Pusher launches Chatkit to make it easy for developers to add chat functionality

Pusher, the London startup that provides tools and cloud infrastructure for developers to add real-time functionality to their apps, such as push notifications and messages, has launched a new product dedicated to making it easier to roll various chat features. Dubbed ‘Chatkit,’ the API and SDK is intended to do a lot of the heavy lifting required to add chat functionality to an app or service, and sees Pusher begin to transition to what COO Sylvain Giuliani describes as a multi-product company, going beyond the core Pusher offering.

Designed to be easy to use and yet flexible and powerful enough to let developers build a plethora of chat functionality, Chatkit provides features such as granular user roles and permissions, private and public chat rooms, typing indicators, online presence, message history and automatic reconnection. Further forward, Pusher’s Chatkit product roadmap includes supporting users sending various media, such as photos, video, audio and GIFs, and handling uploads, downloads, and hosted storage.

In a call, Giuliani explained that some of Chatkit’s functionality could be achieved by developing on top of the core Pusher service, just not quite as easily as using the new chat API and SDK. Having a separate chat product also allows for more specific chat features to be supported without cluttering or overcomplicating the more general Pusher offering.

He also conceded that there are a number of competitors in the space, who also make it easy for developers to add chat functionality to their products. These span something like Layer.com, which might best be described as a hybrid between a chat “widget” and developer API to build your own chat feature within an app, to Twilio Programmable Chat, which is much more similar to Pusher Chatkit.

More broadly, when choosing an API or so-called Platform-as-a-Service, Giuliani says that developers typically consider three things: Does it provide the features/functionality I need? Is it easy to develop on, giving a decent amount of bang for my developer buck? And is it reliable? It turns out, uptime is a pretty big deal.

On that note, Pusher appears to have a decent track record, born out by its list of customers since being founded in 2011. For example, the New York Times uses Pusher to power breaking news and events on its front page, including real-time graph/stats, updates, and live news feeds (tweets, quotes, photos etc). Another customer is Doordash, with Pusher powering real-time updates of the status of your food delivery.

Meanwhile, I understand the startup has generated revenue from the get-go, and raised a very modest $3.5 million in funding, most of which is (quite sensibly) venture debt.