.

  • Implement a UI for the Avatar Stack

  • Implement behaviour for the Avatar Stack

  • Manage storage for user information in a datastore or similar

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Don’t forget to try out Ably’s Avatar Stack implementation!

Get hands-on with our Avatar Stack offering by testing the demo in realtime - on multiple browsers, or with a friend. You can also browse through the code that powers it.

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Discover more collaborative features

Discover the other features you could use to deliver a world-class collaborative experience, including:

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