Few things in this world strike terror into the hearts of men (and women) quite like performing in front of a live audience. Thankfully, our computers and websites have no such qualms, and now they have the capacity to deliver live data like never before.
Live data — or real-time data — certainly isn’t new to the Web; but it’s increasingly pervasive, and with good reason. Today’s Internet users expect immediate gratification. They don’t just want a site to respond to their input; they expect sites to provide information without a click.
Social media is a big driver for these expectations. Users are accustomed to constantly updated content through their social feeds, so they presume this kind of performance from all sites. Today, failure to deliver up-to-date information can create a dissatisfying user experience.
The good news is that technology is making it easier for you to deliver real-time data to your site’s users.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The biggest challenge for real-time data was the need for a constantly open client-server connection as opposed to request and response.
For years, the most popular commercial applications for live data were in the financial industry. Finance companies invested heavily in these technologies and closely guarded them as trade secrets. Eventually, independent developers caught up, creating Java applets to make real-time data more accessible for other applications, and later created native web-browser hacks to deliver consistent HTTP connections.
Today, improved servers, browsers, software and other tech advances make it easier to develop for and deliver real-time data. Libraries and services, like Firebase, Signalr, Parse, Meteor, and Socket.io enable us to build and deploy real-time mobile and web apps in minutes. Nearly every developer now has access to the tools necessary to incorporate live data into their projects.