Fundamentally, NATS is about publishing and listening for messages. Both of these depend heavily on Subjects which scope messages into streams or topics. At its simplest, a subject is just a string of characters that form a name the publisher and subscriber can use to find each other.
The NATS server reserves a few characters as special, and the specification says that only "alpha-numeric" characters plus the "." should be used in subject names. Subjects are case-sensitive and cannot contain whitespace. For safety across clients, ASCII characters should be used, although this is subject to change in the future.
. character is used to create a subject hierarchy. For example, a world clock application might define the following to logically group related subjects:
NATS provides two wildcards that can take the place of one or more elements in a dot-separated subject. Subscribers can use these wildcards to listen to multiple subjects with a single subscription but Publishers will always use a fully specified subject, without the wildcard.
The first wildcard is
* which will match a single token. For example, if an application wanted to listen for eastern time zones, they could subscribe to
time.*.east, which would match
The second wildcard is
> which will match one or more tokens, and can only appear at the end of the subject. For example,
time.us.> will match
time.us.* would only match
time.us.east since it can't match more than one token.
Subject to your security configuration, wildcards can be used for monitoring by creating something sometimes called a wire tap. In the simplest case you can create a subscriber for
>. This application will receive all messages -- again, subject to security settings -- sent on your NATS cluster.
* can appear multiple times in the same subject. Both types can be used as well. For example,
*.*.east.> will receive