What is HLS Streaming and When You Should Use It? - StreamHash

As with other forms of technology, video delivery technology has seen a rapid evolution over the past few years. Around ten years ago, the world of online video was largely dominated by Adobe Flash. And yet, as the years have rolled on, Flash has slowly sunsetted, making way for new, superior protocols like HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). Also, the HTML5 video player remains the user interface of choice today. This is big news for the tribe of rising entertainment entrepreneurs and marketers. Since HLS and HTML5 are freeshare services, they’re available for consumption to the world at large. And with the number of affordable turnkey video frameworks available, the scope of online video content is vast. Streamhash, a brand that specializes in online video streaming has a tailor-made live streaming technology in its kitty; StreamNow offers broadcasters a chance to stream from anywhere at lightning-fast speeds. The framework has seen notable traction in the market, with numerous new businesses preferring to pick ready-made technologies rather than spend thousands more on designing their own technology stack from scratch. Before understanding how you can pair turnkey frameworks with HLS, let’s gain a deeper understanding of HLS and its role in video streaming.

A Keyhole to HLS:

HLS is a popular streaming protocol that is used to transmit video and audio content from a server to a user via the internet. Here’s how it works:

 

HLS breaks MP4 video content into 10-second segments

These segments are then carried to their destination via HTTP which allows the HLS streaming server to be accessed by an array of devices

Latency varies between 15 and 30 seconds

HLS live streaming is far superior to its counterparts as far as quality is concerned. In fact, broadcasters have the option of tailoring a single stream to varying qualities to accommodate a spectrum of user download speeds. Let’s take an example. Say a user is streaming a high-definition video on their phone via mobile internet. If the internet drops, the user may experience a muted or dead space in the stream. However, HLS live streaming allows users to alter their download quality in tandem with the internet availability in the vicinity. As a result, buffering, lags and delays are avoided.

Alternatives to HLS Live Streaming:

We’ve established by now that HLS live streaming is the kingpin of streaming protocols. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only one out there. There are several predecessors to HLS and as is inevitable with technology, there will be innumerable successors. That said, HLS live streaming still shares part of its spotlight with a handful of other protocols.

RTMP:

Real-Time Messaging Protocol, or RTMP for short, was designed at the turn of the millennium specifically for audio and video streaming. It was created by Macromedia as Flash, and when Macromedia later went on to merge with Adobe, the protocol was christened Adobe Flash. Over the last ten years, RTMP has garnered colossal success as an effective video streaming protocol. With the advent of HLS live streaming, RTMP has taken somewhat of a backseat in the video delivery space. Having said that, the majority of video hosting services still hinge on RTMP today. Streamhash incorporates RTMP in all of its frameworks.

HDS:

HDS, or HTTP Dynamic Streaming is a futuristic streaming format created by Adobe, intended to be used along with Flash. It hasn’t gained as much relative momentum, however.

Microsoft Smooth Streaming:

Not to be left behind, Microsoft’s live streaming protocol, Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS) works on an adaptive bitrate model, optimizing quality and output. The approach, launched in 2008, is one of the oldest adaptive bitrate mechanisms in the market. In its early days, it was used to stream the Summer Olympics of 2008. Despite its initial novelty, MSS has been outperformed by HLS live streaming in the current market context.

MPEG-DASH:

One of the most recently innovated protocols, MPEG-DASH presents many merits. Entirely HTTP-based, it allows broadcasters to implement its framework faster than ever before. Given its newness, MPEG-DASH still has a considerable way to go in reaching the corners of the streaming market. Presently, it has been embraced and applied by a number of noteworthy broadcasters. MPEG-DASH is also codec-agnostic, implying that content sent through it can be composed of virtually any encoding format.

Advantages of HLS Live Streaming:

HLS live streaming brings much value to the table. Here’s how it can help you.

Quality:

We’ve already spoken about how HLS live streaming can bring about better quality. Adaptive bitrate modeling can optimize the delivery of streams, ensuring a superior viewing experience.

Compatibility:

HLS video streaming is compatible with a large number of operating systems. Although originally tailored for iOS, HLS has evolved to be a protocol of choice for Android, Microsoft, Linux as well as a range of web browsers.

When to Use HLS Live Streaming:

HLS is a versatile, modern streaming tool that can be used universally. Despite its many advantages, the latency tethered to HLS is known to be higher than other modes of live streaming. Essentially, live streams may lose their essence owing to the lag in delivery, some being delayed up to thirty seconds. That said, this doesn’t present a concern for most broadcasters, for whom a half-a-minute lag typically holds little significance against a larger broadcasting backdrop. HLS is also required if you intend to stream to mobile handsets and tablets. With mobile devices quickly shrouding larger screens across the world, HLS becomes significant. Another point to note is that HTML5 video players do not pair with RTMP or HDS. HLS then becomes the sole option.

HLS is quickly making its way up the technology ladder, thanks to its superior features and versatility. If you’re big on video streaming and intend to set up a platform, make sure to have an HLS protocol handy. In the next five years, it’s likely to rule the online video space.

 

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