Presence enables you to track the online and offline status of users and devices in realtime, as well as store custom state information. Some examples of custom state information include user information (username, location, avatar, etc.), inventory stock of a product, latest bid price for an auction, position of cursors in a collaborative document, location of a package being delivered, sensor readings from a phone’s gyroscope, or the temperature of a thermostat.


PubNub automatically creates a ‘presence channel’ for each channel. This ‘sister’ presence channel is the name of the original channel with ‘-pnpres’ appended to the name. For example, the presence channel for the channel ‘myChatRoom’ is ‘myChatRoom-pnpres’. Presence exists for channel groups as well; if the channel group is ‘myChannelGroup’, the presence channel-group becomes ‘myChannelGroup-pnpres’. Subscribing to a presence channel group (e.g. ‘myChannelGroup-pnpres’) will return the presence events for every channel in the original channel group.

Subscribing to a presence channel or presence channel group will only return presence events, never the originally published messages (for that you must subscribe to the original channel or channel group directly).

Presence Events

There are numerous presence events we monitor: join, leave, timeout, state-change, and channel active/inactive.

  • User-level presence events
    • join
      • fired when the user first subscribes to a channel
    • leave (graceful exit)
      • fired when user cleanly exits (unsubscribes) from the channel
    • timeout (ungraceful exit)
      • fired when a connection is severed and subscriber has not been seen in the period of the heartbeat (default 320 seconds)
    • state-change
      • fired anytime the state is changed using the state API
      • note: a state-change event is not fired when a user subscribes with state passed in as a parameter (rather, the state is passed along as part of the join event payload)
  • Channel-level presence events (only available via Presence webhooks)
    • channel active
      • fired when the occupancy changes from 0 to 1 or more
    • channel inactive
      • fired when the occupancy changes from at least 1 to 0

All presence events are published to the presence channel as soon as the event occurs. However, if a channel has reached the Presence Announce Max number subscribers, then join, leave, and timeout events will no longer be fired. Instead, an occupancy count is sent every 10 seconds by default. Both the occupancy count interval and Presence Announce Max are configurable properties in your account dashboard. The upper limit for Presence Announce Max is 100; please contact support if you wish to raise this limit – do keep in mind, however, larger limits are quick to incur a heavy message count.


Webhooks are available for every presence event and are especially useful in decreasing subscribe message usage, as well as in certain design patterns. For instance, webhooks can be utilized for easily persisting messages to your own backend database, depending on the use case:

  • on ‘channel active’: record ‘start’ timetoken
  • on ‘channel inactive’: record ‘end’ timetoken
  • your backend server calls history using the channel, start, and end timetokens

Alternatively, you could create an after publish block that directly stores each message in your database, saving you from making history calls. Keep in mind that webhooks are also subject to the Presence Announce Max limit.

Here Now and Where Now

Presence also includes additional functions for ad-hoc presence information:

  • here_now: who and how many users are subscribed to a particular channel
  • where_now: which channel(s) an individual user (uuid) is subscribed to

History can be called on presence channels for auditing purposes, to see who was online a month ago, which users were active, custom state information at a particular time, etc.

For further learning, please see:

    Try PubNub Today

    Try Our APIs
    • 1M Transactions
    • 1GB Data Persistence
    • All major Features