Since the WebSocket protocol is intended for real-time communications over long-lived connections, it is desirable to ensure that connections don’t break, and if they do, to report the problem quickly.

WebSocket is built on top of HTTP/1.1 where connections are short-lived, even with Connection: keep-alive. Typically, HTTP/1.1 infrastructure closes idle connections after 30 to 120 seconds.

As a consequence, proxies may terminate WebSocket connections prematurely, when no message was exchanged in 30 seconds.

In order to avoid this problem, websockets implements a keepalive mechanism based on WebSocket Ping and Pong frames. Ping and Pong are designed for this purpose.

By default, websockets waits 20 seconds, then sends a Ping frame, and expects to receive the corresponding Pong frame within 20 seconds. Else, it considers the connection broken and closes it.

Timings are configurable with the ping_interval and ping_timeout arguments of connect() and serve().

While WebSocket runs on top of TCP, websockets doesn’t rely on TCP keepalive because it’s disabled by default and, if enabled, the default interval is no less than two hours, which doesn’t meet requirements.

Latency between a client and a server may increase for two reasons:

  • Network connectivity is poor. When network packets are lost, TCP attempts to retransmit them, which manifests as latency. Excessive packet loss makes the connection unusable in practice. At some point, timing out is a reasonable choice.

  • Traffic is high. For example, if a client sends messages on the connection faster than a server can process them, this manifests as latency as well, because data is waiting in flight, mostly in OS buffers.

    If the server is more than 20 seconds behind, it doesn’t see the Pong before the default timeout elapses. As a consequence, it closes the connection. This is a reasonable choice to prevent overload.

    If traffic spikes cause unwanted timeouts and you’re confident that the server will catch up eventually, you can increase ping_timeout or you can disable keepalive entirely with ping_interval=None.

    The same reasoning applies to situations where the server sends more traffic than the client can accept.

You can monitor latency as follows:

import asyncio
import logging
import time

async def log_latency(websocket, logger):
    t0 = time.perf_counter()
    pong_waiter = await websocket.ping()
    await pong_waiter
    t1 = time.perf_counter()
    logger.info("Connection latency: %.3f seconds", t1 - t0)

asyncio.create_task(log_latency(websocket, logging.getLogger()))