Working with WebSockets in React Native // TLDR: Avoid Socket.IO

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Welcome back dear internet friend!

Having trouble getting started with WebSockets in React Native? I’ve got the answer you’re looking for! After many hours of messing around with WebSockets in React Native for the first time today I’ve made some discoveries that hopefully will be of use to someone else out there on the internet.

First, avoid Socket.IO. When attempting to tackle this problem I naturally started with Socket.IO as I’ve used it before in the past, it’s sort of the #1 name in WebSocket programming, so it would make sense as a good starting point. However, I had a little trouble getting it to work. Now in all fairness to Socket.IO, their WebSocket library may not have been the problem in my setup. But along my winding path today I discovered that Socket.IO doesn’t work “out of the box” in React Native, and while it does work, it actually falls back upon HTTP Long Polling if you simply install it in your project with modification. Furthermore, the official React Native documentation specifically mentions the built-in WebSocket API that comes with JavaScript, so I would recommend using that.

The next stumbling block you might run into is setting up your own WebSocket server. For me, this ended up being a lot trickier than simply setting up a WebSocket server for a web app. I have setup WebSocket servers for both NodeJS and Flask web apps fairly easily, but doing the same with React Native gave me a lot of problems. So what I found extremely helpful was to use a test endpoint from a 3rd party that simply echos back any WebSocket messages sent from my app.

After a days work fumbling around, riding the struggle bus, I present a super simple quick start template for getting up and running with WebSockets in React Native. The endpoint URL in the code points to the 3rd party WebSocket test endpoint described above, so the solution below should work as is with no modification necessary. Just create a new React Native app, delete the contents of your App.js file, and copy & paste the code below, and you should be well on your way! (and this way, you will know your React Native app is working properly and playing nice with WebSockets before you start messing around with your server side code. Also, remember to avoid Socket.IO if you want to use the built-in WebSocket API like in my example:

EDIT: According to notable developer Miguel Grinberg, Socket.IO will not fall back upon HTTP Long Polling in React Native if you specify that you want to use [websockets] as your transport method. But never let the truth get in the way of a good story, so I’m leaving this post unedited 😉

// REFERENCE (ws.send)
// REFERENCE (official react-native docs)
import React from 'react';
import {
} from 'react-native';
var ws = new WebSocket('ws://');
ws.onopen = () => {
alert("ws.onopen called!");
ws.onmessage = (e) => {
alert("ws.onmessage called!");
ws.onerror = (e) => {
alert("ws.onerror called!");
ws.onclose = (e) => {
alert("ws.onclose called!");
class App extends React.Component {
constructor(props) {
handlePingWebSocketServer() {
ws.send("hello, world");
render() {
<Text>hello, world</Text>
title="Ping WebSocket Server"
onPress={ () => this.handlePingWebSocketServer() } />
export default App;
view raw App.js hosted with ❤ by GitHub