Understand real-time Remote Config

Real-time Remote Config lets you receive updated parameter keys and values as soon as they’re published on the server. This allows you to quickly update any type of app attribute controlled using a Remote Config parameter value. With real-time Remote Config updates, you can:

  • Reduce risk by rolling out features incrementally to targeted users, and performing an emergency rollback if needed.
  • Increase user engagement by quickly customizing user experiences as they use the app. For example, you could update banners and offer incentives for users who match specific Google Analytics user properties or dynamically adjust game difficulty for cohorts of players.
  • Reduce build dependencies and increase developer productivity: Use Remote Config parameters as feature flags to expose functionality for your development and test teams, while keeping it hidden to users in production.

To learn more about ways you can use Remote Config, see What can you do with Remote Config?

In this guide, you’ll:

  • Learn more about the client-server relationship that supports real-time updates.
  • Understand how the real-time functionality in the SDK works.
  • Learn how to use real-time updates to keep your app configuration up-to-date.

The real-time client-server connection

When you implement real-time Remote Config in your app, you create a real-time listener that opens an HTTP connection to the Remote Config backend. The request includes the config version that’s currently cached on the device. The real-time Remote Config server uses an invalidation message to signal to the app when a newer version of a server-side config should be fetched.

If the server has a newer version, it sends the invalidation signal immediately. If it doesn’t have a newer version, it keeps the connection open and waits until one is published on the server. When the client SDK receives an invalidation signal, it automatically fetches it, then calls the listener callback registered when you opened the listener connection. This fetch is similar to the fetch call you can make with the SDK, but bypasses any caching or minimumFetchInterval setting. The client-server connection is maintained while the app is in the foreground.

Real-time Remote Config client-server workflow

Since the client-server connection is made over HTTP, it doesn’t require any dependencies on other libraries.

Listen for updates

Real-time updates complement Remote Config fetch calls. We recommend calling fetch when your app starts (or sometime during your app’s lifecycle) and listening for real-time Remote Config updates during the user session to ensure that you have the latest values as soon as they’re published on the server.

To listen for updates, call addOnConfigUpdateListener, implementing a callback that is invoked whenever a Remote Config update is available in the app. Behind the scenes, this call starts listening for updates from the Remote Config server. To learn more about the client-server relationship, see the previous section.

The callback is often a good place to use activate to make the updated config parameters available to your app. See Firebase Remote Config Loading Strategies for additional strategies to activate parameter values when you're using real-time Remote Config.

Selectively activate parameter values

When you call addOnConfigUpdateListener, you can await the change and activate it.

The onUpdate callback is called when both a new version of the template has been automatically fetched and when that new version has changes to the currently activated parameter values in the app.

These callbacks are invoked with a parameter configUpdate. configUpdate contains updatedKeys, which is the set of changed parameter keys that initiated the real-time update and includes the following:

  • Parameter keys added or removed
  • Parameter keys whose values have changed
  • Parameter keys whose metadata has changed (for example, Remote Config personalization information)
  • Parameter keys whose value source has changed (for example, an in-app default value updating to a server-side value)

If you’re using a real-time listener in a particular view within your app, you can check if the parameters relevant to that view have changed before activating.

Occasionally, a fetch (either initiated when you call the fetch method, or by real-time Remote Config) does not result in an update for the client. In these cases, the onUpdate method or completion won't be called.

Add and remove listeners

addOnConfigUpdateListener is the main entrypoint for real-time Remote Config. Calling this listener for the first time in your app’s lifecycle opens the connection to the backend. Subsequent calls reuse the same connection, multiplexing the invalidation message described in the real-time client-server connection.

The call returns a "listener registration," which has a method called remove.

To stop listening, store the reference to the listener registration. Call remove to stop listening at this registration. If it’s the only registered listener, calling remove closes the real-time connection to the server.

Although you can manually stop listening for updates, it's often not necessary. Real-time Remote Config automatically stops listening for updates when the app enters the background and restarts when the app is foregrounded.

Next steps

Check out Get started with Firebase Remote Config to configure Remote Config and start listening for updates in real-time.