StreamChat, developed by GetStream, has emerged as a powerful and user-friendly solution for integrating chat functionalities into web and mobile applications. However, is it truly the best option available? In this blog post, we will delve into the features offered by StreamChat, explore its limitations compared to its competitors, and highlight some compelling alternatives that can meet your requirements.
A Brief Synopsis of Stream Chat: From Activity Feeds to Real-time Chat
Originally recognized for its exceptional Activity Feeds API, GetStream expanded its horizons by venturing into the realm of real-time chat. StreamChat, their chat API product, empowers developers to seamlessly incorporate real-time chat features into their applications.
While StreamChat offers an extensive range of features including Messaging API, Chat SDKs, user management, message moderation, channel management, file sharing, and push notifications, it is important to note that their primary focus lies in providing developers with raw APIs to build upon.
This emphasis on developer-centric solutions, while commendable, may leave some businesses seeking more polished options tailored to their specific needs. Let's explore more on common limitations and viable alternatives.
Why do businesses look for alternatives to Streamchat?
When it comes to basic chat implementation, StreamChat's developer-friendly approach is often the first choice. However, when businesses require a more integrated and sophisticated chat experience, StreamChat's capabilities may fall short.
If chat is central to your product, the level of customization and depth offered by StreamChat may not be adequate. The ability to weave the chat functionality into the core product experience could be lacking.
1. The absence of native SMS and email notifications:
Notifications are crucial in ensuring consistent user engagement and successful messaging adoption. SMS and email notifications are particularly essential in use-cases like marketplaces, where chat drives revenue and continuity. Disappointingly, StreamChat lacks native support for these notifications.
The need for additional custom development to compensate for the absence of native SMS and email support could mean increased development time and effort.
2. No structured message support:
In the modern chat environment, businesses are turning to chat platforms to facilitate major product interactions and actions. The lack of support for structured messages in StreamChat's SDK, however, restricts the facilitation of these advanced functionalities.
Structured messages play a vital role in marketplace apps for sending product cards or collecting reviews. They are also invaluable tools in telehealth apps to schedule appointments within the chat interface. Unfortunately, supporting such use-cases with StreamChat is far from straightforward.
3. A primitive conversational experience:
While StreamChat promises real-time messaging, its overall conversational experience can feel outdated when compared to more refined alternatives. Current chat users anticipate smart replies or AI-assisted conversation prompts as standard features for efficient and engaging conversations. Regrettably, StreamChat does not offer these advanced features.
4. Basic UI kits limitations:
StreamChat primarily utilizes chat SDKs for integrations, supplemented by rudimentary UI kits. Whilst these UI kits provide a visual framework for chat functions, they lack comprehensive business logic integration. Consequently, those seeking a solution that marries a user-friendly chat interface with their unique business processes may find StreamChat's UI kits restrictive.
5. Voice and Video Capabilities Shortfalls:
StreamChat's voice and video calling, still in its Beta phase, could raise concerns regarding stability and functionality. These features are not readily available and require additional integration, potentially complicating the setup process. The lack of a Moderator Mode, crucial for content management and security, also poses significant challenges.
6. Additional Storage Costs:
An often overlooked aspect of StreamChat is the added costs for image and file transfers, which is charged at $0.12 per GB, plus storage costs at $0.05 per GB. There are even additional fees for image previews and resizing. Bearing in mind these supplementary charges is crucial in understanding the true cost of StreamChat, as they can notably impact your budget depending on your requirements.
Top 5 alternatives to StreamChat
CometChat is an in-app messaging and calling infrastructure platform, enabling businesses to add chat, voice, and video interactions to their apps or websites, allowing end-users to engage more effectively.
CometChat is not just a chat API provider; we go a step beyond by recognizing the integral role that chat plays in various sectors like telehealth, marketplaces, social community and dating. We offer particularly tailored chat components for these industries, ensuring a complete and detailed chat solution that blends effortlessly into the core product experience.
What sets CometChat apart is the extensive range of standout features and differentiating factors:
Efficeint UI Kits
Best-in-class UI Kits that significantly reduce the time-to-market for integrating chat features. Our UI kits are designed for modern chat experiences, offering an array of out-of-the-box user experience features that rival popular platforms like WhatsApp or Slack.
Unified Real-Time Engagement Solution:
With CometChat, businesses get a comprehensive platform that handles all aspects of real-time engagement. Whether it's chat, audio, or video, all these features are integrated seamlessly into one app for a unified experience.
Deep out-of-the-box solutions tailored to fit the unique needs of each industry.
CometChat provides UI Kits and SDKs that are compatible with all popular frameworks across web, android, and iOS. This language-agnostic approach ensures that whatever your preferred framework, CometChat can accommodate.
Regardless of the size of your user base, CometChat has you covered. From early-stage startups with a few thousand users to massive enterprises with millions of monthly active users, the platform is designed to scale effortlessly, ensuring all users experience optimal performance.
Key features and functionality offered by Cometchat
Text, Voice, and Video Chat: Enables users to communicate one-on-one or in groups via text, voice, or video chat.
Rich Media Attachments: Users can share images, videos, voice notes, gifs, files, and their location.
Message Reactions & Threaded Conversations: Allows users to react to messages and engage in threaded conversations, providing a modern messaging experience.
Notifications: Ensure users never miss a message with push notifications. Email and SMS notifications to bring users back to your app.
AI-Based Moderation: Supports user safety by moderating chats using AI technology.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Enhances security and control by defining roles and permissions for different users.
Presence Indicators: Shows user status (online, offline, etc.) in real-time.
Conferencing: Supports large scale video conferences with features like screen sharing, recording, etc.
Smart Replies: Offers canned responses to common inquiries to enhance user experience.
Signup for a free trial to test it on your own.
Chat with our team to get a personalized demo tailor made for your use case.
PubNub is a prominent infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider that gives developers access to a cloud-based platform, ideal for constructing, managing, and scaling real-time applications. Its primary service is a real-time publish/subscribe (pub/sub) messaging API.
The Publish-Subscribe (pub/sub) model is a messaging pattern used in distributed systems where senders (publishers) categorize published messages into classes without knowing which subscribers, if any, there may be. Similarly, subscribers express interest in one or more classes, and only receive messages that are of interest, without knowing which publishers, if any, there are.
The pub/sub model decouples the sender and receiver by introducing a third component: the message broker or event bus. The primary advantage of pub/sub is that it allows for asynchronous communication and can easily handle one-to-many or many-to-many conversations.
Limitations of the Pub/Sub model:
Message Delivery Guarantee: If a subscriber is not actively listening when a publisher sends a message, the message may be lost. This is a significant issue if assured delivery is required.
Lack of Message History: Unless specifically designed into the system, a newly subscribing client won't have access to the history of messages sent before it subscribed
Difficulty in Debugging: Problems can be hard to debug in a pub/sub system because of the decoupling between publishers and subscribers. If a bug occurs, it can be unclear whether the fault was on the publisher's end or the subscriber's end.
Message Order: There's no guarantee that messages will be received in the order they're sent.
Sendbird is a fully customizable chat and messaging platform similar to Cometchat, with a powerful API and flexible SDKs. Businesses and developers use Sendbird to add chat, voice, and video communication features into their own applications.
While Sendbird offers robust features and a scalable solution for in-app chat, video, and voice functionalities, it does have a few potential pitfalls that you should be aware of:
Time-Consuming Development: Developing highly tailored chat interfaces in SendBird requires significant time and effort. For example, implementing email and SMS notifications from scratch using their webhooks can be laborious and time-consuming, whereas other solutions provide this as a ready-to-use feature.
Pricing Limitations: SendBird's pricing model can present challenges for businesses experiencing rapid growth. Costs can rise significantly as the user base grows. There's also an additional cost of $5 for every Peak Concurrent Connection (PCC) overage.
Restricted Features: Some essential features are only available with SendBird's costlier enterprise plan. For instance, messaging retention is capped at six months for all plans except Enterprise, and the maximum group size is limited unless you subscribe to the Pro or Enterprise plans.
UI Kit Limitations: SendBird's UI kits provide basic building blocks for chat interfaces but lack advanced features and workflows needed in real-world applications. This creates additional work for developers.
Socket.IO is an open-source library that enables real-time communication between web clients and servers. It uses WebSocket protocol to provide an efficient two-way communication channel.
Socket.IO works well for small-scale applications but building a fully-featured, scalable, and secure chat or calling feature can be a daunting task compared to using a dedicated platform like CometChat, SendBird, or PubNub.
Limitations of Socket.io:
Lack of Advanced Features: Socket.IO is a basic real-time communication library. It doesn't provide higher-level features like message history, read receipts, typing indicators, user presence, etc. Developers would need to build these features from scratch manually, which is time-consuming and potentially challenging.
Infrastructure Maintenance: Socket.IO requires you to manage your own server infrastructure ( deployment, monitoring, troubleshooting, updates) forcing you to focus more on infrastructure maintenance than your core business. On the other hand, CometChat, SendBird, and Streamchat are managed services, where these aspects are taken care of for you.
No Built-in Security: Socket.IO does not provide built-in security features like end-to-end encryption or access control. These are crucial if you are handling sensitive data.
Support and Reliability: As an open-source library, Socket.IO does not offer dedicated support. It’s very critical to choose a platform that provides reliable uptime, dedicated customer support, and regular updates for large-scale applications.
Ably is a real-time experience platform that's aimed at providing developers with the tools they need to build and deploy complex, real-time digital experiences like push notifications, data streaming, chat and data synchronisation.
Ably has been built from the ground up to support a multitude of use cases, from real-time financial trading platforms to multiplayer gaming and live event broadcasting. It is, therefore, much more than just a tool for adding chat features to applications.
The platform's most potent selling point is its ability to deliver billions of real-time messages every day with latencies as low as 35ms, globally. By utilizing Ably, developers can focus on building the best experiences for their users, secure in the knowledge that real-time data delivery is taken care of.
Content Marketer , CometChat