Which is Better: gRPC or WebSocket? A Comprehensive Comparison
Home Insights gRPC vs WebSocket: Uncovering the Di몭erences
gRPC vs WebSocket: Uncovering the
March 28, 2023
As technology continues to evolve, new protocols for communication between devices
the best experience on our website.
and applications are constantly emerging. Two of the most popular communication
protocols in use today are gRPC and WebSocket. While both protocols allow for real-
time communication, they are fundamentally di몭erent in their approach and design.
Understanding the di몭erences between gRPC and WebSocket can help you choose the
best protocol for your speci몭c use case.
In this post, we’ll compare gRPC vs WebSocket, uncovering their di몭erences in terms of
protocol, transport layer, data exchange format, performance, scalability, security, and
use cases. We’ll also explore how gRPC and WebSocket can be used together, as well as
the future of these protocols. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding
of the strengths and weaknesses of each protocol and be better equipped to choose
the right one for your needs.
What is gRPC?
gRPC is an open-source remote procedure call (RPC) framework created by Google. It
allows for e몭cient and fast communication between applications and devices across
Table of Contents
1. What is gRPC?
2. How gRPC Works
3. Advantages of gRPC
4. Disadvantages of gRPC
5. What is WebSocket?
6. How WebSocket Works
7. Advantages of WebSocket
8. Disadvantages of WebSocket
9. Comparing gRPC vs WebSocket
11. Transport Layer
12. Data Exchange Format
16. Use Cases
17. How gRPC and WebSocket Can Be Used Together
18. Future of gRPC and WebSocket
di몭erent platforms and programming languages. With gRPC, you can de몭ne the
services and methods available to clients using the Protocol Bu몭ers language. This
strongly typed contract ensures that the client and server share a common
understanding of the data being exchanged.
gRPC was designed to be a modern and lightweight alternative to other RPC
frameworks such as SOAP and XML-RPC. It uses the HTTP/2 protocol as the transport
layer and supports multiple encoding formats for data exchange, including Protocol
Bu몭ers, JSON, and XML.
One of the key bene몭ts of gRPC is its ability to generate code automatically for a
variety of languages, including Java, C++, Python, Ruby, Node.js, and more. This makes
it easy for you to start using gRPC in your projects, regardless of your programming
language of choice.
Overall, gRPC provides a fast, e몭cient, and interoperable way to communicate between
services and applications, making it a popular choice for microservices architecture
and other distributed systems.
How gRPC Works
gRPC is built on top of the HTTP/2 protocol, which allows for the bidirectional
streaming of data between the client and server. Both the client and server can send
multiple requests and responses at the same time, making communication more
Image by gRPC.io
To use gRPC, you 몭rst de몭ne the services and methods available to clients using the
Protocol Bu몭ers language. This generates client and server stubs in the desired
programming languages, which can then be used to implement the desired
When a gRPC client makes a request to the server, it 몭rst establishes a connection over
HTTP/2. The client then sends a request message to the server, which is encoded using
the agreed-upon data exchange format (such as Protocol Bu몭ers).
The server receives the request message and decodes it before executing the
requested method. The server then sends a response message back to the client,
which is also encoded using the agreed-upon data exchange format.
gRPC supports several types of method invocation, including unary, server streaming,
client streaming, and bidirectional streaming. Unary methods are the simplest, where
the client sends a single request and the server sends a single response. Streaming
methods, on the other hand, allow for the continuous exchange of data between the
client and server.
Advantages of gRPC
gRPC o몭ers several advantages over other RPC frameworks, including:
1. High performance: gRPC uses HTTP/2 and e몭cient binary encoding formats like
Protocol Bu몭ers, which make it faster and more e몭cient than other RPC
2. Interoperability: gRPC supports multiple programming languages and platforms,
making it easy for you to use it in a variety of projects.
3. Code generation: gRPC generates client and server stubs automatically for several
programming languages, reducing the amount of boilerplate code that you need to
4. Streaming: gRPC supports streaming, which allows for the continuous exchange of
data between the client and server, making it ideal for real-time applications.
5. Strong typing: gRPC uses Protocol Bu몭ers for de몭ning services and methods,
which ensures that the client and server share a common understanding of the data
6. Scalability: gRPC is designed to be highly scalable, allowing for the easy
deployment of microservices and other distributed systems.
Disadvantages of gRPC
While gRPC o몭ers several advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks to
1. Complexity: gRPC can be more complex to set up and use than other RPC
frameworks due to its reliance on Protocol Bu몭ers and HTTP/2.
2. Learning curve: If you are not familiar with Protocol Bu몭ers and HTTP/2, you may
need to invest time in learning these technologies before using gRPC e몭ectively.
3. Limited browser support: gRPC’s reliance on HTTP/2 means that it may not be
compatible with all browsers and platforms.
4. Debugging: Debugging gRPC can be more di몭cult than debugging other RPC
frameworks due to its use of binary encoding formats.
5. Deployment: gRPC may require additional infrastructure and con몭guration to
deploy e몭ectively, especially in large-scale distributed systems.
What is WebSocket?
WebSocket is a protocol that enables real-time, bidirectional communication between a
client and a server over a single, long-lived connection. Unlike HTTP, which is a
request-response protocol, WebSocket allows for continuous data exchange between
the client and server.
WebSocket was developed as a solution to the limitations of HTTP for real-time web
applications, which require low-latency, high-bandwidth communication between
clients and servers. With WebSocket, data can be sent and received as soon as it’s
available, without the need for repeated requests and responses.
How WebSocket Works
WebSocket works by establishing a persistent, bidirectional connection between a
client and server over a single TCP socket. The WebSocket protocol begins with a
handshake, which consists of an HTTP upgrade request from the client and an HTTP
upgrade response from the server.
Brivadeneira, CC BYSA 4.0, via Wikimedia
Once the connection is established, the client and server can exchange data in both
directions without the need for repeated requests and responses. This allows for low-
latency, high-bandwidth communication between the client and server.
WebSocket uses a simple message-based data exchange format, which can be used to
send and receive data of any type. Messages can be sent as text or binary data and can
be of any size.
Advantages of WebSocket
WebSocket o몭ers several advantages over other communication protocols, including:
1. Low latency: With WebSocket, data can be exchanged in real-time, without the
need for repeated requests and responses. This allows for low-latency
communication between the client and server.
2. High bandwidth: WebSocket allows for the exchange of large amounts of data
between the client and server, without the overhead of repeated requests and
3. Reduced server load: Since WebSocket allows for continuous data exchange
between the client and server, it can reduce the load on the server compared to
other communication protocols.
4. Bi-directional communication: With WebSocket, both the client and server can
send and receive data in real time, allowing for bi-directional communication.
5. Widely supported: WebSocket is widely supported by modern web browsers and
can be used with a variety of server-side programming languages and platforms.
Disadvantages of WebSocket
While WebSocket o몭ers several advantages, it also has some limitations and
1. Complexity: WebSocket requires a more complex implementation compared to
other communication protocols, which can make it more di몭cult to set up and
2. Security: WebSocket is vulnerable to certain types of security attacks, such as
cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF). However, these can
be mitigated with appropriate security measures.
3. Firewalls and proxies: WebSocket can be blocked by some 몭rewalls and proxies,
which can limit its usability in certain environments.
4. Limited use cases: WebSocket is primarily designed for real-time web applications
and may not be the best choice for other types of applications that do not require
Comparing gRPC vs WebSocket
The following table summarizes the key di몭erences between gRPC and WebSocket:
Uses a binary protocol bu몭er format
Uses text-based messaging
Uses HTTP/2, which is multiplexed,
reliable and secure
Uses TCP or WebSocket protocol
Uses Protocol Bu몭ers, which is fast and
e몭cient for small to medium-sized
Uses JSON, which is human-
readable and suitable for larger
gRPC is faster and more e몭cient due to
binary data format and HTTP/2
WebSocket is slower due to its
text-based format and lack of
gRPC can handle large tra몭c volumes
and has built-in load-balancing
WebSocket can handle moderate
tra몭c but may require additional
gRPC uses Transport Layer Security
(TLS) encryption by default and has
built-in authentication features
WebSocket can use TLS
encryption but lacks built-in
Ideal for microservices architectures
and real-time data streaming
Ideal for real-time data
streaming applications and web
In the subsequent sections, we will provide a thorough comparison of each factor.
One of the key di몭erences between gRPC and WebSocket is the protocol used for
gRPC uses the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) protocol, which allows the client to invoke
methods on the server as if they were local functions. The gRPC protocol supports
both unary and streaming communication, allowing for e몭cient and 몭exible data
WebSocket, on the other hand, uses a di몭erent protocol called the WebSocket protocol.
This protocol is designed for bi-directional communication between the client and
server and allows for real-time data exchange without the overhead of repeated
requests and responses.
Another key di몭erence between gRPC and WebSocket is the transport layer used for
gRPC uses the HTTP/2 protocol for transport, which allows for e몭cient and multiplexed
communication between clients and servers. HTTP/2 supports server push, meaning
communication between clients and servers. HTTP/2 supports server push, meaning
that the server can push data to the client without the client requesting it, which can
signi몭cantly improve performance.
WebSocket, on the other hand, uses the WebSocket protocol for transport, which is
built on top of the HTTP protocol. WebSocket allows for low-latency communication
between clients and servers, with a persistent connection that remains open for the
duration of the communication session.
Data Exchange Format
In addition to the protocol and transport layer used for communication, gRPC and
WebSocket also di몭er in the data exchange format.
gRPC uses Protocol Bu몭ers as its default data exchange format. Protocol Bu몭ers is a
language-agnostic, e몭cient, and extensible serialization format that is well-suited for
building distributed systems. Protocol Bu몭ers o몭ers a compact binary representation
of data and supports schema evolution, which allows for forward and backward
compatibility between di몭erent versions of the same data model.
data exchange format. JSON is a lightweight and human-readable data interchange
format that is widely supported by web browsers and programming languages. JSON is
easy to work with and provides a 몭exible and extensible way to represent data.
Both gRPC and WebSocket o몭er high-performance communication between
distributed systems, but they di몭er in their approach.
gRPC uses binary serialization and a highly e몭cient binary protocol, which makes it a
high-performance option for building distributed systems. Protocol Bu몭ers o몭er a
compact binary representation of data, reducing the amount of data transmitted over
the network and resulting in lower network latency and higher throughput.
WebSocket, on the other hand, uses a text-based protocol and JSON data exchange
format, which can result in higher network overhead compared to gRPC. However,
WebSocket o몭ers low latency and high throughput for real-time web applications.
Scalability is an essential factor for distributed systems that need to handle a large
number of clients and requests. Both gRPC and WebSocket o몭er good scalability
features, but they di몭er in their approach.
gRPC uses HTTP/2 as the underlying transport protocol, which provides support for
multiplexing, 몭ow control, and server push. These features enable gRPC servers to
handle multiple requests concurrently and e몭ciently use network resources.
Additionally, gRPC supports load balancing and service discovery, which makes it easy
to scale applications horizontally.
WebSocket also supports scaling horizontally by implementing load balancing and
service discovery. However, unlike gRPC, WebSocket does not o몭er native support for
multiplexing, which can result in increased network overhead for handling multiple
Both gRPC and WebSocket o몭er good scalability features, but gRPC may be a better
choice for applications that require e몭cient handling of multiple concurrent requests.
Security is a crucial aspect of any communication protocol, especially for distributed
systems that operate over the internet. Both gRPC and WebSocket o몭er secure
communication, but they have di몭erent security features.
gRPC uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) for secure communication between clients
and servers. TLS provides end-to-end encryption, server authentication, and data
integrity to ensure that the data exchanged between clients and servers cannot be
intercepted or modi몭ed by third parties. Additionally, gRPC supports mutual
authentication, where clients and servers authenticate each other to establish trust.
WebSocket also supports secure communication using TLS, but it does not provide
mutual authentication by default. However, WebSocket allows for custom security
implementations that can enable mutual authentication and other security features.
In general, both gRPC and WebSocket o몭er secure communication, but gRPC provides
more out-of-the-box security features, including mutual authentication, making it a
better choice for applications that require strong security.
Both gRPC and WebSocket have their strengths and weaknesses, and their suitability
for a given use case depends on several factors, such as the nature of the application,
the type of data being exchanged, and the performance and security requirements.
gRPC is a good choice for applications that require fast and e몭cient communication
between clients and servers, especially when dealing with large amounts of data. It is
well-suited for microservices architecture, where several small services need to
communicate with each other in a distributed environment. gRPC’s support for
multiple programming languages also makes it ideal for polyglot architectures, where
services are written in di몭erent programming languages.
WebSocket, on the other hand, is a good choice for applications that require real-time
communication, such as chat applications, online gaming, and stock trading platforms.
It is also a good choice for applications that require bidirectional communication, where
clients and servers need to exchange data in both directions.
How gRPC and WebSocket Can Be Used Together
One interesting aspect to consider is how gRPC and WebSocket can be used together
in a complementary way. gRPC can be used for server-to-server communication, while
WebSocket is ideal for client-to-server communication, especially in real-time web
For example, imagine a chat application that requires real-time communication
between the server and the client. WebSocket can be used to establish a persistent
connection between the client and server, while gRPC can be used to facilitate server-
to-server communication for authentication and other back-end functions.
Another use case could be a streaming service that requires real-time updates for the
user’s watch history, playlist updates, and more. WebSocket can be used to push real-
time updates to the client while gRPC can be used to facilitate server-to-server
communication for video encoding, thumbnail generation, and other backend
By combining the strengths of both technologies, you can create more robust and
e몭cient applications that meet the needs of your users.
Future of gRPC and WebSocket
The future of gRPC and WebSocket looks bright, as both technologies continue to
evolve and improve.
For gRPC, the release of gRPC-web has opened up new possibilities for using gRPC in
the browser. This allows for more e몭cient communication between the front-end and
back-end of web applications. Additionally, gRPC is being used more widely in
microservices architectures due to its e몭ciency and 몭exibility.
As for WebSocket, it continues to be a popular choice for real-time web applications
and has been widely adopted by major tech companies. WebSocket also supports new
protocols like HTTP/3, which allows for faster and more reliable communication over
Looking ahead, it’s likely that gRPC and WebSocket will continue to be used in tandem
in many applications, as they o몭er complementary strengths for di몭erent types of
communication. As the demand for real-time and e몭cient communication grows, we
can expect to see continued development and innovation in both gRPC and WebSocket.
In conclusion, both gRPC and WebSocket have their unique features and use cases.
gRPC is a modern and high-performance RPC framework suitable for microservices
architecture, while WebSocket is a protocol for two-way communication between a
client and a server over a single TCP connection, suitable for real-time web
gRPC and WebSocket can be used together to create powerful and e몭cient
applications that require both high-performance and real-time communication. For
example, a microservices-based application can use gRPC for inter-service
communication and WebSocket for real-time communication between the client and
The future of gRPC and WebSocket is promising, as more developers and organizations
are adopting microservices architecture and real-time web applications. With the
continuous development and improvement of these technologies, we can expect even
more e몭cient and scalable applications in the future.
In summary, understanding the di몭erences and similarities between gRPC and
WebSocket is crucial for selecting the appropriate technology for your application. By
considering the protocol, transport layer, data exchange format, performance,
scalability, security, and use case, you can make an informed decision that meets your
Q: Which one is faster, gRPC or WebSocket?
A: It depends on the use case and the speci몭c implementation. In general, gRPC is
faster for small payloads and synchronous communication, while WebSocket is better
for larger payloads and asynchronous communication.
Q: Is gRPC secure?
A: Yes, gRPC provides built-in support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption
Q: Can I use WebSocket with any programming language?
A: Yes, WebSocket is supported by many programming languages and frameworks,
Q: What are some popular use cases for gRPC and WebSocket?
A: gRPC is commonly used for microservices architecture, while WebSocket is often
used for real-time communication and chat applications.
Q: Can gRPC and WebSocket be used together?
A: Yes, it is possible to use gRPC and WebSocket together in the same application. For
example, you could use gRPC for backend microservices and WebSocket for real-time
communication between clients and the server.
Q: Are there any drawbacks to using gRPC or WebSocket?
A: Both technologies have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice
depends on the speci몭c requirements of the application. For example, gRPC may not be
as widely supported as REST APIs, while WebSocket may not be suitable for many
types of applications.
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