Q: What’s the idea behind Now4real?
When visiting a website, people may be at home, in the office, on a train, or anywhere in the physical world. But they are also on a web page. That page is like a virtual place where they may meet other people. However, traditionally a web visitor didn’t have any means to know if he or she was the only one on that page at that moment or if there was anyone else. With Now4real, web visitors can see in real time how many people are actually displaying that page in the foreground at that moment. And they can chat with one another. This way, web pages become live virtual places, and browsing the Web is like going around in the real world: wherever they are, people see if there are others around them (presence counters), can interact with them (pagechats), and can be part of instant communities.
For full details on Now4real’s philosophy and vision, please read The Instant Community Manifesto.
Q: Do I need to host or install anything on my servers?
No. Now4real is a fully managed service or SaaS (software as a service). All you have to do is to include the Now4real script in your web pages. The script will connect to the Now4real cloud, which takes care of all the complexity. More specifically, Now4real can be considered a CPaaS (communications platform as a service), where it provides APIs that integrate managed chats into any web pages.
Q: What does Now4real offer?
Now4real is a software-as-a-service platform that adds a few innovative features to any existing website. Basically, you get two sets of features:
- Several real-time analytics displayed to your own users, like the number of people viewing the same page at that moment or the ranking of the pages with most viewers at that moment.
- A chat room for every page of your website, where visitors can publicly chat with each other.
Q: What is a pagechat?
A pagechat is a real-time group chat dedicated to a web page. This means that every page of your website will have its own chat room, where site visitors can discuss the content of that page. While simply browsing the Web, people can find out if there are other visitors to that page at that moment and they can chat with them in real time. They are all on the same page, so they probably share an interest in the topic of that page, making chats interesting and engaging.
If you prefer, you can have a global pagechat shared by all the pages of your site, rather than a different pagechat for every page. Or you can define your own page contexts (for example, groups of pages sharing the same pagechats).
Q: How long do chat messages show up on the page?
Pagechats are ephemeral, meaning that each message lasts only 3 hours (configurable), then it vanishes for everyone. This has several benefits, like keeping context, reducing noise and spam, and focusing the attention of new visitors on the current discussion rather than on past messages.
On the other hand, site owners have access to the full transcripts of chat messages exchanged on their site, up to 12 months back in time.
Q: What is an instant community?
An instant community is a group of people who happen to be visiting the same web page at the same time. It’s like people who happen to be seated at the same bar counter or to be looking at the same painting in a museum. They are at the same place at the same time, and they probably share some interests.
Instant communities are constantly being formed, transformed, and destroyed, with people moving through the Web. All the interactions happen in real time, and there is no public memory of what happened in an instant community (because pagechats are ephemeral), just as there is no public memory of what people at the bar said.
Q: What is presence?
Page presence refers to people who have a specific web page actually visible in their browser so that they are present on that page. That browser tab must not be in the background or minimized. This means that when a user switches the focus to another browser tab, their presence on that page is immediately canceled, even if that page is still open in a background tab. Now4real provides real-time page presence counters, showing how many visitors are present on a web page at any time.
Similarly, site presence refers to people viewing any of the pages of a website. Now4real provides real-time site presence counters, showing how many visitors are present on a website at any time.
Q: What is the viewing time of a website?
The viewing time is the total time your users spent viewing the pages of your website in a given month. We only count the time when a page is actually visible and not when it is in the background or minimized. In other words, we count the total combined number of hours in a month for which users are present on the website. This means that when a user switches the focus to another browser tab, even if your page is still open in the previous tab, the viewing-time timer is stopped.
Q: Why should I add Now4real to my site?
Now4real is a complete solution that transforms your website into a live environment in a matter of seconds. The benefits are amazing. Check them out:
No. Customer service live chat solutions enable users to chat with company representatives. Now4real enables users to chat with one another. The two services can coexist on the same site, as they serve different purposes and don’t exclude each other.
In many cases, users prefer to ask questions, suggestions, and opinions to their peers rather than to company reps. With Now4real, people can support each other by answering questions and providing genuine feedback and help in real time.
Now4real is quite different from Google Analytics Real-Time and Chartbeat for several reasons:
- Both Google Analytics Real-Time and Chartbeat are near real time, while Now4real is true real time. This means that Now4real updates the presence counter with a latency in the order of a second, Chartbeat 15 seconds, and Google Analytics 300 seconds.
- Now4real considers whether the page is actually visible, thus achieving real presence detection. Chartbeat requires only an engaging action (like clicking or scrolling) in the last 15 seconds. Google Analytics Real-Time considers a user active for 5 minutes since page load, even if the user left the page immediately.
- Both Google Analytics Real-Time and Chartbeat are geared to internal users, while Now4real is geared to the public. In other words, Now4real is able to deliver presence counter updates in real time and with high accuracy to very large numbers of recipients (the full user base of the site at any given time). On the other hand, Google Analytics Real-Time and Chartbeat are designed for a limited and well-defined number of people accessing their dashboards.
Now4real is designed for real-time discussions, where people on a page at the same time can chat and discuss, forming an “instant community”. On the other hand, commenting systems are designed mainly for offline discussions, where anyone can add comments and messages at any time. Furthermore, Now4real messages are ephemeral and disappear after a predefined time (except for the site owner), while commenting systems keep the messages visible forever.
Now4real and commenting systems can coexist on the same site, serving different purposes.
Q: Why the name Now4real?
Ok, this is just for curiosity. We chose the Now4real name because all that we show is happening now (not one minute ago or even ten seconds ago). We show how many users there are now, what they are writing now, the list of the most popular pages now, the world heatmap as it is now, etc. And because it’s actually now (no faking), we added the 4real suffix. Furthermore, the “real” word helps evoke “real time”, in addition to fitting well with one of our value propositions: we turn the Web into a real place where to meet real people in real time.
Q: How can I add Now4real to my website?
Q: Can I customize the Now4real widget?
Sure. There are several parameters you can play with. For example, you can change the color and the position of the Now4real bubble icon, you can change the logo, you can embed the chatbox inline on your page, and you can customize other aspects. Check out the Quickstart to learn how to configure the parameters and find the full list of available parameters in the documentation.
You can find the list of currently supported languages here. We keep adding new languages and we are open to voluntary contributions. The Now4real language pack is an open-source project hosted on GitHub. Feel free to fork it and add your language, following the guidelines provided in the project.
Q: My site doesn’t get a lot of traffic. Can I configure the chat per site rather than per page?
Yes, by default, you get a pagechat that’s already configured per site. This means you get a chat that’s shared among all the pages of your site. But if you have more traffic, you might prefer to have a different pagechat for every page. To do so, you simply need to configure the scope parameter to ‘page’, as explained in the Quickstart.
Q: Is it possible to test Now4real on my site without showing the widget publicly to all my visitors?
Yes, this is what we call stealth mode. The widget is not shown to everybody, but it still silently collects presence analytics in real time for all. To make the widget visible on your own browser or your collaborators’ browsers, you just need to call any page of your site once with a special query string. That browser will remember the new settings for any future visits.
To learn how to enable stealth mode and how to let a browser get out of stealth mode, please refer to this section of the documentation (look at the second example).
Q: Do you provide a Now4real API to develop my own front end?
By using the Now4real API, you can create your own widgets, from the most minimalistic to the utterly massive ones… Or you can show the presence counters directly inside your pages, rather than in a widget. Furthermore, the Now4real API contains a full-fledged chat SaaS API, which allows you to display the chats the way you prefer and integrate them wherever you want.
To get started, check out the coding way in the Quickstart.
Q: My homepage contains links to the internal pages of my website. Can I show real-time presence counters for every page near the links?
Yes. Imagine a news site homepage, containing the titles of the article, with a summary, etc. Wouldn’t it be amazing to show the number of current readers in real time next to each title? With the Now4real API, you can easily achieve that. The same applies to a blog or to any website and web application.
To get started, follow The coding way in the Quickstart. Then, when you subscribe to the COUNTER_PAGE_VIEWERS subject, you simply need to append a colon followed by the Page Context to the subject.
Q: What is the Now4real Dashboard?
The Now4real Dashboard (also known as the Publisher Dashboard) gives you full control over how Now4real behaves on your sites. Furthermore, you will get a new perspective on your site analytics, with innovative metrics like viewing time and concurrent viewers. And you can analyze what your users said in the pagechats of your sites, by accessing the chat transcripts.
Using the Dashboard is easy. First, sign up for free at https://dashboard.now4real.com. Then, you can add your sites and verify them to demonstrate you are the owner or are in control. From the Dashboard, you can also upgrade to the Premium plan, if you decide to unlock any of the premium features.
Q: How does Now4real work under the hood?
Now4real may look simple, but the underlying technology is quite complex. It’s a true real-time system that connects millions of users.
The script included in the pages takes care of establishing a persistent bi-directional connection to the Now4real cloud. This is done by using a WebSocket and automatically falling back to HTTP streaming and HTTP long-polling whenever WebSockets are blocked by network intermediaries. This means that Now4real works even behind the strictest corporate firewalls and proxies. The client script sends presence signals in real time to the Now4real cloud. At the same time, it subscribes to counter updates and any other analytics subjects (rankings, maps, etc.) The Now4real cloud collects all the presence indicators and updates the counters and the analytics in real time accordingly. It then pushes asynchronously any update to the clients based on the subscriptions they made.
This process is extremely lightweight for the client because the Now4real cloud takes care of reducing the amount of data that needs to be pushed to every client to the bare minimum. There are even adaptive throttling mechanisms in place so that the real-time update flow can be resampled on the fly to adapt to network congestion and to avoid buffering and data aging for each individual client.
The same bi-directional channel is used for the chat functionalities too. Messages are pushed asynchronously to the clients when a pagechat is opened, together with typing indicators, user profiles, etc.
Q: How is it truly real-time?
Everything in Now4real happens in streaming mode. Presence actions and posted messages are streamed from the browsers to the Now4real cloud. Analytics updates and pagechat messages are streamed from the Now4real cloud to the browsers. The event processing is done in real time with low latency. This means that analytics can be updated with sub-second latency.
Q: How accurate is presence detection?
By page presence, we mean that a web page must be currently opened and visible in the foreground tab of a non-minimized browser window. For mobile browsers, when another tab or another app is brought in the foreground, as well as when the screen goes off, Now4real detects that the user is no more present on that page and the presence counter is decreased by 1. Similarly, for desktop browsers, presence is removed when the tab goes in the background or its window is minimized. Depending on the browsers, Now4real may even detect if a non-minimized window is currently covered by another window, making its content invisible.
So, the presence indicator of Now4real provides a very accurate estimate of how many people are actually looking at a web page at every moment.
Q: Does Now4real scale to millions of concurrent users?
Yes. The real-time streaming engine used by Now4real is Lightstreamer, a premier data push platform that originated in the financial trading industry and expanded to cover the aerospace and streaming TV needs too. Lightstreamer is optimized for massive numbers of concurrent connections, with low latency and military-grade resilience. On the top of Lightstreamer, Now4real has built a distributed architecture that scales elastically even for most trafficked websites.
Privacy and security
Q: How do you ensure privacy?
Q: Do you track users’ navigation across the sites that integrate Now4real?
No, we don’t store any information regarding the sites and pages that users visit. Only if a user posts a chat message, that message will be associated with the page where it was posted, involving that the user visited that page.
Q: How does chat sign-in (authentication) work?
By default, Now4real uses social or email login. So, users can easily authenticate on Now4real via Google, Facebook, X, and LinkedIn to chat, or they can use their email. On the other hand, with the Custom Auth option, you have full control over user authentication and authorization. This means your back end can authenticate users directly, via JWT tokens, thus skipping social login. It’s also possible to skip authentication completely and let users simply choose their nickname, with no prior registration.
Q: Do you support SSO (single sign-on)?
Yes. You need to enable the Custom Auth option, then you can put a proper JWT token in your page to let Now4real know the user identity to use in the chat.
Q: Can users chat anonymously?
By default, users are not required to sign in to view the chats, but they must sign in to post messages to the chats. You can override this behavior through various options in the Dashboard, which gives you full control over authentication and authorization, including enabling anonymous posting.
Q: If a user signs in, do you publicly show they are on a given page?
No, the presence of a user on a page is only used to increase some counters and not to show that a specific user is on a specific page. Of course, if a user writes a message on a pagechat, their presence on that page will become public. In this case, the personal data shown in the pagechat will only be the user’s name and picture provided by the social network that was used for signing in.
Q: Do you geolocate users?
Yes, but only at the country level and without ever associating a country to a user. Geolocation is only used to update the real-time heatmap that shows how the current visitors to a page are distributed in the world.
Q: How do you protect against spammers, trollers, etc.?
Pagechats are kept clean, safe, and quiet by several levels of implicit and explicit moderation.
Chat messages are ephemeral and disappear after a predefined time. So, any profanities or unacceptable messages remain visible only for the predefined duration. This automatically limits the scope of bad messages a lot, compared to traditional persistent comments.
No anonymous posting
By default, anonymous posting is not allowed. Users must authenticate via:
- Social login: Third-party social media periodically clean up fake users and spammers in addition to requiring more and more verification steps to new users (like providing a phone number, etc.). This reduces the probability of fake users.
- Single sign-on: Users are prefiltered by the very site hosting the chats based on the specific website’s authentication system; this gives site owners total control on who can post to the chat.
In any case, site owners can decide, at their own risk, to enable anonymous posting.
Message limits and throttling
Chat flooding is prevented in two ways:
– Max 140 characters allowed for each message (by default).
– Min 2 seconds required between two messages posted by the same user on the same pagechat.
Special guests and moderators have higher limits on message length and no throttling at all.
Automatic profanity filtering is available.
The site administrator can defined a custom list of words to be blocked.
Admin and Moderators can delete any message before its natural expiration and can mute any users, either temporarily or indefinitely, both in real time and based on the past chat transcripts.
Q: How does profanity filtering work?
The profanity filter detects and automatically filters out profanities and swears. You can check out the supported languages here and even contribute if you think any words are missing in your language.
Q: How does moderation work?
Users who been assigned the moderator role, as well as the Admin, can delete messages before their natural expiry) and can mute/unmute any users at any time, both from within the chatbox widget and from the chat transcripts in the Dashboard.
Q: How can Now4real help news sites?
With Now4real, an online newspaper, magazine, or news site can be transformed into a live environment where people can see how many readers there are currently for every article. Now4real detects when a page is being displayed in the foreground tab of a browser (both mobile and desktop) and is much probably in front of the visitor’s very eyes. This means Now4real keeps a true real-time counter of how many people are reading an article at every moment (not with just that page opened, but actually visible). With the Now4real API, publishers can show these real-time analytics directly near the titles of every article.
Now4real provides the real-time ranking of the pages with most readers, too, updated up to the second.
Furthermore, each article automatically gets a dedicated chat room, where readers can discuss the article in real time. This helps to create engaging instant communities. Readers will come back to the same article over and over again, to find a new instant community every time, even if the article content is not changed. Publishers can leverage the increased time visitors spend on their pages to rotate more banner ads for every user, rather than limiting to one set of banners per page visit as it happens traditionally. This will boost the click-through rate. And since they know how many people are actually viewing any page at any moment, they can even optimize programmatic advertising.
The Now4real API allows publishers to use all the features of Now4real or only a subset. For example, they might want to show the readers counters but not the chat or enable the chat and not the counters, etc.
Q: How can Now4real help e-commerce sites?
Before buying a product or a service, people love to ask questions and to get recommendations and suggestions. Traditionally, they only had a couple of options:
- To rely on other users’ comments displayed at the end of the page. But comments are not interactive and get old quickly.
- To get help from customer service via live chat. But customers might not trust company reps when it comes to opinions.
With Now4real, visitors on an e-commerce site can support each other by answering questions and providing genuine feedback and help in real time. Of course, this does not preclude company reps from participating in Now4real chats. And it does not prevent existing customer service live chats from sitting side-to-side with Now4real.
Thanks to the Now4real real-time analytics, it is possible to show how many people are currently viewing every product. And customers can discover the most popular products in true real time, increasing the purchase rate.
Q: How can Now4real help travel sites?
Any travel site, from hotel and flight reservations to restaurant and trip recommendations, can leverage Now4real to create instant communities for every place they deal with. This way, in addition to the static comments collected on a page, a live group chat will allow users to interact with each other in real time.
Site visitors can see how many people are looking at that hotel now and how many are reading about that restaurant at this moment. The site becomes live instead of being just a collection of pages to browse.
Q: How can Now4real help blogs?
With Now4real, bloggers and influencers can enable their followers to interact with each other in real time, spicing up the experience they have on the blog.
Visitors can see what posts are attracting most followers at that moment, and they can join that instant community and chat together.
Q: How can Now4real help web applications?
Web applications, spanning business dashboards to CPaaS platforms (Communications Platforms as a Service) and from stock trading portals to project management tools, can harness the advantages of Now4real to empower users with virtual interactions. Imagine two or more users finding themselves within the same section of a web application simultaneously. With Now4real, they can seamlessly initiate a group chat, fostering real-time exchange of thoughts. Moreover, web application owners stand to gain priceless insights from the archived chat transcripts, facilitating valuable feedback collection.
Q: Can Now4real help any other site?
Yes, Now4real can bring new energy to any type of website. Presence analytics and pagechats are innovative features that any site should have. With Now4real, any web page becomes a virtual place where to meet people in real time, besides being a source of information.
For frequently asked questions regarding Now4real pricing, please see the dedicated section on the Pricing page.