Design: Whatsapp

In this series of trying to understand designs for popular systems, I am taking up Whatsapp in this post. Please remember all the designs I am sharing in this series are my personal view for educational purposes and might not be the same as actual implementation.

To get started let us take a look at the requirements

Functional Requirements

  • User should be able to create and manage an account (Covered already)
  • User should be able to send a message to contact
  • User should be able to send a message to a group
  • User should be able to send a media message (image/ video)
  • Message Received and Message Read receipts to sender
  • Voice Calling (Not covering here)

Non Functional Requirements

  • Encryption
  • Scaleability
  • Availability

At a very high level, the design looks very straightforward

The first important thing that we see here is that communication is not one-way like a normal web application where the client sends a request and receives a response. Here the mobile app (client) should be able to receive live messages from the messaging server as well. This kind of communication is called Duplex-Connection where both parties can send messages. To achieve this, one can use long polling or web sockets (preferred).

Communication Management: When a user sends a message, it will be sent to the queue of messages received, from where it will be processed and sent to the queue for messages to be sent to users.

Media Management: Before sending the message for processing, media is uploaded and stored in a storage bucket, and the link is shared with users, which can be used to fetch the actual media file.

Single/ Double/ Blue Tick: When a message is received and processed by the server, the information is sent back to the user and marked single ticked. Similarly, when the message is sent successfully the receiver is marked double tick and finally, when the receiver opens the message, it is blue ticked for the sender.

Additional Perpectives
WhatsApp system architecture design