Why Stream is the Best Alternative to PubNub Chat

·Updated Feb 24, 2022

·Published Dec 13, 2019

Tess G.

Stream vs PubNub

In-app chat is a staple of every interactive web or mobile application that we use today. It keeps users in your app, boosts app engagement, and ultimately creates a better user experience. Launching your in-app chat feature is critical for user conversion, engagement, retention, and satisfaction, which means choosing the right provider to build it for you is just as important. Stream and PubNub are two major options in the in-app messaging space, so you might find yourself comparing the two chat API providers when evaluating solutions. Here, we analyze both chat offerings.


PubNub is an enterprise-grade, lower-level pub/sub solution (hence the name PubNub) to create apps. You’ll find that their bigger customers use their real-time API and not their chat API, which they launched in 2019. PubNub Chat does not provide reusable visual components for front-end development, so you still have to build out most of your chat feature if you go with PubNub’s product. While they do support low-level SDKs in JS, Swift, Java, and Unity, PubNub Chat is a more expensive option for less complete and feature-rich SDKs compared to what other alternatives in the market offer.

Component libraries are available for:

  • Android
  • React
  • iOS

PubNub's feature set is limited compared to Stream and other alternatives, and lacks many of the chat components that modern app users expect. PubNub Chat does not support messaging threads, attachments, slash commands, unread counts, or offline storage. Its message reactions require additional API calls, and there is no multi-tenancy support or Edge API Infrastructure like Stream has. PubNub’s chat is not ISO 27001 compliant. This is often an automatic dealbreaker for more prominent companies, and can add huge delays to the buying and integrating processes.

When you hear that PubNub has an excellent track record of performance, scalability, and reliability, it’s true, but more so for their real-time API rather than their chat solution.


Stream’s chat API and chat SDKs are the most performant solution on the market today. The enterprise-grade cloud components make it easy for software teams to add a complete in-app chat experience to their products without reinventing the wheel — saving time, money, and resources to focus on their app’s core competencies. Stream’s scalable APIs and SDKs come with all the building blocks to ship a custom white-label experience that rivals today’s leading social platforms, serving more than a billion end users. Stream’s back-end infrastructure, customizable UI kits, and front-end SDKs combine to form the fastest, most reliable and feature-rich component solution.

Component libraries are available for:

  1. Android (Jetpack Compose)
  2. iOS, (SwiftUI)
  3. Web (React, Angular, JS)
  4. React Native
  5. Flutter
  6. Gaming (Unreal or Unity)
Stream vs PubNub

The UI kit comes with customizable UI components for the four most common chat/messaging use cases to make designing your app simple. You can easily and quickly craft a beautiful chat app with Stream’s high-quality UI kit for Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD. Interfaces for the following use cases are included:

  • Social Chat
  • Team Collaboration
  • Live Streaming
  • Video Games

Selecting the use case will modify your chat settings depending on which one you choose. For example, choosing the Live Streaming use case will turn off typing indicators and read status since the volume of messages will likely be high. You can check out Stream’s UI kit in the live demos to see the difference between these use cases.

Stream vs PubNub 1
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Stream powers activity feeds and chat for over a billion end users. The technology is based on Go, RocksDB & Raft. This tech stack is similar to what Google, Instagram, and LinkedIn use. The APIs typically respond in 20ms, and they offer a 99.999% uptime SLA on enterprise plans.

Stream’s Strengths as a PubNub Alternative

  • Stream has front-end component libraries for Android, iOS, React, React Native, Flutter, Angular, Unity, Unreal, and JS. PubNub only has component libraries for Android, iOS, React, Unity, and JS, and they are much more rudimentary than Stream’s.
  • Stream offers a UI kit with customizable interfaces for different use cases in both light and dark modes. PubNub does not provide any reusable visual components.
  • Stream has UI components for Android Compose and SwiftUI. Google and Apple are pushing for these frameworks to be the leading way to build mobile applications in the future.
  • Stream’s front-end components include built-in support for unread counts, connection recovery, message states, and read events. You have the option to build those features on top of PubNub’s API yourself, but it’s easy to make mistakes, especially if you’re under a tight deadline, costing you more time and resources.
  • Stream helps you ship in-app chat messaging with all of the features users expect, some of which are message reactions, thread replies, slash commands, unread count, and attachments — whichPubNub doesn’t offer right out of the box.
  • Stream provides edge servers for chat, reducing latency and timeout errors when connected with Stream compared to PubNub. PubNub offers an edge API infrastructure for their real-time API, but not one for their chat solution.
  • Stream’s chat API enables you to create channel types that give you complete control over permissions and features, providing flexibility that PubNub lacks. Channel types allow you to configure your own detailed permissions as well as enable/disable features such as link sharing, read indicators, typing indicators, etc.
  • Stream Chat offers Advanced Chat Moderation with automatic message flagging and blocking, whereas other in-app chat providers like PubNub require the addition of a costly third-party moderation tool to achieve similar results.
  • PubNub’s pricing is confusing and very difficult to estimate what you’ll be paying. PubNub's pricing is not built around their chat offering — it's built around being a low-level pub/sub-framework.
Stream Features
Here is a review of PubNub’s messaging features compared to Stream’s:
1:1 MessagingYesYes
Group MessagingYesYes
Channel MessagingYesYes
Pinned MessagesYesNo
Custom ObjectsYesYes
Custom User and Channel EventsYesNo
Slash CommandsYesNo
Rich URL PreviewYesNo
Typing IndicatorsYesYes
Message attachments and actionsYesNo
Read receiptsYesYes
Unread Message CountsYesPartial
Delivered IndicatorsYesYes
Online User PresenceYesPartial
User to User MuteYesYes
User to User BlockYesYes
Offline SupportYesNo
Custom MetadataYesYes
Threads and RepliesYesNo
User InvitesYesYes
Video PlaybackYesYes
File UploadsYesYes
Custom rolesYesNo
Push NotificationsYesYes
Multi Tenant APIYesNo
Scalability for Live EventsYesUnknown
AI Text ModerationYesVia a partner
AI Image ModerationYesYes
Moderation Ban UserYesNo
Moderation DashboardYesNo
Slow ModeYesYes
Campaign APIYesNo
React NativeYesNo
Jetpack ComposeYesNo
Livestream Traffic Feature SwitchesYesNo
Security ComplianceYesNo
GDPR-friendly API endpointsYesNo
Customer SupportYesNo

Security and Compliance

Stream completed its SOC 2 Type II and ISO 27001 audits, achieving compliance with the organizations’ rigorous security standards. The certifications verify Stream’s dedication to providing a highly secure in-app chat solution to enterprise customers, in addition to the company’s existing HIPAA and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. These security certifications mean users can rest assured that their data is protected during processing — no small thing in today’s technologically-run world. These compliance achievements provide Stream’s users with even more confidence in how Stream manages real-time data across the globe. Our customers trust their in-app chat providers by outsourcing their chat development so that they can focus on activities that are more core to their business, so it’s important to prioritize transparency.

PubNub has not completed the ISO 270001 certification, and their SOC 2 compliance is for U.S.-based customers only. It is difficult to fully trust an in-app chat provider without the valuable insights into their organization’s risk and security posture, vendor management, internal controls governance, and regulatory oversight that can then be shared with a company’s user base. By completing these audits, customers can safely rely on a third-party’s real-time system, network, and infrastructure.

Stream Security

Simple Migration

Stream can work with you painlessly and seamlessly migrate from PubNub to Stream. With our import tools and customizable interfaces, we can help you transition your platform from PubNub and into Stream Chat in minimal time. Companies typically switch to Stream either from an in-house built messaging solution or from a different third-party chat API because of our:

  • Scalability
  • Performance
  • Stability
  • Advanced features
  • Security
  • Customizable front-end components

Try us out

Want to see how easy it is to migrate from PubNub Chat to Stream? It only takes about 60 seconds to sign up for our free trial, or reach out, and we’ll be happy to help you run a test yourself.

Want to jump right into the code? No problem. We also have an interactive API tour–no login required!

Happy chatting!

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