Real-Time Data with MongoDB Change Streams: How to Build Event-Driven Apps

In this blog post, we will explore the world of real-time data and event-driven applications using MongoDB Change Streams. MongoDB is a popular NoSQL database, and its Change Streams feature is a powerful tool for building applications that require real-time data processing. Whether you're building a chat application, a real-time analytics dashboard, or an IoT platform, MongoDB Change Streams can help you efficiently process and react to data changes in your application. This post is designed to be beginner-friendly, and we'll walk you through the process of setting up a MongoDB Change Stream and integrating it into your application, complete with code examples and explanations.

What are MongoDB Change Streams?

Change Streams are a feature introduced in MongoDB 3.6, which enables applications to access real-time data changes in the database. They provide an efficient, scalable way to react to data modifications in a MongoDB collection, database, or an entire deployment.

Using Change Streams, you can listen to events such as document insertions, updates, replacements, and deletions. When an event occurs, MongoDB sends a change event document containing relevant information about the change. This enables you to build event-driven applications that can react to data changes in real-time.

Setting Up Your Environment

Before we dive into the implementation of Change Streams, let's set up our environment. We'll need the following:

  1. MongoDB: Install the latest version of MongoDB (version 3.6 or later) on your machine. You can download it from the official MongoDB website.
  2. Node.js: Install the latest LTS version of Node.js from the official Node.js website.
  3. MongoDB Node.js Driver: After installing Node.js, create a new directory for your project and navigate to it in your terminal. Then, run the following command to install the MongoDB Node.js driver:

    npm install mongodb

With the environment set up, we can now start implementing Change Streams in a sample application.

Creating a Simple Application

In this section, we will create a simple Node.js application to demonstrate the use of Change Streams. We'll build a basic application that listens for changes in a MongoDB collection and logs the changes to the console.

Step 1: Connect to MongoDB

First, create a new file called app.js in your project directory and add the following code to connect to your MongoDB instance:

const { MongoClient } = require('mongodb'); const uri = 'mongodb://localhost:27017'; const dbName = 'change_streams_example'; async function main() { const client = new MongoClient(uri, { useUnifiedTopology: true }); try { await client.connect(); const db = client.db(dbName); console.log(`Connected to database "${dbName}"`); // Your code here... } catch (error) { console.error('Error connecting to MongoDB:', error); } finally { await client.close(); } } main();

Replace uri and dbName with the connection string and database name for your MongoDB instance. This code snippet connects to MongoDB and outputs a success message when connected.

Step 2: Create a Change Stream

Next, let's create a Change Stream to listen for changes in a specific collection. Add the following code inside the try block, right after the console.log statement:

const collection = db.collection('events'); const changeStream =;

Replace 'events' with the name of the collection you want to watch. In this example, we're watching a collection called "events."

Step 3: Listen for Changes

Now we're ready to listen for changes in the collection. Add thefollowing code after the const changeStream line to handle the change events:

changeStream.on('change', (change) => { console.log('Change detected:', change); });

This code snippet listens for the 'change' event on the Change Stream and logs the change event document to the console.

Step 4: Run the Application

With everything set up, you can now run your application. In your terminal, execute the following command:

node app.js

Your application should now be connected to MongoDB and listening for changes in the specified collection. To test it, you can use a MongoDB client like MongoDB Compass or the mongo shell to manually insert, update, or delete documents in the collection. You should see the changes logged in the console of your application.

Filtering Change Events

In some cases, you may want to listen for specific types of changes or changes that match certain criteria. To do this, you can use the pipeline option when creating a Change Stream. The pipeline option allows you to specify an array of aggregation pipeline stages to filter or modify the change events.

Let's say you only want to listen for new documents inserted into the collection. You can modify the method as follows:

const changeStream =[ { $match: { operationType: 'insert', }, }, ]);

Now, your Change Stream will only emit change events for document insertions.

Handling Error Events

Change Streams can also emit error events, such as when the connection to MongoDB is lost. To handle these events, you can add an event listener for the 'error' event:

changeStream.on('error', (error) => { console.error('Error in Change Stream:', error); });

This code snippet listens for the 'error' event on the Change Stream and logs the error to the console.


Q: What MongoDB versions support Change Streams?

A: Change Streams were introduced in MongoDB 3.6 and are available in all subsequent versions.

Q: Can I use Change Streams with a MongoDB Atlas free tier cluster?

A: No, Change Streams are not available on the MongoDB Atlas free tier (M0) clusters. You need to upgrade to a paid tier to use Change Streams.

Q: How do Change Streams handle database or collection drops?

A: If the database or collection being watched is dropped, the Change Stream will be invalidated, and no further change events will be emitted. You need to create a new Change Stream to start watching for changes again.

Q: Can I resume a Change Stream after a connection loss or application restart?

A: Yes, Change Streams support resumability using a resume token. When a Change Stream is created, it provides a resume token that can be used to resume the stream from a specific point in time. To use the resume token, you can pass it as an option when creating a new Change Stream:

const resumeToken = 'your_resume_token_here'; const changeStream =[], { startAfter: resumeToken, });

Q: Are Change Streams supported in sharded clusters?

A: Yes, Change Streams can be used with sharded clusters, and the events will be ordered across the shards.

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