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Shared Subscription

A shared subscription is a subscription mode to implement load balancing among multiple subscribers. Clients can be divided into multiple subscription groups, and messages are still forwarded to all subscription groups, but only one client within each subscription group receives the message at a time. EMQX Platform supports shared subscription prefixes in two formats: shared subscription for groups (prefixed with $share/<group-name>/) and shared subscription not for groups (prefixed with $queue/).

Examples of two shared subscription prefixes formats are as follows.

prefixes formatsExamplePrefixReal topic name
Shared subscription for groups$share/abc/t/1$share/abc/t/1
Shared subscription not for group$queue/t/1$queue/t/1

You can use client tools to connect to EMQX Platform and try this messaging service. This page introduces how shared subscription works and provides a demonstration of how to use the MQTTX Desktop to simulate clients and try the shared subscription feature.

Shared Subscription for Groups

You can enable a shared subscription for groups of subscribers by adding the prefixed $share/<group-name> to the original topic. The group name can be any string. EMQX Platform forwards messages to different groups at the same time and subscribers belonging to the same group receive messages with load balancing.

For example, if subscribers s1, s2, and s3 are members of group g1, subscribers s4 and s5 are members of group g2, and all subscribers subscribe to the original topic t1. The shared subscription topics must be $share/g1/t1 and $share/g2/t1. When EMQX publishes a message msg1 to the original topic t1:

  • EMQX Could sends msg1 to both groups g1 and g2.
  • Only one of s1, s2, s3 will receive msg1.
  • Only one of s4 and s5 will receive msg1.

Shared Subscription Not for Groups

Shared subscription topics prefixed with $queue/ are for subscribers not in groups. It is a special case of a shared subscription topic with a $share prefix. You can understand it as all subscribers in a subscription group such as $share/$queue.


Shared Subscription and Session

The concept of shared subscription and the use of a persistent session in MQTT clients presents a contradiction, making it impossible to use both features simultaneously. If you are using the shared subscription functionality, it is essential to enable the clean session feature on the client by setting the clean_session parameter to true.

The persistent session (clean_session=false) feature ensures that subscribers can resume data flow immediately after reconnecting without losing any messages. This is vital for maintaining reliable message delivery. By setting the clean_session parameter to false, the session persists even when the client goes offline, allowing the device to continue receiving messages. However, since the device is offline, it may not process the received messages promptly, leading to a potential accumulation of messages within the session over time.

When the shared subscription is enabled and another device within the same group takes over the data flow of the offline device, it won't receive any of the accumulated messages because they are considered part of the session of the original device. Consequently, if the device remains offline for an extended period, the message buffer of the persistent session could overflow, resulting in message loss. This situation can disrupt load balancing and eventually lead to the depletion of memory and storage resources, negatively impacting the system's stability and overall performance.

For more information on the persistent session, see MQTT Persistent Session and Clean Session Explained.

Test Shared Subscription Using MQTTX

Simulate client subscriptions using MQTTX.

  • s1, s2 subscribe topic $share/g1/test
  • s3 subscribe topic test


Create client P1 using MQTTX to send 3 messages to the topic test


s1 receive msg1, msg2, s2 receive msg3 and s3 receive all messages