Review: SendBird vs. Stream

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Real-time chat messaging is a critical component of your application to improve user conversion, engagement, retention, and satisfaction. When searching for a provider and infrastructure to integrate and enable in-app messaging, you might compare the two major players in the market today — Stream Chat and SendBird Chat. Stream and Sendbird are the most commonly used chat APIs in the space, and both are solid options for your application. In the following analysis, we’ll compare these chat APIs to help you make an informed choice.

UPDATED: February, 2022

Stream

Time to market

Stream entered the chat market intending to provide a solution that helps app builders launch in-app chat messaging experiences in less time. Therefore, Stream Chat is easy and simple to integrate due to the direct access to the API or through feature-rich SDKs and components to ship your application’s messaging feature quicker than competing solutions, like Sendbird’s. Component libraries are available for:

These component libraries are fully customizable, allowing you to add features like reactions, threads, URL enrichment, typing indicators, read states, etc. for users to enjoy a robust and complete in-app chat experience. In addition, API clients are available for all popular languages — try our free chat trial to see for yourself.

When users can get their support inquiries answered quickly, they’re able to launch faster. On average, Stream’s support team replies to tickets and questions in less than twenty minutes. Team members are located in different time zones all over the world so that they can respond in a timely manner no matter where customers are located. . Additionally, enterprise plans include a shared Slack channel with Stream’s engineering team so there is a direct line of communication between your team and theirs while integrating and maintaining Stream Chat.

“Stream’s support staff are rockstars. When it comes to support, when it comes to nimbleness and the ability to incorporate customer feedback, Stream is exceptional. Stream has my undying support and loyalty.” – Dare Olatoye, Co-Founder, Trueflutter

Stream also provides a stunning UI kit with customizable UI components for the four most common chat/messaging use cases to make designing your app straightforward. 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:

  1. Social Chat
  2. Team Collaboration
  3. Live Streaming
  4. Video Games
Chat UI Kit

Each design includes the vital UI elements required for interactive and engaging chat experiences in both light and dark modes.

Stream’s customizable SDKs, ready-made UI Components, and responsive support team drastically reduces the time it takes to launch your in-app messaging component.

Enterprise-Grade Performance & Reliability

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 we’re able to offer a 99.999% uptime SLA on enterprise plans.

To further enhance performance and reliability, Stream offers an Edge API Infrastructure that reduces latency by up to five times and eliminates timeout errors caused by poor WiFi or mobile connectivity by no longer relying on proximity to regional data centers. Unlike other messaging services hosted on traditional cloud infrastructure, Stream is the first chat API and SDK provider to offer this technology, making it uniquely equipped to power in-app messaging for the world’s largest enterprise organizations.

Because of their chat API and SDK performance, reliability, and scalability, some of the world’s largest companies use Stream, like Strava, Hopin, IBM, Gojek, Match.com, Soundcloud, Under Armour, and Imgur.

Scalability

With the ability to support millions of concurrent connections for a single app and thousands in group chat and channels, Stream’s ability to scale is second to none. Stream does not impose limits on the number of concurrent connections or members a channel can have at once.

Stream set a new industry benchmark for scaling real-time chat when they hit 5 million concurrent connections in a single chat channel. This engineering achievement highlights Stream Chat’s position as the preferred in-app chat provider for enterprise organizations hosting the world’s largest online events. In the live event vertical, scalable cloud infrastructure is necessary with thousands of users connecting to the chat API every second and millions of messages being sent simultaneously. Stream set the standard for scalability, uptime, and performance when they accomplished this 5 million concurrent connection milestone, which attracted users who needed an especially reliable chat infrastructure in this use case to Stream Chat. Sendbird is trying to scale to this level set by Stream, but they still have a long way to go.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of Stream and Sendbird when looking at factors like scalability and performance:

Scalability & PerformanceStreamSendbird
Persistent WSS connectionYesYes
Edge API InfrastructureYesNo
Can handle channels with millions of usersYesNo
Max members of a groupNo defined limit100, pay to upgrade
Max concurrent connectionsNo defined limitUnknown
Multi region supportYesYes
WSS connection fallbackYesNo
Custom domainYesUnknown

Both products offer an array of enterprise-focused features:

Enterprise FeaturesStreamSendbird
Dedicated infrastructure optionYesYes
SOC2YesYes
ISO27001YesYes
GDPR compliant APIsYesYes
HIPAA ReadyYesYes
CCPA compliantYesYes
EU & Swiss Privacy Shield*YesYes
Persistent connection protocolYesYes
99.999% Uptime SLAAvailableNo
SSO/SAMLYesYes
2FA for developersYesNo
Audit logYesNo
24/7 phone support optionYesYes

*Privacy Shield was rendered invalid.

Flexibility

Stream’s chat API enables you to build any type of chat or messaging functionality. You can create channel types that give you complete control over permissions and features, providing flexibility that Sendbird 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.

There are four channel types supported out of the box:

  1. Livestream: Sensible defaults to build chat similar to YouTube or Twitch.
  2. Messaging: Configured for apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
  3. Team: If you want to build your own version of Slack or something similar, start here.
  4. Commerce: Good defaults for building something like your own version of Intercom or Drift.

Additionally, Stream allows you to support custom data on users, channels, reactions, messages, attachments and members. This flexibility enables you to build a wide range of chat and messaging functionality for your unique use case.

Multi-Tenancy

If you’re building a B2B application, Stream supports multitenancy. A multi-tenant solution allows you to split the chat information for your customers in a single environment. For example, if you have both Amazon and Walmart as customers, Stream’s multi-tenant permission system enables you to ensure that neither customer can access the other’s data. Other chat providers besides Stream typically require that you proxy API requests to implement this permission logic yourself.

SDK Support

Stream offers official SDKs for every major platform and programming language. Our SDKs follow all industry best practices to ensure that developers can have the best experience and can integrate Chat quickly and safely.

  1. Stream’s iOS SDK is built 100% in Swift. Sendbird is still built on top of the legacy Objective C language.
  2. Stream makes the source code of all SDKs available. Sendbird instead provides compiled binaries. This makes it harder for developers to integrate
  3. Stream provides official server-side SDK libraries for Python, Ruby, PHP, Java, .NET/C#, Node and Golang. Sendbird only provides documentation and examples on how to use their REST API.

AI Moderation

Stream affords chat administrators the ability to mute and ban users, mute channels, and send system-wide notifications to keep conversations civil and safe. These tools allow you to ensure user safety, security, and trust within your app. Activating Stream’s AI-based moderation will automatically protect your users from spam, profanity, and explicit content. We even have a partner that can take your AI moderation to the next level, detecting advanced concepts like self-harm, grooming, and other kinds of toxic behavior. Sendbird does support a similar feature set when it comes to moderation.

While user-generated images are a powerful engagement tool, they can place apps at risk if they contain explicit visuals. Stream’s sophisticated image moderation detects visually upsetting, explicit, or violent image content, and pushes them to a moderation dashboard so your team can review and take any necessary actions, such as deleting the message or banning users. Image moderation empowers apps to provide safe, inclusive spaces for users.

Stream vs. Sendbird

Both Stream and Sendbird provide a very comprehensive chat API. However, Stream has some major advantages over Sendbird, like:

  1. Stream is easier to integrate so that you can launch faster.
  2. Stream has enterprise-grade performance and scalability powered by Go, RocksDB & Raft.
  3. Stream provides edge servers for chat, reducing latency and timeout errors when connected with Stream compared to Sendbird.
  4. Stream’s SDKs for iOS, Android, React, React Native, and Flutter are more performant, reliable, and scalable.
  5. Stream has UI components for Android Compose and SwiftUI. This element is important because Google and Apple are pushing for these frameworks to be the main way to build mobile applications in the future.
  6. Stream does not limit the number of concurrent connections or members in a channel at once. Customers that require a high level of concurrent users typically switch from Sendbird to Stream.
  7. Stream has scaled up to 5 million concurrent users on a single channel, while Sendbird is trying to catch up but is still far behind this number.
  8. By default, Stream’s pricing plans allow five concurrent connections per 100 MAU (5%) while Sendbird’s pricing allows two concurrent connections per 100 MAU (2%).
  9. Sendbird limits what features you can use and charges extra for things like:
    a. Delivery receipts
    b. Message translation
    c. Moderation dashboard
    d. Image moderation
    e. Profanity filter
    f. HIPAA compliance
    g. Higher limits on the number of concurrent connections
    h. High limits on the number of members in a single channel
    i. Data export on an interval
  10. Stream supports custom slash commands, while Sendbird does not.
SendBird vs. Stream APIs 2400x1250

Here is a review of Sendbird's messaging features compared to Stream’s:

FeatureStreamSendbird
1:1 MessagingYesYes
Group MessagingYesYes
Channel MessagingYesYes
@mentionsYesYes
SearchYesYes
Custom ObjectsYesYes
Custom User and Channel EventsYesNo
Slash CommandsYesNo
Rich URL PreviewYesYes
Typing IndicatorsYesYes
Read receiptsYesYes
Unread Message CountsYesYes
Delivered IndicatorsYesYes
Online User PresenceYesPartial
User to User MuteYesYes
User to User BlockYesYes
Offline SupportYesYes
Custom MetadataYesYes
ReactionsYesYes
ThreadsYesYes
User InvitesYesYes
Video PlaybackYesYes
File UploadsYesYes
Custom rolesYesNo
GiphyYesNo
Push NotificationsYesYes
EmoticonsYesYes
TranslationsYesYes
Multi Tenant APIYesNo
AI Text ModerationYesVia a partner
AI Image ModerationYesYes
Slow ModeYesYes
Campaign APIYesYes
ReactYesYes
React NativeYesNo
FlutterYesYes
iOSYesYes
AndroidYesYes
XamarinNoYes
UnityYesYes
UnrealYesYes
Livestream Traffic Feature SwitchesYesNo
Stream-Sendbird-image3

The best way to see the differences between Stream and Sendbird is to build a proof of concept and evaluate these chat solutions yourself. These tutorials are a good starting point: React, React Native, iOS, Android and Flutter. The free chat trial is another easy way to evaluate Stream’s APIs.

And you don’t have to take our word for it! The reviews of Sendbird on Product Hunt provide other data points for comparison.

Sendbird Advantages Over Stream

Xamarin Support
Sendbird supports Xamarin, enabling you to build chat apps using .NET. Stream doesn’t directly support Xamarin, so you need to use the lower level REST APIs.

Customer Support Use Case
Sendbird offers a better solution for apps that integrate a simple customer support feature into their applications.

Sendbird Calls
Stream partners with Dolby.io for audio/video calling. Sendbird acquired a startup that provides audio and video calling and offers an integrated solution.

Simple Migration

Increasingly more apps are switching from Sendbird to Stream, especially those that require a high level of concurrent connections. Stream can work with you to make your Sendbird migration a snap. With our import tools and customizable interfaces, we can support your switch to Stream Chat in no time.

Conclusion

Both Stream and Sendbird are some of the most comprehensive chat APIs available in the market today. The two solutions enable you to ship a high-quality chat experience while allowing your engineering team to focus on what makes your app unique.

In sum, here is Stream’s competitive advantage over Sendbird:

  • Faster integration. Stream Chat is a scalable, performant, feature-rich, and reliable in-app messaging component that won’t take months or years to integrate. Customers often integrate the Stream Chat API in just a few weeks. Provide all the features that users expect. A solid chat implementation improves engagement and retention. Since building chat is expensive, other solutions can be basic and lack features. When a chat is overly simplified, it can negatively impact user engagement and retention.

  • Scale without worries. If your chat provider can’t keep up with your growing user base, your solution will break, costing you more resources down the road. Since Stream already works with some of the largest apps in the world, you can confidently grow your business.

  • Iterate faster. Want to try out new versions of your chat and see what works best for your unique users? Since Stream is flexible and supports all features out of the box, it’s easy to tinker with and test out new ideas.

Want to jump right into the code? No problem. We have an interactive API tour available here. Alternatively, try our tutorials for React, iOS, Android, React Native, Flutter, Unreal, Unity and Angular.

Want to learn more? Reach out via our contact form, and we’ll be happy to schedule a demo. Or, try our free 30-day chat trial today!

Happy chatting!