We at Weavy have done a fair amount of research into the competitive landscape of in-app chat APIs on the market. To help product managers make sense of it all, we're sharing what we have learned to help them find the right solution for their platform.
Judging by search data alone, Sendbird is one of the most popular Chat API providers. Sendbird gives developers a quick way to add in-app chat and video call features to their app using a simple Rest API that connects to Sendbird’s servers. Every time a user interacts with these features, an API call is made to Sendbird’s servers, which return the appropriate data. One way Sendbird seeks to reduce latency for end users is to allow developers to choose a host server region closest to their app server.
Sendbird’s business model is very similar to Sendbird competitors PubNub and Stream, where they provide subscribers with access and documentation for their APIs, while charging for hosting and support fees. One thing that sets Sendbird apart from the competition is that they offer video calling and help desk support, creating a more complete communication platform. Sendbird does’t let subscribers host their own Chat SDK, meaning that there’s almost no opportunity for skilled developers to expand the functionality of in-app chat or calls.
Though Sendbird’s most popular offering by far is chat, they’ve worked hard to position themselves as an all-in-one communication solution. Working off this premise, they offer three primary types of services:
First, a quick breakdown of the features of Sendbird competitors.
Sendbird’s alternatives each take a different approach to their feature offering. Stream takes an incredibly lean approach, and in many ways their services seem to exist more in the service of their infrastructure than the other way round. PubNub offers a wide variety of data streaming and processing services without any clear focus on target customers other than “very large.” Weavy is focused on productivity and collaboration.
Something worth noting about Sendbird’s communication features is that their functionality favors a heavily moderated and curated B2C experience. While all pricing tiers offer some degree of user moderation and account banning, the more expensive tiers offer profanity and decency filters for chats and images shared on them, as well as in-chat translation. Taken as a whole, there’s a built-in expectation that Sendbird’s end users will by and large be communicating with strangers, casual acquaintances, or businesses, as opposed to team or more intimate interpersonal interactions.
Sendbird has done work to make their features easier to integrate through extensive documentation and UI Kits, including a new open source UI Kit that they’ve committed to maintaining for the foreseeable future. This stands in stark contrast to Sendbird competitor Pubnub, which only offers that level of front-end support for their chat service. The Sendbird alternative that best matches their level of documentation and support is Weavy, who offer extensive and exhaustive tutorials for deploying all of their features, as well as a drop-in UI that allows developers to add collaboration features without having to design a front-end for them.
Similar to Sendbird’s alternatives, Sendbird operates on a multi-tiered pricing structure covering a large spread of price points and service tiers. This includes a three-pillared approach. The first pillar is their Starter Plan, which they describe as a way to get basic messaging functionality. Their more expensive Pro Plan adds more robust moderation features, as well as translation and profanity filters. At the highest end is Enterprise, which Sendbird doesn’t advertise their pricing on. This gives important data portability features like data export and the option for a dedicated Sendbird server. All of these plans are priced according to the number of Monthly Active Users (MAUs).
Free for up to 100 users
$399/month for up to 5,000 users
$499/month for up to 10,000 users
$1199/month for up to 25,000 users
$599/month for up to 5,000 users
$749/month for up to 10,000 users
$1799/month for up to 25,000 users
Pay Per Call
Once you exceed 25,000 MAU, you have no choice but to use Sendbird’s enterprise plan.
First, a quick breakdown of the price structure of Sendbird alternatives.
PubNub Starter Prices:
$49/month for up to 1,500 users
$249/month for up to 5,000 users
$499/month for up to 10,000 users
$499/month for up to 10,000 users
$1299/month for up to 25,000 users
$2299/month for up to 50,000 users
Free for unlimited monthly engaged users and API calls
$0.09 per MEU each month
Compared to Sendbird alternatives Stream and Pubnub, Sendbird’s pricing is fairly well aligned, however with one major caveat: they impose limits on concurrent MAUs. What this means is that at any time Sendbird’s pricing only allows for 2% of your MAUs to be using their services at the same time. If this limit is exceeded, Sendbird charges overages for each concurrent user over the limit. Though the overages fees are incredibly small, they can add up on high volume days. Though Sendbird no longer advertises their overage fees, our own analysis based on previously advertised fees could show Sendbird customers doubling their monthly cost after only a matter of high volume days.
Sendbird recently introduced a new "Developer" tier that has the eye grabbing Free price point. This tier allows developers access to all of the features of the Pro pricing tiers. But at a limit of 100 MAUs and only 10 concurrent connections, their developer tier is less of a free offering and more of a never ending free trial for apps that aren't yet in production.
The clear standout by a wide margin is Weavy. Weavy’s Chat API, Feeds is available at both a free and a pro level. The free version gives developers access to all the core functionality necessary to have in-app direct messages and group chats. The pro level, priced at $0.09 per MEU, gives additional functionality such as read receipts, typing indicators, and integrations to third party services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom.
If you’re building a B2C focused platform that requires extensive moderation and filtering tools, Sendbird is a compelling option at industry standard prices. Sendbird competitors Stream and PubNub have a much heavier emphasis on enterprise scale data infrastructure, with features like chat being a value-adding benefit of the infrastructure.
If, for example, your product team is interested in adding collaboration features to your platform, Sendbird’s offering is severely limited. On the chat side of the equation, they lack support for third-party integrations that power users rely on, and their other features lack the robust collaboration capabilities that Weavy offers with the Feeds API and Files API.