Websockets using Ruby Eventmachine

HTML5 is loaded with a lot of features that will make the lives of developers much easier and the experience for end users more pleasant as well. Lets take a look one of the new features: WebSockets. We'll make the magic happen with Ruby's EventMachine gem.

Mash Some Keys!

If you're in a browser that supports WebSockets (Chrome, Safari, Firefox trunk), go ahead and type a bit. Your keystrokes will be captured, and broadcasted to any other users on the page. If this page is lonely, you can open a second browser window to test it out.

Setting Up EventMachine

Using EventMachine for WebSockets is simple with the em-websockets gem. Start an EventMachine.run block and EventMachine::WebSocket.start will do the rest. It provides a socket object that resembles the javascript WebSocket spec with callbacks for onopen, onmessage, and onclose.

require 'eventmachine'
require 'em-websocket'

@sockets = []
EventMachine.run do
  EventMachine::WebSocket.start(:host => '', :port => 8080) do |socket|
    socket.onopen do
      @sockets << socket
    socket.onmessage do |mess|
      @sockets.each {|s| s.send mess}
    socket.onclose do
      @sockets.delete socket

In the example, connected sockets are added to an array and broadcasted to when onmessage is triggered.

Client Side

The client side script listens for keypresses and sends them to the websocket. On receiving a message, which is just a single letter in this case, the corresponding letter will be lit up.

var socket;

function animateCharacter(letter)
  var upper = letter.toUpperCase();
  $('#character_' + upper)
    .animate({ opacity: 1}, 100)
    .animate({ opacity: .2}, 100);

function setup()
  var target = $('#alphabet');
  for(var i = 0; i <=alphabet.length; i++)
    var char = alphabet.charAt(i);
    target.append('<span id="character_' + char +'">' + char + '</span');

    var char = String.fromCharCode(e.keyCode);

function connect(){
  socket = new WebSocket('ws://h.jxs.me:8080');
  socket.onmessage = function(mess) {


window.onload += setup();

With it all put together, WebSockets makes for a simple way to connect users together through the browser without plugins, polling, or other ugly frameworks.

20 Aug 2010