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Multi-threaded chat Application in Java | Set 1 (Server Side Programming)

Last Updated : 03 Sep, 2021
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Prerequisites : Introducing threads in socket programming
In the above article, a simple date time server was created which handled multiple user requests at the same time using threading. It explains the basic concepts of threading in network programming. The same concepts can be used with very slight modification to extend the above idea and create a chatting application similar to facebook messenger, whatsapp, etc. 
The following article covers the implementation of such an application with a detailed explanation, limitations, and their solutions. 
In this set, we will discuss Server side programming(, Client side programming( is discussed in Set 2.

Server Side Programming(

1. Server class : The main server implementation is easy and similar to the previous article. The following points will help understand Server implementation :

  1. The server runs an infinite loop to keep accepting incoming requests.
  2. When a request comes, it assigns a new thread to handle the communication part.
  3. The server also stores the client name into a vector, to keep a track of connected devices. The vector stores the thread object corresponding to the current request. The helper class uses this vector to find the name of recipient to which message is to be delivered. As this vector holds all the streams, handler class can use it to successfully deliver messages to specific clients.
  4. Invoke the start() method.

2. ClientHandler class : Similar to previous article, we create a helper class for handling various requests. This time, along with the socket and streams, we introduce a name variable. This will hold the name of the client that is connected to the server. The following points will help understand ClientHandler implementation :

  • Whenever the handler receives any string, it breaks it into the message and recipient part. It uses Stringtokenizer for this purpose with ‘#’ as the delimiter. Here it is assumed that the string is always of the format: 
message # recipient
  • It then searches for the name of recipient in the connected clients list, stored as a vector in the server. If it finds the recipients name in the clients list, it forwards the message on its output stream with the name of the sender prefixed to the message. 


// Java implementation of  Server side
// It contains two classes : Server and ClientHandler
// Save file as
import java.util.*;
// Server class
public class Server
    // Vector to store active clients
    static Vector<ClientHandler> ar = new Vector<>();
    // counter for clients
    static int i = 0;
    public static void main(String[] args) throws IOException
        // server is listening on port 1234
        ServerSocket ss = new ServerSocket(1234);
        Socket s;
        // running infinite loop for getting
        // client request
        while (true)
            // Accept the incoming request
            s = ss.accept();
            System.out.println("New client request received : " + s);
            // obtain input and output streams
            DataInputStream dis = new DataInputStream(s.getInputStream());
            DataOutputStream dos = new DataOutputStream(s.getOutputStream());
            System.out.println("Creating a new handler for this client...");
            // Create a new handler object for handling this request.
            ClientHandler mtch = new ClientHandler(s,"client " + i, dis, dos);
            // Create a new Thread with this object.
            Thread t = new Thread(mtch);
            System.out.println("Adding this client to active client list");
            // add this client to active clients list
            // start the thread.
            // increment i for new client.
            // i is used for naming only, and can be replaced
            // by any naming scheme
// ClientHandler class
class ClientHandler implements Runnable
    Scanner scn = new Scanner(;
    private String name;
    final DataInputStream dis;
    final DataOutputStream dos;
    Socket s;
    boolean isloggedin;
    // constructor
    public ClientHandler(Socket s, String name,
                            DataInputStream dis, DataOutputStream dos) {
        this.dis = dis;
        this.dos = dos; = name;
        this.s = s;
    public void run() {
        String received;
        while (true)
                // receive the string
                received = dis.readUTF();
                // break the string into message and recipient part
                StringTokenizer st = new StringTokenizer(received, "#");
                String MsgToSend = st.nextToken();
                String recipient = st.nextToken();
                // search for the recipient in the connected devices list.
                // ar is the vector storing client of active users
                for (ClientHandler mc :
                    // if the recipient is found, write on its
                    // output stream
                    if ( && mc.isloggedin==true)
                        mc.dos.writeUTF(" : "+MsgToSend);
            } catch (IOException e) {
            // closing resources
        }catch(IOException e){


New client request received : Socket[addr=/,port=61818,localport=1234]
Creating a new handler for this client...
Adding this client to active client list
New client request received : Socket[addr=/,port=61819,localport=1234]
Creating a new handler for this client...
Adding this client to active client list

Although the above implementation of server manages to handle most of the scenarios, there are some shortcomings in the approach defined above.

  • One clear observation from above programs is that if the number of clients grew large, the searching time would increase in the handler class. To avoid this increase, two hash maps can be used. One with name as the key, and index in active list as the value. Another with index as key, and associated handler object as value. This way, we can quickly look up the two hashmaps for matching recipient. It is left to the readers to implement this hack to increase efficiency of the implementation.
  • Another thing to notice is that this implementation doesn’t work well when users disconnect from the server. A lot of errors would be thrown because disconnection is not handled in this implementation. It can easily be implemented as in previous basic TCP examples. It is also left for the reader to implement this feature in the program.

There is a huge difference in the client program( than the previous articles, so it will be discussed in Set 2 of this series.

Related Article : Multi-threaded chat Application | Set 2


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