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PubSub is a class that exposes a simple publish and subscribe API.

It sits between your application's logic and the GraphQL subscriptions engine - it receives a publish command from your app logic and pushes it to your GraphQL execution engine.

graphql-subscriptions exposes a default PubSub class you can use for a simple usage of data publication.

The PubSub implementation also includes a mechanism that converts a specific PubSub event into a stream of AsyncIterator, which you can use with graphql subscriptions resolver.

Check out how to change the PubSub mechanism to an external one here

To get started, install graphql-subscriptions package:

npm install --save graphql-subscriptions

Use your PubSub instance for publishing new data over your subscriptions transport, for example:

import { PubSub } from 'graphql-subscriptions';

export const pubsub = new PubSub();

// ... Later in your code, when you want to publish data over subscription, run:

const payload = {
    commentAdded: {
        id: '1',
        content: 'Hello!',

pubsub.publish('commentAdded', payload);

At this point, nothing works yet because there is nothing to publish into


SubscriptionServer will manage the WebSocket connection between the GraphQL engine and the clients.

We will use the server provided by the subscriptions-transport-ws transport package.

First install the subscriptions-transport-ws package:

npm install --save subscriptions-transport-ws

SubscriptionServer expect a schema, execute and subscribe (optional) and a http server. Here is complete setup code, supporting both queries and subscriptions.

import express from 'express';
import {
} from 'apollo-server-express';
import bodyParser from 'body-parser';
import cors from 'cors';
import { execute, subscribe } from 'graphql';
import { createServer } from 'http';
import { SubscriptionServer } from 'subscriptions-transport-ws';

import { schema } from './src/schema';

const PORT = 3000;
const server = express();

server.use('*', cors({ origin: `http://localhost:${PORT}` }));

server.use('/graphql', bodyParser.json(), graphqlExpress({

server.use('/graphiql', graphiqlExpress({
  endpointURL: '/graphql',
  subscriptionsEndpoint: `ws://localhost:${PORT}/subscriptions`

// Wrap the Express server
const ws = createServer(server);
ws.listen(PORT, () => {
  console.log(`Apollo Server is now running on http://localhost:${PORT}`);
  // Set up the WebSocket for handling GraphQL subscriptions
  new SubscriptionServer({
  }, {
    server: ws,
    path: '/subscriptions',

See the tutorial on Medium for complete working sample code.

Subscription Resolver

To connect the published event from our PubSub to GraphQL engine, we need to create AsyncIterable and use it in the GraphQL subscription resolver definition.

You can see an example for creating subscription resolver here

Filter Subscriptions

Sometimes a client will want filter out specific events based on context and arguments.

To do so, we can use withFilter helper from this package, which wraps AsyncIterator with a filter function, and let you control each publication for each user.

Let's see an example - for the commentAdded server-side subscription, the client want to subscribe only to comments added to a specific repo:

subscription($repoName: String!){
  commentAdded(repoFullName: $repoName) {

When using withFilter, provide a filter function, which executed with the payload (the published value), variables, context and operation info, and it must return boolean or Promise indicating if the payload should pass to the subscriber.

Here is the following definition of the subscription resolver, with withFilter that will filter out all of the commentAdded events that are not the requested repository:

import { withFilter } from 'graphql-subscriptions';

const rootResolver = {
    Query: () => { ... },
    Mutation: () => { ... },
    Subscription: {
        commentAdded: {
          subscribe: withFilter(() => pubsub.asyncIterator('commentAdded'), (payload, variables) => {
             return payload.commentAdded.repository_name === variables.repoFullName;
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