Building a Social Network with SwiftUI – Part 3 (Group Channels)

In the third part of our series, we're building group chat into our social application. This allows users to chat with multiple people at the same time. We leverage Stream Chat to do the heavy lifting. This post assumes you've gone through part 1 and part 2.

Using our code from part 2, we only need to add to our iOS application, since our backend gives us everything we need already. To recap, the backend generates a frontend token for Stream Chat, which allows the mobile application to communicate directly with the Stream Chat API. Also, since we have our Stream Chat dependencies already from the direct messaging implementation, there are no additional libraries. The previously installed Swift library is all we need.

The app goes through these steps to enable group chat:

  • User navigates to a list of chat channels they can join. To start, there will be none, so they must create the first one.
  • The user fills out a name and clicks "Create" to create a new chat channel.
  • The mobile app queries the channel for previous messages and indicates to Stream that we'd like to watch this channel for new messages. This process creates the channel in Stream. The mobile app listens for new messages.
  • The user creates a new message and sends it to the Stream Chat API. Stream broadcasts this message to all users watching that channel.
  • When the message is broadcast, including messages created by the user, the mobile application consumes the event and displays the message.

We rely on Stream's Swift libraries to do most of the work communicating with the API and rendering the chat. Similar to part 2, we leverage Stream's UI components to perform most of the steps above. If you'd like to follow along, make sure you get both the backend and ios app running part 2 before continuing.

Adding Channels Navigation

First, we'll add a new tab to our TabView. Here's the new layout:

This is the same as part 2, except we add a ChannelsView to our tab bar. Our app now looks like this:

Viewing Channels

Now when a user clicks on "Channels" in the TabView, we'll show our ChannelsView. This view will compose two pieces together. First, we'll have a small form to create a new channel combined with an embedded Stream UI component that lists all channels given some filter. Our view looks like this:

And here's the code:

The top part of the view contains a form that takes a channel name, binds it to channelName, and a button to create the channel. The second piece is a child view that wraps Stream's channel list UI component given a ChannelsPresenter. We'll see how this is done in a second.

First, let's see how to create a new channel. When a user clicks "Create", we invoke account.createPublicChannel. Once that call completes, we reset the form and reload the channels list via the ChannelPresenter (described next). Let's see how the Account instance creates the channel:

First, we convert the name into a Stream appropriate channel id. We use the previously initialized client to initialize and create a "livestream" channel. Livestream is a nice default channel type to use for a public channel such as this. If none of the default types work for your application, you can create different channel types.

Now that a channel can be created, let's see how we list them. The ChannelsView object initializes a ChannelsPresenter, which is a Stream class that informs their UI components what type of list we want. In our case, we're only looking for all channels of the kind "livestream". We hold a reference in ChannelsView so we can refresh after creating a new channel (see above).

Let's see what our StreamChannelsView looks like:

Just like part 2, we use SwiftUI's UIViewControllerRepresentable to wrap a UIViewController. Swift's built-in UI components are UIViewControllers, so it's easy to wrap these with SwiftUI. Using the ChannelPresenter given to this class, we create a ChannelsViewController, which is the Stream UI component. There's nothing else to do. Stream renders a nice default channel list.

Viewing a Group Channel

Now we're ready to view a group chat. Luckily there's no more work for us! Since the ChannelsViewController is nested in a NavigationView, the rest is taken care of by Stream's library. When a user clicks on a channel, a new view is pushed on the stack representing the group chat. Here's what it looks like:

And we're done! Now we have a mini social network that allows users to chat and post status updates – all built with Stream.

Thanks for reading and happy coding!