Websocket based Chat in GoLang

Websocket based Chat in GoLang


Real-time chat is virtually any online communication that provides a real-time or live transmission of text messages from sender to receiver. A variety of software programs are available to enable real-time chat between individuals using Internet services. Chat messages are often brief to let other participants respond swiftly, thereby creating a feeling much like a spoken conversation. This mode of communication differentiates real-time chats from other forms of text-based online communications, including emails and Internet forums. Real-time chat uses Web-based apps, which permit communication that is usually addressed directly but is anonymous among users in a multi-user environment.

WebSockets are a great fit for applications like chats or simple games. Chat sessions are usually long-lived, with the client receiving messages from other participants over a long period. Chat sessions are also bidirectional – clients want to send chat messages, and see chat messages from others. Unlike regular HTTP requests, WebSocket connections can be kept open for a long time and have an easy interface for exchanging data between the client and server in the form of frames. WebSockets are also a widely supported technology. All modern browsers can work with WebSockets out of the box, and frameworks to work with WebSockets exist in many programming languages and on many platforms.


Before we move on to implementation there are basic terms and technologies we need to be familiar with.


To handle a large number of connections, we will be needing multiple instances of a server, thus there will be a need for a medium for server-to-server communication. In a very fast, reliable, persisted, fault-tolerance and zero downtime manner, Kafka offers a Pub-sub and queue-based messaging system. The producers send the message to a topic and the consumer can select any one of the message systems according to their wish.


For keeping account of online users and managing messages between multiple servers we would be needing a fast and reliable database system. Redis delivers sub-millisecond response times, enabling millions of requests per second for real-time applications in industries like gaming, ad tech, financial services, healthcare, and IoT. Today, Redis is one of the most popular open-source engines, named the "Most Loved" database by Stack Overflow for five consecutive years. Because of its fast performance, Redis is a popular choice for caching, session management, gaming, leaderboards, real-time analytics, geospatial, ride-hailing, chat/messaging, media streaming, and pub/sub applications.

Building a Chatting Application

Now, Since we have gotten familiar with the technologies we will be using, below is the design diagram for our application:

Chat Service System Design

For our application, we will build a messaging server in Golang

Docker-compose setup

Below is the docker-compose file we will be using to set up our services:

version: '2'
    image: confluentinc/cp-zookeeper:latest
      - 22181:2181

    image: confluentinc/cp-kafka:latest
      - zookeeper
      - 9093:9093
      KAFKA_ZOOKEEPER_CONNECT: zookeeper:2181
      KAFKA_CREATE_TOPICS: my-kafka-topic

    image: 'bitnami/redis:latest'
      - "6379:6379"

In the above docker-compose.yml file images used:

  • For Redis: bitnami/redis:latest

  • For Kafka: confluentinc/cp-kafka:latest

Now that we have set up our docker-compose file we need to establish our services with our server using golang

For this we would be using the golang library:

  • For Redis: github.com/gomodule/redigo/redis

  • For Kafka: github.com/segmentio/kafka-go

  • For Websockets: github.com/gorilla/websocket

To create a server let's create a server object to access the services

  type Server struct {
        userCons    map[string]*websocket.Conn
        ctx         context.Context
        reader      *kafka.Reader
        writer      *kafka.Writer
        mut         sync.Mutex
        RedisClient *redis.Client

To initialize these services below is the InitService() function:

func InitService() *Server {
        return &Server{
            userCons: make(map[string]*websocket.Conn),
            ctx:      context.Background(),
            reader: kafka.NewReader(kafka.ReaderConfig{
                Brokers: []string{"localhost:9093"},
                Topic:   "my-kafka-topic",
            writer: &kafka.Writer{
                Addr:     kafka.TCP("localhost:9093"),
                Topic:    "my-kafka-topic",
                Balancer: &kafka.Murmur2Balancer{},
            mut: sync.Mutex{},
            RedisClient: redis.NewClient(&redis.Options{
                Addr:     "localhost:6379",
                Password: "",
                DB:       0,

Now that we have initialized our services, we need to create a structure to encode-decode messages. Below is the structure we will be using:

type UserMessage struct {
        User    string `json:"user"`
        Message string `json:"msg"`

The user in the structure will have the recipient user ID and the Message we need to send.

Now, we can start creating our handler to receive and send messages. Let's start with initialising a handshake using Upgrade() method

// Upgrade your connection to websocket connection
        conn, err := upgrades.Upgrade(w, r, nil)
        if err != nil {

Once the handshake is done we need to check for the sender's user ID from the parameters and mark him online. To do that we will be using Redis and userCons map to store connection objects and tag users online

// Get Sender user ID from parameter
        inID := r.URL.Query().Get("user")

// Writing connection in user connection map and into the redis to keep account if user is online into which server
        srv.userCons[inID] = conn
        srv.RedisClient.Set(inID, "true", 0)

Once we mark the user online we will be sending the user un-received messages which he may get when he was offline. We are storing un-received messages in our Redis Database.

 // Sending un-recieved messages which was sent when user was offline

        // Retrieving messages from Redis server
        val, err := srv.RedisClient.Get(inID + "msg").Result()
        if err == nil && val != "" {
            // Function to send old messaged to the user
            go srv.SendOldMsg(inID, val)

    func (srv *Server) SendOldMsg(key string, uMsgs string) {
        fmt.Println("Sending old messages")
        // splitting old messages
        messages := strings.Split(uMsgs, "|")
        for _, msg := range messages {
            // sending un-received message to the user via websocket
            if err := srv.userCons[key].WriteMessage(1, []byte(msg)); err != nil {
        srv.RedisClient.Set(key, "", 0)

Now once the user received his messages we can start with a chat session we will be using two go func() for that one will receive messages from WebSocket and broadcast them into kafka and the other will receive messages from Kafka and send them to the recipient via WebSocket. In case the recipient is offline, the messages sent by the user will be stored in Redis.

 // Receiver Server
        go func() {
            for {
            // Get messages from kafka which was broadcast by the server to which sender was connected to
                msg, err := srv.reader.ReadMessage(srv.ctx)
                if err != nil {
                fmt.Println("Kafka Message received: ", string(msg.Value))

                var usrMsg UserMessage

                err = json.Unmarshal(msg.Value, &usrMsg)
                if err != nil {
                fmt.Println("Received:", usrMsg)

                 // Retrieve connection object from map and send received messages to user via websocket
 // Checking if recipient is connected to the server
                if conn, ok := srv.userCons[usrMsg.User]; ok {
 // if recipient is connected sending messages via websocket
                    if err := conn.WriteMessage(1, []byte(usrMsg.Message)); err != nil {

The above code receives a message from Kafka and checks if the recipient is connected to the server. If there exists a connection, the server sends the message to the recipient via WebSocket.

    // Sender Server
    for {
        // Getting messages from websoket 
        _, body, err := conn.ReadMessage()
        if err != nil {
        // structure containing recipient user ID and messages
        var usrMsg UserMessage
        err = json.Unmarshal(body, &usrMsg)
        if err != nil {
        // checking if recipient is connected to any of the server instances via Redis
        val, err = srv.RedisClient.Get(usrMsg.User).Result()
        if err != nil || val == "false" {
            // if recipient is not connected, saving messages to redis, so that recipient can receive them when he comes online
            val, err := srv.RedisClient.Get(usrMsg.User + "msg").Result()
            if err != nil {
                val = usrMsg.Message
            } else {
                // if there are already old messages, appending new messages to them
                val = val + "|" + usrMsg.Message
            // writing un-recieved messages to redis for recipient to read when he comes online
            srv.RedisClient.Set(usrMsg.User+"msg", val, 0)

            log.Printf("Succes: Msg written in redis for user: %v and msg: %v", usrMsg.User, usrMsg.Message)
        } else {
            // In case recipient is online broadcasting message via kafka so that receiver server can get the message
            tmp := string(body)
            msg := kafka.Message{
                Key:   []byte(usrMsg.User),
                Value: []byte(tmp),
            // writing message to kafka
            err = srv.writer.WriteMessages(srv.ctx, msg)
            if err != nil {
                log.Printf("Error: %v", err)
            log.Printf("Succes: Msg written in kafka for user: %v and msg: %v", usrMsg.User, string(msg.Value))

The above code receives json encoded messages from WebSocket and decode it into the structure. If the recipient is online, the server will broadcast the message into Kafkaso that the server instance to which the recipient is connected will receive the message. In case the recipient is offline, the messages will be stored in Redis.

   // return to handler in case user disconnect from server
    // setting map and redis, so that user appears offline
    delete(srv.userCons, inID)
    srv.RedisClient.Set(inID, "false", 0)
    fmt.Println("User Deleted Redis")

Once the connection is disconnected, we will remove the connection object from the map and mark the user as offline in Redis.

It is worth noting that in the above code there are two channels for Redis one stores the user's un-received messages and the other store's user's online status.

The code demonstrates how a multi-instance server chatting service will work and how messages will manage in such a complex system.

Below is the main() func we used for the server:

 func main() {
        srv := InitService()
        fmt.Println("Starting Server...")
        router := chi.NewRouter()
        router.Route("/", func(ws chi.Router) {
            ws.Get("/", srv.Alive)
            ws.Get("/read", srv.ReadMsg)
        log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":8081", router))

We can test this server by sending a WebSocket request via the postman. Below are the output snippets of postman:

User1 Output

User2 Output


In this blog, we explored real-time chatting services, their system design and how the messages are handled. Also, we have implemented a multi-server instance chatting service which is managed but services like Redis and Kafka which can transmit messages reliably between users with very low latency.

Below is the Github link for the above implementation: