Differences Between Real-Time and Online

In the world of the Internet, we often come across two common and popular terms, i.e. real-time and online. But do you know the difference between the two?

What does online mean?

Online in simple terms, refer to something which is available to access using the internet. It does not matter whether you get the updated information or updated.

“Online” in business means that a website visitor can use the functions offered through the same website. Examples are:

A contact form or a subscription to an e-mail newsletter. A visitor selects and provides the required input, and the system will send the information to what is called a back office. Often this is the end of the online interaction.

What does real-time mean?

On the other hand, the word real-time amounts to ‘instantly’. For example, when you make a Facebook comment and someone likes or comments on your post, you get a real-time notification. Hence, real-time means ‘almost instantly’. A real-time web environment is said to be transactional. Every action through the website is managed as a transaction in which there are always two sides; the user or visitor enters data, and the system responds with immediate feedback.

Web-based financial trading systems are often real-time but not completely. A visitor selects order data in the order screen, and this order is routed to the exchange. The system behind the order entry will immediately verify the financial means that justify the order, and after these checks, the order will be forwarded to the exchange.

Yet, today in 2018, there are still banks that provide portfolio information with the closing quotes from the previous day. That is online information and not real-time accessed from the stock exchange or another information provider.

The main difference between online and real-time is the interference of a person behind the web application to check for a certain situation. In a real-time environment, there is no human interference.

Another difference is the required level of investment to cater to a real-time application. Online functions are relatively less expensive but, at the same time, block large amounts of traffic too.

Take, for example, the functionality behind comments. In an online environment, human interaction is required to validate whether there is no spam or other misuse of the function. To solve this problem in a real-time environment, you need software that checks for spam and other junk entries. That requires an investment but, at the same time, will make your website more scalable for large amounts of visitors who leave comments.

There is a situation where there is (nearly) no difference between real-time and online. This is with chat functionality when you are to address your question about a product or service to a service agent who is currently ‘online’ nearly, because it might take time before the agent responds to your question. Again, depending on the amount of traffic and the capacity (availability) of the agents.


Hopefully, this post clarifies the differences between the two words ‘real-time’ and ‘online’. If you still have understanding these terms please do let us know in the comments. We will share more examples so you can grasp the concepts easily.

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