File Sharing

In addition to messages and signals, PubNub also allows users to upload and share files.

The most common scenarios where you may need to share files are in social apps to share images or in medical apps to share medical records. You can upload and share videos, images, or documents of up to 5 MB in size each.

Send Files

Sending a file is a lot like publishing a message; you must specify the channel on which to send the file and provide the actual file. You can also optionally include some text to use as a caption for the file.

You can also encrypt files using AES-256 Encryption. To send such files, you must either have a cipher key defined in your initial client configuration or specify the cipher key parameter directly in each request. Other clients will have to provide this key when downloading the file to decrypt the content successfully.

The code below sends the file cat_picture.jpg on the channel my_channel:

// web
const input = document.querySelector('input[file]');

input.addEventListener('change', async () => {
const file = input.files[0];

const result = await pubnub.sendFile({
channel: 'my_channel',
file: file,

// Node.js
import fs from 'fs';

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Even though you upload and share the files directly from the client, it's the storage service that stores and manages the actual files for each key.

Once the file has been uploaded to the storage service, subscribers of a particular channel receive a file message. With this file message (which contains a description, filename, and file ID) you can use our SDKs to generate a URL to display the file or download the file directly. Refer to Retrieve Files for more information.

Enable the Feature

File Sharing is an optional feature that you must enable by turning on the File Sharing toggle for your keys in the Admin Portal.

File Operations

Apart from sending files, you can list all files that were sent to a channel or delete a file that has been previously uploaded to the storage service. Much like with regular messages, you can also search through historical file messages using the Message Persistence API if you enabled Message Persistence on your API key. The information returned by the Message Persistence API allows you to either display the file in the browser or download it.

Refer to the File Sharing section in the SDK documentation to learn more about operations on files.

Receive Files

In order to receive a file, the receiving client should be listening to an event of type file, and should subscribe to a channel in which the file is being sent. There is no need to subscribe any differently to a channel for receiving a file.

Retrieve Files

Retrieving files is a two-step process accomplished using the History API and File Sharing-related SDK methods. To retrieve a file:

  1. Get the file message using History API or the listFiles method
  2. Display or download the file using dedicated SDK methods based on the obtained file information.

File URLs

Neither the History API nor the listFiles method returns file URLs. They return file-specific information like the file's name and ID that you need to display or download the file.

When you fetch file messages using History API, the response includes the file details (ID, filename) and a message type of 4 that indicates it's a file message. You can use this information to display or download the file.

Display and Download Files

Apart from the optional description, a file message contains the ID and name of the file.

As a file message does not contain the file URL, you must use one of the available SDK methods to construct the file URL to either display the file or download it.

The following code returns the URL of the cat_picture.jpg file sent to channel my_channel:

const result = pubnub.getFileUrl({ channel: 'my_channel', id: 'd9515cb7-48a7-41a4-9284-f4bf331bc770', name: 'cat_picture.jpg' });

The response to this call is the file URL which you can use to display the file in the browser.

You need the same set of file information to download the file. The following code downloads the file cat_picture.jpg sent to the channel my_channel:

// web
const file = await pubnub.downloadFile({
channel: 'my_channel',
id: '...',
name: 'cat_picture.jpg',

const myImageTag = document.createElement('img');
myImageTag.src = URL.createObjectURL(await file.toFile());


// Node.js using streams
import fs from 'fs'

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List Files

If you're only interested in the actual files and not the file messages (which include the optional description of the uploaded file) that were sent, you can list up to 100 files sent to a particular channel. However, if there are more than 100 files to be returned, the more flag will be present in the response.

The code below returns the name, ID, size, and created timestamp for up to 100 files sent to the channel my_channel:

const result = await pubnub.listFiles({ channel: 'my_channel' });
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