Work with subprotocols

In previous tutorials you have learned how to use WebSocket APIs to send and receive data with Azure Web PubSub. You can see there is no protocol needed when client is communicating with the service. For example, you can use WebSocket.send() to send any data and server will receive the data as is. This is easy to use, but the functionality is also limited. You cannot, for example, specify the event name when sending the event to server, or publish message to other clients instead of sending it to server. In this tutorial you will learn how to use subprotocol to extend the functionality of client.

The complete code sample of this tutorial can be found here.

Using a subprotocol

To specify a subprotocol, you just need to use the protocol parameter in the constructor:

let ws = new WebSocket(url, protocol);

Currently Azure Web PubSub only supports one subprotocol:

If you use other protocol names, they will be ignored by the service and passthrough to server in the connect event handler, so you can build your own protocols.

Now let’s create a simple web application using the subprotocol.

  1. Install dependencies

    npm init -y
    npm install --save express
    npm install --save ws
    npm install --save node-fetch
    npm install --save @azure/web-pubsub
  2. Create a server.js to host the /negotiate API and web page.

    const express = require('express');
    const { WebPubSubServiceClient } = require('@azure/web-pubsub');
    let endpoint = new WebPubSubServiceClient(process.argv[2], 'stream');
    const app = express();
    app.get('/negotiate', async (req, res) => {
      let token = await endpoint.getAuthenticationToken();
        url: token.url
    app.listen(8080, () => console.log('server started'));
  3. Create an html page and save it as public/index.html.

      <div id="output"></div>
        (async function () {
          let res = await fetch('/negotiate')
          let data = await res.json();
          let ws = new WebSocket(data.url, '');
          ws.onopen = () => {
          let output = document.querySelector('#output');
          ws.onmessage = event => {
            let d = document.createElement('p');
            d.innerText =;

    It just connects to the service and print any message received to the page. The main change here is we specify the subprotocol when creating the WebSocket connection.

Now run node server "<connection-string>" and open http://localhost:8080 in browser, you can see the WebSocket connection is established as before, with below connected event message received in client. You can see that you can get the connectionId generated for this client. You can also get the userId if when getAuthenticationToken you specify the userId for this client.


You can see that with the help of subprotocol, you can get some metadata of the connection when the connection is connected.

Please also note that, instead of a plain text, client now receives a json message that contains more information, like what’s the message type and where it is from. So you can use this information to do additional processing to the message (for example, display the message in a different style if it’s from a different source), which you can find in later sections.

Publish messages from client

In the create a chat app tutorial, when client sends a message through WebSocket connection, it will trigger a user event at server side. With subprotocol, client will have more functionalities by sending a JSON message. For example, you can publish message directly from client to other clients.

This will be useful if you want to stream a large amount of data to other clients in real time. Let’s use this feature to build a log streaming application, which can stream console logs to browser in real time.

  1. Create a stream.js with the following content.

    const WebSocket = require('ws');
    const fetch = require('node-fetch');
    async function main() {
      let res = await fetch(`http://localhost:8080/negotiate`);
      let data = await res.json();
      let ws = new WebSocket(data.url, '');
      ws.on('open', () => {
        process.stdin.on('data', data => {
            type: 'sendToGroup',
            group: 'stream',
            dataType: 'text',
            data: data.toString()
      process.stdin.on('close', () => ws.close());

    The code above creates a WebSocket connection to the service and then whenever it receives some data it uses ws.send() to publish the data. In order to publish to others, you just need to set type to sendToGroup and specify a group name in the message.

    You can see there is a new concept “group” here. Group is logical concept in a hub where you can publish message to a group of connections. In a hub you can have multiple groups and one client can subscribe to multiple groups at the same time. When using subprotocol, you can only publish to a group instead of broadcasting to the whole hub.

  2. Since we use group here, we also need to update the web page public\index.html to join the group when the WebSocket connection is established inside ws.onopen callback.

    ws.onopen = () => {
        type: 'joinGroup',
        group: 'stream'

    You can see client joins the group by sending a message in joinGroup type.

  3. Let’s also update the ws.onmessage callback logic a little bit to parse the JSON response and print out the messages only from stream group so that it acts as live stream printer.

    ws.onmessage = event => {
      let message = JSON.parse(;
      if (message.type === 'message' && === 'stream') {
        let d = document.createElement('span');
        d.innerText =;
        window.scrollTo(0, document.body.scrollHeight);
  4. For security consideration, by default a client cannot publish or subscribe to a group by itself. We also need to update the token generation code to give client such roles when getAuthenticationToken in server.js:

    app.get('/negotiate', async (req, res) => {
      let token = await endpoint.getAuthenticationToken({
        roles: ['', '']
  5. Finally also apply some style to the output so it displays nicely.

          #output {
            white-space: pre;
            font-family: monospace;

Now you can run node stream, type any text and they will be displayed in the browser in real time.

Or you can also use this app pipe any output from another console app and stream it to the browser. For example:

ls -R | node stream

Or you make it slower so you can see the data is streamed to browser in real time:

for i in $(ls -R); do echo $i; sleep 0.1; done | node stream

The complete code sample of this tutorial can be found here.

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