With social media platforms offering Open source video streaming capabilities, going live was never this easy for an individual broadcaster. We have to admit that social media streaming has given a gem to the hands of the common smartphone or desktop users. Grab some basic equipment with a decent smartphone and internet connection, and you are ready to broadcast your stuff to the thousands of followers on your Facebook page or YouTube channel.
When individual creators are broadcasting for fun and earning, businesses are leveraging it for marketing, revenue-boosting, product promotion, brand educations, and even for customer support. In a very short sort span, the popularity of the genre has seen an unprecedented growth, and it is expected that live streaming business would cross the $70 billion mark by 2021. Indeed, it is a profitable market, and you would love to be a part of this.
Are Open source live streaming services competent for professional grade streaming?
No doubt, gamers, and individual live streamers make some good money through YouTube Live and Twitch live. Indeed, the open source live video streaming providers like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitch, and periscope offer an array of amazing features, and it is easier to get a quick viewership from the existing base of followers on these platforms.
However, it is likewise crucial to note that open-source platforms are open source only because they lag on some critical stuff, which limits their implementation for a professional grade live streaming. These open source live streaming solutions lag the competency to let you realize live streaming as a business and lose many prospects to generate much more than what you make on YouTube Live or Twitch. Furthermore, for an already established business, using social media streaming as a dedicated live streaming solution means compromising with the aspects that are not being compromised by its competitors at all.
Drawbacks of Open source live streaming engines
- They do not provide a white label service. You will stream under the brand of a selected live video streaming platform.
- Video monetization is only through Ads, which is not enough for revenue generation by a business.
- You cannot implement advanced monetization methods like subscription, pay-per-view, etc.
- You cannot trust the stability of the platform, as it is more than just a live streaming solution. It is a social media platform with billions of users already active.
- You have zero control over the rights, as the platform alone possesses the sole right on your videos.
- The video quality of the stream is dependent on the platform and its ability to take-on loads without disturbing the stream quality.
- You cannot control the streaming latency as platforms depend on their own DNS routing.
- They offer limited bandwidth, which makes HD or 4K streaming nearly impossible.
Why do you need a dedicated live streaming solution?
Open-source solutions are inadequate to fulfill the advanced requirements of a professional-grade live streaming. To overcome the drawbacks, you need your own streaming engine with dedicated and content delivery network (CDN).
Luckily, you need not developing your own engine. There are streaming server companies, which provide ready-made APIs to let you integrate your own streaming channel with dedicated bandwidth and live streaming server. The developers use these APIs to integrate live streaming capabilities to their live streaming software.
Here is a list of features that you should necessarily look up while selecting the best suitable live video streaming software, built on these APIs-
- White label service where you can customize its branding to fit your own brand identity.
- Basic video monetization through options like creating subscription plans, imposing pay-per-view, embedding video ads etc.
- Equipped with payment gateways to receive subscription payments from the viewers.
- Basic security to protect customers’ payment and personal data.
- 24X7-tech support to assist in case of any technical error.
- Stream in high quality with low latency across the targeted regions of business.
- Dynamic transcoding to offer flexible viewing based on different devices and bandwidth.
- High-quality audio streaming with top-tier CDN delivery.
- In-depth analytics to scrutinize the spread and performance of live streaming events.
Livestream alternatives to open-source solutions
Here is a list of top six live streaming API providers who offer turnkey solutions to integrate dedicated streaming capabilities to a range of devices and platforms-
1. Opentok Tokbox-
OpenTok is a popular WebRTC platform for embedding interactive video, voice and messaging on mobile and web platforms. It offer different APIs for a customized implementation of live video streaming on your website or mobile app. With its ready-made APIs, you can quickly access the comprehensive set of mobile solutions to get your mobile app ready and running with advanced features and cross-platform support. The embedded communications fused with a white-labeled API lets you design your own platform and integrate the live streaming capability with customized UI matching your own brand.
Features to highlight:
- Live streaming on any platform WebRTC, Mobile, or Desktop.
- Recording of live sessions
- Video messaging
- Live video chat
Adaptive pricing is available for all levels of usage: developers, business, and enterprises. Base price starts at $9.99/month and moves up as you go for the enterprise plans.
2. Twilio video-
With Twilio video API, you can have the access to make instant personal connections. Open-source software alone is not enough to get to the production scale required for professional grade live streaming. The Twilio video eliminates the drawbacks open-source live streaming solutions and offers a readymade platform to build a flexible, scalable, reliable and high-quality live video experience for your users with WebRTC and custom SDKs. With this turnkey API, developers can focus on the UI code while the logic to embed live streaming solution would be taken care by the Twilio API. Use anything from JS, iOS, Android SDKs to quickstart your live streaming platform on the go.
Features to highlight:
- Peer-to-peer connection
- Group Rooms for live interaction
- REST orchestration & web hooks
- Screen sharing and Co-browsing
- Recordings of live interactions
Offers simple, flexible and contract-free pricing. The programmable Video plan starts at $0.0015/min per participant with features like SDKs for mobile and web, video recording, screen sharing, and supports up to 50 participants.
Wowza Streaming Engine, also known as Wowza Media Server, is one of the most popular live streaming providers. It offers a combined streaming solution used for streaming live as well as on-demand video and audio. The solutions support a wide range of applications over IP networks, desktop, laptop, tablets, mobile devices, IPTV set-top boxes, smart TVs, and gaming consoles. Being a Java application, it is deployable on most of the operating systems. The Wowza live streaming serves lets you broadcast your live video using any Encoder. In addition to the custom build solutions, the turnkey API lets you embed the Wowza streaming software on any third party live streaming app, website or platform.
Features to highlight:
- Allows streaming from the phone over Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G connections.
- Supports Pause, Rewind and resuming of live streaming sessions
- While labeled API can be embedded on any platform or mobile app.
- Supports live streaming through CDNs for seamless user experience.
The plans for Wowza streaming cloud offering Managed Live-streaming services start from $49/month. The pricing goes up with the advanced add-ons like ultra-low latency, API, Event streaming solution, 24X7 streaming solutions etc.
4. Agora io
Agora offers a turnkey API ready to deploy the features like voice call, video call, and interactive live broadcasting to your existing platform. With Agora Interactive Broadcasting for live streaming, you can add live video chat with interactive features like in-app messaging. The low ram consumption makes it best fit for developing game-streaming solutions with HD video and audio transmission. Agora has Data centers and streaming servers in all the major regions on the planet.
Features to highlight:
- Smart Routing with real-time network monitoring
- Seamless switch between host and audience
- Recording live sessions
- Supports CDN-Based Websites
- Automatic transcoding
- Third Party Integration Support
Pricing starts with $3.99/1000 minutes for streaming in 720P or greater quality.
5. Vidyo io
Vidyo.io allows developers to embed group video communications to their websites, mobiles apps, and platforms without needing to code one from scratch. It saves developers from re-inventing the wheel and allows them to use the ready-to-use API for integrating live video features to their touchpoints. Vidyo io uses Scalable Video Coding (SVC) to encode videos into discrete strata. It dynamically allows encoding of live videos into layers, which can increase or decrease the video resolution as per the varying bandwidth.
Features to highlight:
- Dynamic switching of video quality
- Optimized for mobile devices
- Supports HD to 4K quality streaming
- Recording of live videos
- Uses local data centers to ensure HD streaming with the lowest latency
Base pricing starts with 65/month offering the features like 6500 participant minutes per month, $0.01 for each additional participant minute, Group video chat, Customizable layouts, Screen sharing, Text chat, Mobile SDK (iOS, Android), Desktop SDK (Windows, Mac OS), Browser SDK (WebRTC, Plug-in), and RTMP Broadcast via media bridge.
Xirsys offers global turnkey server infrastructure for embedding streaming capabilities to the WebRTC applications. With data centers in nine regions including USA, Europe, China and Brazil, Xirsys is able to offer high-quality streaming with the lowest latency. Xirsys offer WebRTC cloud and WebRTC Servers to power up streaming solutions in almost every continent on the globe.
Features to highlight
- High quality streaming for Audio as video
- Low Latency with Global DNS Routing
- Data centers in nine major regions
- Patented technology to provide distributed deployment architecture
- Hosting of major WebRTC servers: Jitsi video bridge, Janus video room, Medooze etc.
- Service and server accessible through readymade API
The basic monthly plan starts with $39/month with features like 50GB Bandwidth, 999.95 % uptime etc.
Which one is better?
If you wish to set up your own live streaming business, setting up your own streaming server would be same as re-inventing the wheel. Why invest so much of time and capital, when you can readily use the APIs from the above streaming engines. There are several challenges of setting up your own streaming server, if you think you can avoid these, you can surely set up your own streaming server for developing your own streaming application.
Challenges of running your own streaming server-
- Latency- To ensure the lowest possible latency, streaming servers must be equipped with CDN servers set up in all the major reasons of the planet. Failing to do so will create a huge gap between the capture, transmission, and receiving of video and audio feeds to the final viewers.
- Buffering- Streaming servers operate on a high bandwidth connection. Not all users have access to high-speed internet. As a result, many of the viewers would experience continuous buffering. Streaming API providers mitigate this by using dynamic switching of bit-rates and resolutions of the transmission.
- Limits to scale- Limits apply to live streaming, as there are restrictions to the extent where only a finite number of streamers can go live at the same time. The cost and complexity of scaling servers, to involve as many streamers, is tough to manage. Only a dedicated business is expected to do it properly with dedicated men and tech power to realize it.
- Security vulnerabilities- Running your own servers means being responsible for every implementation required to keep them secure and up. In a practical world, you would be working continuously to save your server from phishing attacks, piracy, and much more.
Running your own server is not easy. Especially when your primary focus is on developing a live streaming solution, you should not waste your efforts on doing what is already been done by the others. Just use their APIs, pay them the rent, and focus on developing the enhanced user experience for your live viewers.
You can pick any one of the alternatives that overcome all the drawbacks mentioned above and fit your intent of capital investment. Like we chose Wowza to power up our live streaming solution- StreamNow. With the APIs from Wowza, we were able to develop a readymade live streaming solution with cutting edge UI and features for professional grade broadcasting. In fact, the same API also powers our live streaming apps for Android and iOS. Just one ready-made API allowed us to develop a cross-platform solution that supports almost all possible devices.