Frequently Asked Questions

General

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 real 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. 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), and they have a chance to interact with them (pagechats).

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.

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.

Q: How long do chat messages show up on the page?

Pagechats are ephemeral, meaning that each message lasts only 30 minutes, 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 history 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:

Q: Is Now4real a live chat solution for customer support (like Intercom, LiveChat, etc.)?

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.

Q: How is Now4real different from Google Analytics Real-Time and Chartbeat?

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.

Q: How is Now4real different from commenting systems (like Disqus, Facebook Comments, etc.)

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 30 minutes (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.

Integration

Q: How can I add Now4real to my website?

All you need to do is to add some simple JavaScript code to the pages of your site, as explained in the Quickstart. Now4real will work straight away. You don’t even need to register or create an account, even if we suggest doing so to gain further control.

Please remember to include the links to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service in your own Privacy Policy.

Q: Can I customize the Now4real widget?

Sure. There are a few parameters you can play with. For example, you can change the color and the position of the Now4real bubble icon, 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.

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?

You bet! If you want to fully integrate the Now4real service with your front end and presentation logic, you can use the Now4real API. It is a modern, developer-friendly, and well-documented JavaScript API. When designing Now4real, we focused on the API first, and we built our widget on the top of it with no shortcuts, only using the public API. We are pretty sure you will enjoy using the Now4real API directly.

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.

Technology

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?

Now4real is fully GDPR compliant. We have a very clear privacy policy that lays out the details. We don’t track and store anything more than is necessary to fulfill the service.

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: Can users chat anonymously?

No, Now4real doesn’t allow to post anonymous messages. Users are not required to sign in to view the chats, but they must sign in to post messages to the chats. Sign-on/sign-in are based on social login, where users can authenticate on Now4real via Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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: Should I change my site’s privacy policy?

You should include in your privacy policy the links to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service. This way, your users will know how Now4real works, what personal data it collects, for what purpose, etc.

Q: How do you protect against spam?

Requiring social login is a first barrier against spam since social networks 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.).

Then, users cannot post more than a chat message every two seconds, thus preventing to flood the pagechat.

Furthermore, chat messages are ephemeral and remain visible only for 30 minutes.

Q: How does automatic moderation work?

Automatic moderation is an optional premium feature that uses AI to automatically filter out profanities in more than 100 languages in real time. Even if no automatic filters are 100% reliable today, this helps a lot to reduce inappropriate content.

Use cases

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 of any kind, from business dashboards to stock trading apps, can take benefit from Now4real, enabling the users to meet virtually. Two or more users happen to be in the same section of the same web application at the same time? Well, they can open a group chat and share thoughts in real time. And the web application owners can get invaluable feedback from the chat transcripts.

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.

Pricing

For frequently asked questions regarding Now4real pricing, please see the dedicated section on the Pricing page.

 

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