CometChat is a hosted chat platform as a service (PaaS) that provides APIs, SDKs, and UI widgets to help developers add chat functionality to their apps. In addition to one-to-one and ground chat functionality, CometChat offers voice and video calling, as well as value-add features such as moderation tools, presence indicators, and media attachments.
If you’re looking to add chat functionality to your app and CometChat is one of the options you’re thinking about, make sure you know:
What CometChat does well.
The most compelling CometChat alternatives.
First, let’s look at what CometChat offers:
A chat PaaS delivered through an API, as well as SDKs, UI widgets, and UI kits.
One-to-one and group text chat.
Voice and video calling between individuals and for groups.
Moderation tools, such as sentiment analysis, user reporting, and profanity filtering.
CometChat provides SDKs for a handful of mostly mobile platforms and front-end frameworks. In addition to the full SDKs, CometChat’s widgets offer a quick way of embedding chat into web and mobile applications.
CometChat’s main advantage is that it can be quick to get started, especially as you don’t need to customize the user experience or functionality on offer.
Widgets require little coding: If you’re happy with a standardized user experience, it’s easy to add chat functionality by pasting CometChat’s widgets into your app’s UI.
Connects with other tools: CometChat’s Extensions Marketplace helps you use the PaaS with a limited selection of other tools and services.
Free to get started: CometChat’s free plan lets you build limited proofs of concept before committing to a paid plan.
It’s worth thinking about CometChat’s limitations, too, including:
Limited to chat: CometChat is not a fully rounded realtime platform. You can build only chat (including video and voice) functionality using their services.
Support can be slow: Reviews from CometChat customers suggest that responses to support queries take longer than those customers would like.
Limited support for back-end integration: CometChat’s client libraries, such as their Angular and Android SDKs, are designed for front-end usage. There is no SDK for common back-end languages, such as Java and .NET.
5 alternatives to CometChat
There are many alternatives to CometChat, each of which offers a different approach to building chat functionality into web and mobile applications. Here are five of the most popular alternatives to CometChat:
Firebase isn’t just a chat platform, it is a full backend-as-a-service (BaaS). In other words, it aims to provide everything you need to power a web or mobile front end. That includes the web server and data store, which should save you initial development time compared to building it yourself.
You can use Firebase to build similar functionality to that offered by CometChat. To do that you’d need to work with Firebase Authentication to authenticate users, Firebase Realtime Database/Cloud Firestore to look after synchronizing and storing, and Firebase Cloud Messaging to send notifications to users. But how well does Firebase build chat functionality?
Quick to get going: Firebase sets out to be a one-stop-shop that takes care of hosting, provisioning, server admin, and database functions. Compared to putting that together from separate components, working with Firebase can help you build faster.
High quality documentation: Firebase has a reputation for good developer documentation. Combined with its SDKs for mobile platforms and common web development languages including Python, Java, and Go, that means most developers should find Firebase friendly to work with. And when there’s a problem, a large developer community is there to help.
Free at first: Firebase offers a free plan to get started, meaning you can experiment without worrying about costs.
Scaling Firebase takes extra work: Firebase’s Realtime Database is limited to just 200,000 concurrent connections and 1,000 write operations each second. If you need more, you’ll need to partition your data manually across multiple databases. Alternatively, you can use Firebase’s Cloud Firestore, which can sustain around one million concurrent connections but you do lose some of the Realtime Database’s functionality.
Firebase must store everything: Everything that happens between your chat clients and the back end must go through Firebase’s database first. That can add up quickly as even ephemeral communication, such as activating or removing a typing indicator must first be written to the database.
Firebase costs add up: Higher usage fees are a risk with Firebase. They can add up quickly and it’s not always easy to understand when costs are growing. Firebase users report that large bills can come unexpectedly. Read How not to get a $30k bill from Firebase and We burnt $72K testing Firebase + Cloud Run and almost went bankrupt.
Stream (formerly GetStream)
Stream is similar to CometChat in that it is a PaaS dedicated to chat. Stream offers SDKs and APIs to build chat functionality directly into your app. It has also recently introduced activity feeds alongside chat functionality, with plans to add video and voice calling, too.
Made for chat: Stream is dedicated to chat. Each API, SDK, and widget is built to make it easy to add chat to your product.
Reliable enterprise plans: If you’re on Stream’s highest package they offer a five nines uptime guarantee. However, the SLA is lower if you are on one of the less expensive plans.
Managed infrastructure: Stream handles your chat functionality’s backend albeit from just one of its data centers around the world.
Only offers chat and activity feeds: Like CometChat, Stream’s offering is limited to certain use cases. If you need to build other realtime functionality, such as data broadcast or realtime collaboration, then you’ll need to integrate with another solution.
Not flexible: Even if all you want to build is chat, you are limited to the version of that functionality designed and delivered by Stream.
Stream stores your data: Data doesn’t just pass through Stream’s servers, but it gets stored there, too. That could be an issue for customer privacy, as well as compliance with regulations.
Sendbird, like CometChat, is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider that specializes in chat. It offers an API, SDKs, and UI kits to help you to build support, marketing, and transactional live chat experiences without needing to create the underlying functionality from scratch.
Use case specific APIs: Sendbird focuses on chat, video, and notifications, offering additional functionality including moderation, reactions, mentions, typing indicators, user presence, and read receipts. It also offers specialized versions of those tools for support scenarios.
Scales: Sendbird claims that it can scale well, citing more than a million active users per client application.
Regulatory compliance: Sendbird is registered as complying with standards such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA/HITECH, and GDPR.
If you’re considering Sendbird then make sure you’re aware of some of its downsides, too:
Focused on chat: Sendbird can help you build chat and activity feeds in just the way its product and engineering teams planned. To build things slightly differently or to serve other use cases, such as realtime collaboration, you’ll need to use another platform.
Limited to one data center: Sendbird has multiple data centers but you’ll need to choose just one for your application. That can lead to a reduced user experience for people who are a long way from that data center.
SDKs for a limited set of languages: Sendbird’s SDKs are available for some major languages but not for common ones such as Java, Python, PHP, Go, and Ruby.
Twilio is most famous for its SMS and phone calling APIs but they also offer a product for one-to-one chats called Twilio Conversations. Is it right for your needs?
Twilio Conversations advantages
Works across multiple channels: Twilio Conversations isn’t limited to just web chat, it can work with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and SMS, amongst others.
Send videos and images: Rich media is important to many conversations, such as sending customer support a photo of a broken item. Twilio Conversations supports sending images, videos, and other files.
Standards compliant: Twilio Conversations is compliant with industry standards such including ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2.
Twilio Conversations disadvantages
Limited feature set: Twilio Conversations works well in support and customer service scenarios. But it lacks some common features, such as public group chat, mentions and reactions.
Just one data center: Twilio Conversations does not have a global, edge architecture. That will compromise performance for users who are not close to the data center you choose and could lead to a single point of failure.
Inflexible: If you need something more than customer service chat, Twilio Conversations might not be right for you. For example, if you need other realtime functionality or to build a more customized chat solution, then you’ll need to use another platform.
Ably, the best CometChat alternative for global, scalable, realtime chat experiences
Ably is a realtime experience infrastructure provider. Our APIs and SDKs help you power realtime functionality for use cases like live chat, multiplayer collaboration, and data broadcast, without having to worry about managing and scaling messy realtime infrastructure.
Ably key features and capabilities
With a globally distributed, multi-region network, we offer outstanding performance, data integrity, reliability, and scaling guarantees:
<65 ms median latency.
Messages are guaranteed to be delivered in order and exactly-once delivery, even in unstable network conditions.
Our global edge network delivers unrivaled redundancy at regional and global levels, with a five nines uptime SLA.
Enormous scalability means you can send billions of messages to millions of channels and chat users.
Our developer experience is focused on bringing your product to market quickly. In particular, you’ll find it easy to integrate Ably with your existing tooling, systems, and preferred languages. Choose from SDKs for languages and frameworks as diverse as PHP, Flutter, Clojure, tvOS, and NodeJS and integrate with cloud platforms, data streaming tools, and provisioning tools. We made Ably to serve real world use cases while giving you the freedom you need to build in your way. Ably offers flexible building blocks tailored to building rich chat experiences, including:
Last seen indicators
Chat admin privileges
Find out how Ably can help you build realtime chat experiences into your applications with global reach, massive scalability, and a developer experience designed for productivity.
We have client SDKs for every major programming language and development platform, and we offer a wide variety of integrations, so you can easily connect Ably to your preferred tech stack.
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