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Frontend Development / Serverless / Software Development

Ably Touts Real-Time Starter Kits for Vercel and Netlify

Ably offers real-time capabilities to frontend and web app developers via new Vercel and Netlify integrations.
Mar 8th, 2023 10:56am by
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Figma, Google Docs, Miro — these applications have spoiled end users with real time, collaborative capabilities. Now end users, stinkers that they are, want the same capabilities from other web apps.

Real-time company Ably wants to help developers fill that gap. Last week, the UK-based platform-as-a-service company launched a pre-built Next.js starter kit on Vercel’s Templates Marketplace that provides real-time functionality, including live collaboration. Ably also offers a similar tool on Netlify.

“You see those avatar stacks on so many sites nowadays,” Tim Buntel, Ably’s chief product officer, told The New Stack. “Users don’t want to have to hit refresh on a web page to see real-time updates to data that they might see in a web application.”

Real time is one of the two big trends in application development today, according to Buntel. The other is the ability of platforms such as Vercel and Netlify to really change the way that developers deliver content.

“We also see customers expecting that real time and multiplayer experiences are no longer a niche feature that you would have in Google Docs, or Miro only, but people want to start to see that in all kinds of different applications,” Buntel said. “So that’s really what this announcement was about, is recognizing that growth of these new platforms to change the way developers can get value to their customers and then allowing them to bring the types of experiences that their customers really want in those applications.”

Real-Time Use Cases for Frontend Developers

Ably offers APIs and SDKs to add real-time capabilities to web and mobile applications. The startup kit, in addition to supporting multiplayer experiences and chat, supports data synchronization between the frontend and backends. A use case might be real-time monitoring of how many items remain in stock as customers make purchases from the website, and updating that automatically. It also supports data broadcasting, where large numbers of users would be interested in simultaneously receiving the same data, such as an announcement or a sports score. Another popular use case for real time is enabling push notifications, particularly when it involves real-time location data, such as alerting customers that a delivery is arriving.

“If I was just one developer by myself, I don’t know anything about real-time, but if I’m using Vercel to build my website, I could easily now add something like cursor tracking or live data updates or chat to my application without having that expertise myself,” Buntel said. “Those sorts of multiplayer experiences or live chat, or data synchronization, really anything where a number of clients need to be connected in real time, through our APIs and SDKs developers can add that range of different types of capabilities to their app.”

One-Click and an API to Real Time

The startup kit provides developers with the ability to connect into Ably’s platform and makes it easy to manage the state of users and the underlying complexity of real time, he said. The template includes a gallery that developers can pursue and connect with the capability through a single click, he said. The starter kit then walks developers through getting an API key from Ably. With Netlify, Ably works in a similar way in that developers can select the Ably plugin from Netlify’s Integrations Hub and the real-time functionality will be dropped into the application, he explained.

“If you think about those real-time experiences they all take advantage of the same underlying infrastructure,” he explained. “So it’s creating a WebSocket connection, a persistent connection between the client and the service to maintain state between those clients. All of that complexity that typically you’d need an understanding of distributed systems or real-time architecture to do. We handle that complexity so the developer can just start delivering those experiences right away.”

Ably is also a serverless platform, so it manages the scaling challenges of operating a real-time infrastructure globally, Buntel said. With the Vercel starter kit, Vercel provides the workflow and the hosting platform for an app, while Ably provides the connectivity to make the real-time pieces possible.

“Vercel and Ably are both serverless, so developers aren’t maintaining their own servers or backend infrastructure,” he told The New Stack. “Vercel will allow you to host the client side of the application and generate and host the client side of the application, and then from within that client application, [it] can connect to Ably to coordinate the real-time components of that application.”

The company published a step-by-step tutorial explaining how to build a real-time chat app with Ably and Next. Js. Ably also offer a free tier that allows developers to try out functionality before moving to a paid tier. It also announced the release of its Ably Terraform Provider, which enables developers to manage their Ably infrastructure as code.

“For a developer who doesn’t want to think about the complexity of deploying software, a platform like Vercel is great (or Netlify), because they remove any of the complexity of spinning up servers and deploying infrastructure,” Buntel said. “However, for a lot of larger companies, they want to maintain the control over that complex infrastructure themselves. TerraForm is one of the tools that is most commonly done for that.”

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Ably, Real.
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