HLS or RTMP for Livestreaming: It’s Not Really a Choice Anymore

When it comes to streaming media content, there are two well-known protocols, HLS and RTMP. The former stands for HTTP livestreaming, while RTMP is short for real-time media protocol. In practice, HLS has been designed to stream media over the HTTP protocol, while RTMP streams content via TCP or UDP protocols. Apple introduced HLS, while Adobe had a central role in creating RTMP.

Consumers are no longer content with solely receiving video content in their living rooms. Instead, desktop, laptop, and mobile devices are now the preferred video destination for many, which opens the door to livestreaming for businesses, organizations, and individuals alike.

HLS

Years ago, Adobe Flash was the preferred method to transfer video content across the web. Today, open protocols like HLS streaming (and HTML5) have largely taken over. For broadcasters and viewers, this change has been a positive one. With HLS streaming, there’s more flexibility and safety, and performance is much more reliable than previous technologies.

HLS has become a mixed bag for those who produce content, if only because switching equipment requires time and resources.

More Information

The adoption of HLS has been swift because of its easy transmission and compatibility. It is supported on desktop browsers, smart TVs, and mobile devices, including Android and iOS. Its biggest drawback is latency, although there are methods to reduce HLS latency.

RTMP

Years ago, RTMP was used to transmit content between video players and a hosting server. Today, its job is more significant as it delivers content from an encoder to an online video host. Behind the scenes, RTMP offers low-latency streaming with minimal buffering.

Unfortunately, RTMP relies on the same Adobe Flash that was mentioned a few paragraphs above. As a result, this tool is no longer supported on web browsers or mobile devices. However, that doesn’t mean RTMP is no longer beneficial.

Relating to Livestreaming

To push live video content, you first need the right equipment to capture the video and audio. The content then needs to go through a video encoder. From here, the encoder pushes the content to a video hosting platform using the all-important RTMP. The platform then uses HLS ingest to transmit the content to a supported video player. In other words, using RTMP as a transport stream remains vital since it can be transcoded into other formats — like HLS, which may be distributed more efficiently.

The key terms here are video encoder and HLS ingest. The first converts analog or digital video into another digital video format, which is then decoded. Put another way, a video encoder converts RAW video files into a suitable form for live broadcasting.

Really Not a Contest, But Still Some Confusion

RTMP is no longer the standard for live video streaming, but it’s still used behind the scenes and has a place in the process. As Mediastream rightly explains, "RTMP is the most widely used protocol for ingesting and HLS for playback. The latter is the most recommended by the company; its delivery is segmented. It is multi-quality adaptive and supports HTML5 ensuring fast transmissions with the best quality to more than a million users."

There can remain some confusion for content producers, especially when you consider just how quickly technology changes. Because of this, businesses and organizations have turned to third-party platforms to help them with over-the-top (OTT) and livestreaming solutions.

Companies like MAZ make sure your audience never misses a beat by providing livestreaming technologies like automatic ingest fail-over and adaptive-bitrate streaming. They also make it possible to bring your content to various platforms, including mobile, smart TVs, social media, and websites.