Featured image of post A Closer Look at Server Sent Events

A Closer Look at Server Sent Events

Server-Sent Events (SSE) which first appeared in the HTML5 specification in late 2009 is a simple and efficient way for a server to PUSH data to a client in real-time over HTTP. The goal of this article is to give you an overview of where the technology currently sits and what are some possible use cases to introduce it.

Here’s a glimpse of what we will be going through


SSE enables a server to send data to a client by “server push”. The client establishes an HTTP connection to a server and keeps the connection open. The server can then continuously send messages. A message is terminated by a blank line (two line terminators in a row). The data transfer mode is uni-directional because only the “server” is allowed to send data after establishing a connection.

Here’s how a sample SSE stream looks like

sse simple architecture

What’s in it for me?

A perfect use-case for SSE is the “notification tab 🔔” which is present on every kind of product nowadays. A server can be configured to push notifications to any client every time something happens in the product. For, e.g. you can award users with points every time they complete a step of onboarding or add new data to their profile.

Before SSE came into being following approaches have existed to build real-time systems.

  • WebSockets

    WebSockets provide a bi-directional channel where both the server and client can send/receive messages.

  • Long Polling

    In Long Polling, the response to a HTTP request is delayed until the server is ready to provide a response. Long polling reduces costs by reducing the number of empty responses.

  • WebRTC

    WebRTC which was released around 2011 enables web browsers to communicate in a peer-to-peer fashion. Primarily used over UDP, WebRTC has various usecases including text-based chats, file sharing, and screen sharing.

Although relatively new, SSE can be a viable solution. They offer various advantages:

  • Low latency and real-time updates.
  • Simple and efficient server-to-client communication. SSE provides a simple and easy to use HTTP-based methods for realtime data streaming.
  • Improved scalability and reduced server load (often the case with long polling)

Hands on 🙌🏽

Implementing a SSE Web server in Go

Let’s get down to some business, in this section we will be using r3labs/sse to implement a simple SSE web server. Let’s start by importing the said package and initializing our SSE server.

package main

import (


func main() {
	server := sse.New()
    // prevents replaying old messages
    server.AutoReplay = false
	server.Headers = map[string]string{
		"Access-Control-Allow-Origin":  "*",
		"Access-Control-Allow-Methods": "GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS",

	mux := http.NewServeMux()

	addr := ":8080"
	log.Println("Starting server on", addr)

	err := http.ListenAndServe(addr, mux)
	if err != nil {


We now have a basic HTTP server running, let’s create a stream where a client can listen for events and the server can push events. We do this by calling the CreateStream function.

server := sse.New()

Let’s create 2 different handlers:

  1. trigger: Where we tell our server to send us an event. Think of this endpoint which is just responsible for triggering.
  2. events: Where the server will push events.
mux := http.NewServeMux()
mux.HandleFunc("/events", server.ServeHTTP)
mux.HandleFunc("/trigger", logHTTPRequest(server))

Here the /events endpoint will be used to exchange “events” and the /trigger endpoint will tell our server to push the events in the messages stream that we created earlier.

Let’s write our logHTTPRequest handler that will push SSE events to all clients currently subscribed.

func logHTTPRequest(server *sse.Server) http.HandlerFunc {
	return func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
		log.Printf("Got trigger request. Sending SSE")

		server.Publish("messages", &sse.Event{
			Data: []byte(time.Now().String()),

To publish an event we use the server.Publish function which takes a stream ID (in our case “message”) and a SSE event, Event in which we are sending latest timestamp in string form.

Note that Event streams are always decoded as UTF-8.

That’s it, we now have a SSE server to publish events. Run the server using go run main.go and you should see our log.

2023/02/02 22:40:39 Starting server on :8080

The URL for our SSE server where we will publish events looks like this.

If you had to visit this URL on a browser, you can see that the request never finishes (since its streaming)

Opening SSE URL on a browser

Our next step is to build a SSE Client where we will create a connection using this URL.

Implementing a SSE client using EventSource

The EventSource() constructor creates a new EventSource to handle receiving server-sent events from a specified URL.

Let’s declare a boilerplate HTML code, that we will use to trigger the events from our server.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">

    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    <title>SSE Client Demo</title>

    <h1>Demo Client for SSE</h1>
    <button type="button" id="triggerEvents">Trigger Event</button>
    <ul style="font-size: 25px;"></ul>
        // tell our server to send us an event
        function triggerEvent() {
            fetch('', {
                method: 'GET',

        var btn = document.getElementById("triggerEvents");
        btn.addEventListener("click", triggerEvent);

        // TODO add code to listen to events and update DOM.


As soon as we hit the trigger button, the server will send us an event. Let’s add logic for listening to events

// Read SSE logic
const evtSource = new EventSource('');
const eventList = document.querySelector('ul');

evtSource.onmessage = (e) => {
   const newElement = document.createElement("li");

   newElement.textContent = `message: ${e.data}`;

Here’s a demo of how the client side works.

SSE Web Client Demo


Server-Sent Events is a relatively new technology with limited use-cases but if you don’t have very complex requirements like building chat systems (where websockets are a common solution) then using SSE can be a good bet.


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