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 Streaming Protocols: All the things You Must Know
June 30, 2021

Streaming Protocols: All the things You Must Know

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A protocol is a algorithm governing how information travels from one speaking system to a different. These are layered on prime of each other to type a protocol stack. That means, protocols at every layer can give attention to a selected operate and cooperate with one another. The bottom layer acts as a basis, and every layer above it provides complexity.

You’ve seemingly heard of an IP handle, which stands for Web Protocol. This protocol constructions how units utilizing the web talk. The Web Protocol sits on the community layer. It’s sometimes overlaid by the Transmission Management Protocol (TCP) on the transport layer, in addition to the Hypertext Switch Protocol (HTTP) on the software layer.



The seven layers — which embrace bodily, information hyperlink, community, transport, session, presentation, and software — have been outlined by the Worldwide Group for Standardization’s (IS0’s) Open Methods Interconnection mannequin, as depicted above.


What Is a Streaming Protocol?

Every time you watch a reside stream or video on demand, video streaming protocols are used to ship information over the web. These can sit within the software, presentation, and session layers.

On-line video supply makes use of each streaming protocols and HTTP-based protocols. Streaming protocols like Actual-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) transport video utilizing devoted streaming servers, whereas HTTP-based protocols depend on common internet servers to optimize the viewing expertise and rapidly scale. Lastly, rising HTTP-based applied sciences like Apple’s Low-Latency HLS search to ship the perfect of each choices by supporting low-latency streaming at scale.


  • Conclusion: The best way to Select the Finest Protocol for Streaming Video

    UDP vs. TCP: A Fast Background

    Person Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Management Protocol (TCP) are each core elements of the web protocol suite, residing within the transport layer. The protocols used for streaming sit on prime of those. UDP and TCP differ by way of high quality and pace, so it’s value taking a more in-depth look.

    The first distinction between UDP and TCP hinges on the truth that TCP requires a three-way handshake when transporting information. The initiator (shopper) asks the accepter (server) to start out a connection, the accepter responds, and the initiator acknowledges the response and maintains a session between both finish. Because of this, TCP is kind of dependable and might resolve for packet loss and ordering. UDP, however, begins with out requiring any handshake. It transports information no matter any bandwidth constrains, making it speedier and riskier. As a result of UDP doesn’t help retransmissions, packet ordering, or error-checking, there’s potential for a community glitch to deprave the information en route.

    Protocols like Safe Dependable Transport (SRT) usually use UDP, whereas protocols like HTTP Reside Streaming (HLS) use TCP.


    Issues When Selecting a Streaming Protocol

    Deciding on the proper media streaming protocol begins with defining what you’re attempting to realize. Latency, playback compatibility, and viewing expertise can all be impacted. What’s extra, content material distributors don’t all the time keep on with the identical protocol from seize to playback. Many broadcasters use RTMP to get from the encoder to server after which transcode the stream into an adaptive HTTP-based format.

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    What Are the Most popular Protocols for Video Streaming?


    Conventional Video Streaming Protocols

    • RTMP (Actual-Time Messaging Protocol)
    • RTSP (Actual-Time Streaming Protocol)/RTP (Actual-Time Transport Protocol)


    HTTP-Based mostly Adaptive Protocols

    • Apple HLS (HTTP Reside Streaming)
    • Low-Latency HLS
    • MPEG-DASH (Shifting Image Skilled Group Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP)
    • Low-Latency CMAF for DASH (Frequent Media Utility Format for DASH)
    • Microsoft Easy Streaming
    • Adobe HDS (HTTP Dynamic Streaming)


    New Applied sciences

    • SRT (Safe Dependable Transport)
    • WebRTC (Internet Actual-Time Communications)


    Conventional Video Streaming Protocols

    Conventional streaming protocols, similar to RTSP and RTMP, help low-latency streaming. However they aren’t natively supported on most endpoints (e.g., browsers, cell units, computer systems, and televisions). Right now, these streaming codecs work greatest for transporting video between and IP digicam or encoder and a devoted media server.



    As proven above, RTMP delivers video at roughly the identical tempo as a cable broadcast — in simply over 5 seconds. RTSP/RTP is even faster at round two seconds. Each codecs obtain such pace by transmitting the information utilizing a firehose strategy moderately than requiring native obtain or caching. However as a result of only a few gamers help RTMP and RTSP, they aren’t optimized for excellent viewing experiences at scale. Many broadcasters select to move reside streams to the media server utilizing a stateful protocol like RTMP. From there, they’ll transcode it into an HTTP-based expertise for multi-device supply.


    Adobe RTMP

    Adobe designed the RTMP specification on the daybreak of streaming. The protocol might transport audio and video information between a devoted streaming server and the Adobe Flash Participant. Dependable and environment friendly, this labored nice for reside streaming. However open requirements and adaptive bitrate streaming ultimately edged RTMP out. The writing on the wall got here when Adobe introduced the demise of Flash — which formally led to 2020.

    Whereas Flash’s end-of-life date was overdue, the identical can’t be mentioned for utilizing RTMP for video contribution. RTMP encoders are nonetheless a go-to for a lot of content material producers, although the proprietary protocol has fallen out of favor for last-mile supply.


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    • Video Codecs: H.264, VP8, VP6, Sorenson Spark®, Display Video v1 & v2
    • Audio Codecs: AAC, AAC-LC, HE-AAC+ v1 & v2, MP3, Speex, Opus, Vorbis
    • Playback Compatibility: Not extensively supported (Flash Participant, Adobe AIR, RTMP-compatible gamers)
    • Advantages: Low-latency and requires no buffering
    • Drawbacks: Not optimized for high quality of expertise or scalability
    • Latency: 5 seconds
    • Variant Codecs: RTMPT (tunneled via HTTP), RTMPE (encrypted), RTMPTE (tunneled and encrypted), RTMPS (encrypted over SSL), RTMFP (travels over UDP as an alternative of TCP)

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    Like RTMP, RTSP/RTP describes an old-school expertise used for video contribution. RTSP and RTP are sometimes used interchangeably. However to be clear: RTSP is a presentation-layer protocol that lets finish customers command media servers by way of pause and play capabilities, whereas RTP is the transport protocol used to maneuver mentioned information.

    Android and iOS units don’t have RTSP-compatible gamers out of the field, making this one other protocol that’s not often used for playback. That mentioned, RTSP stays commonplace in lots of surveillance and closed-circuit tv (CCTV) architectures. Why? The reason being easy. RTSP help continues to be ubiquitous in IP cameras.


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    • Video Codecs: H.265 (preview), H.264, VP9, VP8
    • Audio Codecs: AAC, AAC-LC, HE-AAC+ v1 & v2, MP3, Speex, Opus, Vorbis
    • Playback Compatibility: Not extensively supported (Quicktime Participant and different RTSP/RTP-compliant gamers, VideoLAN VLC media participant, 3Gpp-compatible cell units)
    • Advantages: Low-latency and supported by most IP cameras
    • Drawbacks: Not used for video supply to finish customers
    • Latency: 2 seconds
    • Variant Codecs: Your entire stack of RTP, RTCP (Actual-Time Management Protocol), and RTSP is also known as RTSP

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    Adaptive HTTP-Based mostly Streaming Protocols

    Streams deployed over HTTP should not technically “streams.” Somewhat, they’re progressive downloads despatched by way of common internet servers. Utilizing adaptive bitrate streaming, HTTP-based protocols ship the perfect video high quality and viewer expertise attainable — irrespective of the connection, software program, or system. A few of the commonest HTTP-based protocols embrace MPEG-DASH and Apple’s HLS.


    Apple HLS

    Since Apple is a serious participant on the planet of internet-connected units, it follows that Apple’s HLS protocol guidelines the digital video panorama. For one, the protocol helps adaptive bitrate streaming, which is essential to viewer expertise. Extra importantly, a stream delivered by way of HLS will play again on the vast majority of units — thereby guaranteeing accessibility to a big viewers.

    HLS help was initially restricted to iOS units similar to iPhones and iPads, however native help has since been added to a variety of platforms. All Google Chrome browsers, in addition to Android, Linux, Microsoft, and MacOS units, can play streams delivered utilizing HLS.


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    • Video Codecs: H.265, H.264
    • Audio Codecs: AAC-LC, HE-AAC+ v1 & v2, xHE-AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC
    • Playback Compatibility: Nice (All Google Chrome browsers; Android, Linux, Microsoft, and MacOS units; a number of set-top bins, good TVs, and different gamers)
    • Advantages: Adaptive bitrate and extensively supported
    • Drawbacks: High quality of expertise is prioritized over low latency
    • Latency: 6-30 seconds (decrease latency solely attainable when tuned)
    • Variant Codecs: Low-Latency HLS (see beneath), PHLS (Protected HTTP Reside Streaming)

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    Low-Latency HLS

    Low-Latency HLS (LL-HLS) is the newest and biggest expertise relating to low-latency streaming. The proprietary protocol guarantees to ship sub-three-second streams globally. It additionally provides backward compatibility to present shoppers.

    In different phrases, it’s designed to ship the identical simplicity, scalability, and high quality as HLS — whereas considerably shrinking the latency. At Wowza, we name this mix the streaming trifecta.

    Even so, profitable deployments of Low-Latency HLS require integration from distributors throughout the video supply ecosystem. Help continues to be missing, and large-scale deployments of Low-Latency HLS are few and much between.

    • Playback Compatibility: Any gamers that aren’t optimized for Low-Latency HLS can fall again to straightforward (higher-latency) HLS habits
      • HLS-compatible units embrace MacOS, Microsoft, Android, and Linux units; all Google Chrome browsers; a number of set-top bins, good TVs, and different gamers
    • Advantages: Low latency, scalability, and top quality… Oh, and did we point out backward compatibility?
    • Drawbacks: As an rising spec, distributors are nonetheless implementing help
    • Latency: 2 seconds or much less

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    MPEG-DASH is a vendor-independent different to HLS. Mainly, with DASH you get a non-proprietary choice that ensures the identical scalability and high quality. However as a result of Apple tends to prioritize its personal tech stack, help for DASH performs second fiddle within the slew of Apple units on the market.


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    • Video Codecs: Codec-agnostic
    • Audio Codecs: Codec-agnostic
    • Playback Compatibility: Good (All Android units; most post-2012 Samsung, Philips, Panasonic, and Sony TVs; Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers)
    • Advantages: Vendor-independent, worldwide commonplace for adaptive bitrate
    • Drawbacks: Not supported by iOS or Apple TV
    • Latency: 6-30 seconds (decrease latency solely attainable when tuned)
    • Variant Codecs: MPEG-DASH CENC (Frequent Encryption)

    Be taught Extra 

    Low-Latency CMAF for DASH

    Low-latency CMAF for DASH is one other rising expertise for rushing up HTTP-based video supply. Though it’s nonetheless in its infancy, the expertise reveals promise delivering superfast video at scale through the use of shorter information segments. That mentioned, many distributors have prioritized help for Low-Latency HLS over that of low-latency CMAF for DASH.

    • Playback Compatibility: Any gamers that aren’t optimized for low-latency CMAF for DASH can fall again to straightforward (higher-latency) DASH habits
    • Advantages: Low latency meets HTTP-based streaming
    • Drawbacks: As an rising spec, distributors are nonetheless implementing help
    • Latency: 3 seconds or much less

    Be taught Extra 

    Microsoft Easy Streaming

    Microsoft developed Microsoft Easy Streaming in 2008 to be used with Silverlight participant purposes. It allows adaptive supply to all Microsoft units. The protocol can’t compete with different HTTP-based codecs and is falling out of use. In reality, in our 2021 Video Streaming Latency Report, solely 5 % of respondents have been utilizing Easy Streaming.

    Which streaming codecs are you at present utilizing?

    • Video Codecs: H.264, VC-1
    • Audio Codecs: AAC, MP3, WMA
    • Playback Compatibility: Good (Microsoft and iOS units, Xbox, many good TVs, Silverlight player-enabled browsers)
    • Advantages: Adaptive bitrate and supported by iOS
    • Drawbacks: Proprietary expertise, doesn’t compete with HLS and DASH
    • Latency: 6-30 seconds (decrease latency solely attainable when tuned)


    Adobe HDS

    HDS was developed to be used with Flash Participant as the primary adaptive bitrate protocol. As a result of Flash isn’t any extra, it’s additionally slowly dying. Don’t consider us? Simply check out the graph above.

    • Video Codecs: H.264, VP6
    • Audio Codecs: AAC, MP3
    • Playback Compatibility: Not extensively supported (Flash Participant, Adobe AIR)
    • Advantages: Adaptive bitrate expertise for Flash
    • Drawbacks: Proprietary expertise with missing help
    • Latency: 6-30 seconds (decrease latency solely attainable when tuned)


    New Applied sciences

    Final however not least, new applied sciences like WebRTC and SRT promise to vary the panorama. Just like low-latency CMAF for DASH and Apple Low-Latency HLS, these protocols have been designed with latency in thoughts.



    This open-source protocol is acknowledged as a confirmed different to proprietary transport applied sciences — serving to to ship dependable streams, no matter community high quality. It competes instantly with RTMP and RTSP as a first-mile resolution, however it’s nonetheless being adopted as encoders, decoders, and gamers add help.

    From recovering misplaced packets to preserving timing habits, SRT was designed to resolve the challenges of video contribution and distribution throughout the general public web. And it’s rapidly taking the business by storm. One interactive use case for which SRT proved instrumental was the 2020 digital NFL draft.  The NFL used this game-changing expertise to attach 600 reside feeds for the primary completely digital occasion.


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    • Video Codecs: Codec-agnostic
    • Audio Codecs: Codec-agnostic
    • Playback Compatibility: Restricted (VLC Media Participant, FFPlay, Haivision Play Professional, Haivision Play, Larix Participant, Brightcove)
    • Advantages: Excessive-quality, low-latency video over suboptimal networks
    • Drawbacks: Not extensively supported for video playback
    • Latency: 3 seconds or much less, tunable based mostly on how a lot latency you need to commerce for packet loss

    Be taught Extra 


    Because the speediest expertise out there, WebRTC delivers near-instantaneous voice and video streaming to and from any main browser. It can be used end-to-end and thus competes with ingest and supply protocols. The framework was designed for pure chat-based purposes, however it’s now discovering its means into extra numerous use circumstances.

    Scalability stays a problem with WebRTC, although, so that you’ll want to make use of an answer like Wowza’s Actual-Time Streaming at Scale characteristic to beat this.


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    • Video Codecs: H.264, VP8, VP9
    • Audio Codecs: Opus, iSAC, iLBC
    • Playback Compatibility: Chrome, Firefox, and Safari help WebRTC with none plugin
    • Advantages: Tremendous quick and browser-based
    • Drawbacks: Designed for video conferencing and never scale
    • Latency: Sub-500-millisecond supply

    Be taught Extra 


    Conclusion: The best way to Select the Finest Protocol for Streaming Video

    Protocols differ within the following areas:

    • Scalability
    • Latency
    • High quality of expertise (adaptive bitrate enabled, and many others.)
    • Use (first-mile contribution vs. last-mile supply)
    • Playback help
    • Proprietary vs. open supply
    • Codec necessities

    By prioritizing the above concerns, it’s straightforward to slim down what’s greatest for you.

    RTMP and SRT are nice bets for first-mile contribution, whereas each DASH and HLS paved the way relating to playback. Low-Latency HLS and WebRTC guarantee speedier supply, so that you’ll need to think about them when deploying interactive video environments.

    Fortunately, Wowza’s versatile video platform helps all of those applied sciences and may be personalized to your wants. Merely contact us in the present day to speak to an knowledgeable about one of the simplest ways to architect your streaming workflow.


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    Further Sources:

    • The Full Information to Reside Streaming
    • Video Codecs and Encoding
    • Low-Latency Streaming Applied sciences: The Key to Interactive Video

    About Traci Ruether

    As a Colorado-based B2B tech author, Traci Ruether serves as Wowza’s content material advertising and marketing supervisor. Her background is in streaming and community infrastructure. Apart from writing, Traci enjoys cooking, gardening, and spending high quality time along with her kith and kin. Observe her… View extra

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