I'm launching a web service called Parley that will be free to all beta testers forever. If you're interested in beta testing contact me and I'll set you up with an account. More information follows.
The service is a clone of what http://pusher.com/ offers with some extras. The main difference is the price points and the extent of the service. Parley is going to be free for non-industrial use. Pusher caps connections and messages rather low. I plan on having unlimited messages. Parley aims to deliver real time interaction to web sites and web content fast and painlessly. It uses a REST Api. Your app posts to Parley and Parley sends the message on to a specific socket(s) that you have chosen in your post. Parley offers 1 to many relationships and is very fast. It's perhaps faster than sending down the message individually yourself. Furthermore, with Parley you can use cloud services that traditionally don't support many technologies Parley brings to the table. Such as web sockets, and a variety of fallback options.
Unlike pusher, Parley supports *all browsers*. Even ones that require the most ancient techniques for real time interactions. Redis handles about 150,000 operations a second. Parley is built on node.js & socket.io using Redis to atomically queue messages received for consumer shards to send out through web sockets. And not just websockets. The fallback lists is as follows:
One of the great things about using a service like this is you decouple yourself from the router stack your app uses. Different cloud based services support different things. It's somewhat a headache trying to build these solutions around their architecture. I know, because I've been doing it. It's terrible.
You wouldn't have to manage the connections, but no mud clients support any of the web technologies that Parley uses. It would be possible to write a stand alone client, but probably not worth the time when compared to just writing a web client. (html, flash, or java applet, etc)