How to Embed HLS Files Using the HTML5 Video Tag

When HTML5 was introduced in 2014, it included a myriad of different tags that made embedding media much easier. One such tag was the video tag, which offered a way to easily embed video content on your site pages. Live streaming works somewhat differently than standard streaming content, and only one browser – Apple’s Safari for iOS and desktop – supports it natively. However, you can still add live streaming to your site by converting it to OGG encoding.

Apple originally created HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) as a competitor to Adobe Flash in an effort to create a quality, non-choppy way for users to watch live streaming. For this reason, it’s why so few browsers natively support it. Microsoft Edge and Android browsers also support HLS natively in a video tag, but this leaves out several other viewers. Cutting out such a large group of viewers isn’t sustainable for a site owner, so it’s necessary for them to convert a stream into another file format and use it instead for other viewers.

Embedding Using the Video Tag

Even though HTML5 was released five years ago, the video tag with HLS is only supported by a few browsers (linked above), so remember that you should use this method along with converting the file for your other viewers. Using the video tag is very simple, and it’s the quickest way to add an HLS stream to your site.

The following is a quick and dirty way of adding a stream to your site:

<video src="http://yoursite.com/yourstream.m3u8">

Note that the m3u8 file extension indicates that you have an HLS file format stored on your server. When you try to run this code, unless you’re viewing it from Safari or Edge, it likely won’t play in your browser. Luckily, there is an alternative file format that you can use.

Converting to OGG and Embedding Files

First, you’ll need software to convert to OGG. One common application is VLC media player. It’s a free application, and it can be used to watch videos including MPEGs and MP4 files if you have any local movies stored.

Converting files takes only a few minutes. You can find out how to convert to OGG using VLC here. To summarize the instructions, open VLC media player and open the file that you want to convert. Click the “Media” menu item and select “Convert / Save.” Follow the instructions to save your file to the OGG format.

After your video is saved in OGG format, it will have the OGG file extension. You should test the video file after you convert it to ensure that the sound and video are in sync. Occasionally, the sound will be a few milliseconds behind video, which ruins your video and will drive away viewers.

After the conversion is done, you can now embed your file onto your web page using the HTML5 video tag. The following code shows you how to embed the file, which is similar to the previous example.

<video id="video" src=" http://yoursite.com/yourstream.ogg" 
          autoplay="autoplay" />

The only difference here is that an ID is set, and the video is set to autoplay when a user loads it in a browser.

Using a CDN for Performance

No matter what file format you store streams on your server, you can’t get the speed and performance that a CDN can offer. CDNs cache your videos and stream directly to your clients from the closest data center to the viewer.

CDNs add reliability and available to your streams, so should you have a short outage, your viewers are still able to access videos. Performance, reliability, and availability added to your HLS content will ensure that your viewers are never interrupted.

 

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How to Add HLS Streaming to WordPress Using JW Player

HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) is the latest in streaming technology widely accepted as the standard for fast streaming. It’s a permanent replacement for Adobe Flash. Adobe Flash’s critical vulnerabilities allowing an attacker to gain control of a remote machine was the final blow to its dominance in the market, and now other streaming standards with better security have been introduced, including HLS. JW Player developers created software that can be used in WordPress (or other web platforms) to play HLS video.

Using a Plugin

Before you decide to use HLS, just know that there are other streaming technologies that you can use in your applications. Another option is MPEG-DASH, which is the main HLS competitor currently. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages, but this article assumes that you’ve decided to use HLS and keep it as a standard for your blog. The one consideration that you should remember is that the technology that you choose should be supported by main browsers on the market.

If you just want video streaming on your site, JW Player published a WordPress plugin that can be used to easily integrate it into your WordPress blog. This plugin is convenient for users who don’t have any coding skills and want to just add HLS video streaming without any customizations.

You can download the JW Player plugin from the WordPress plugin page, or you can download and install it directly from the “Plugins” section of your WordPress dashboard. You’ll need an account and an API key and secret that can be entered in the settings page. The available options for video streaming can be found on the JW Player plugin reference web page.

Adding JW Player Support in Your Own Plugins

For developers that want to add JW Player support in their own plugin code, you can create an instance of the JW Player object and use it to play video in a web page.  The following Ajax code is an example of creating a JW Player instance and streaming an mp4 file in the user’s browser.

var jw = jwplayer("myElement");

playerInstance.setup({

playlist: [{

image: "/assets/videoPic.jpg",

sources: [{

file: "/assets/videoFile.mp4"

}]

}],

file: "http://yoursite.com/videoFile.mp4",

height: 550,

width: 550,

primary: "html5"

image: "/assets/HlsImage.jpg",

hlslabels:{

"2500":"High",

"1000":"Medium"

}

}); 

In the code above, an instance of the JW Player is created and the file “videoFile.mp4” is loaded into the HLS player. You can use the API reference to find the right settings and preferences for your own JW Player object when you decide to integrate streaming into your code.

Notice that you can set different quality settings, a width and height, and an image that will display before the user plays a video. The placeholder image can be one from your video or a custom one.

The JW Player is just one way to add HLS streaming into your WordPress site. The platform is free for beginners who just need 15,000 plays. If you need more, you need to pay a monthly fee.

In addition to a player, you also need a CDN to ensure that speed is never an issue. The JW Player gives you the ability to stream, but it does not ensure speed and performance for users. A CDN coupled with the right technology can turn your blog into a platform where users can easily stream video without frustration from choppy, slow content.

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MPEG-DASH vs. HLS: Which One Should You Use?

Years ago, the only option for video on demand was Adobe Flash, but this technology is no longer appropriate or secure for viewers. Now, content publishers have several options when they choose a format. The two main contenders for video (including live streaming) are MPEG-DASH and HLS (HTTP Live Streaming). Here’s some information to help you decide the right choice for your next video content.

HLS

HLS was originally created by Apple to provide video for its iPhone, but now it’s a common format used across HTML5 web applications. You’ll need to encode your video with H.264 or HEVC/H.265 codecs, which can be decoded by any major browser.

With this streaming option, the video is chipped up into 10 second intervals and sent to the user requesting content. With video on demand (VOD), the latency delay is 45 seconds, but with live streaming it’s as short as 10 seconds.

One main advantage of HLS is that it adapts to the user’s bandwidth. Low bandwidth users will receive lower quality video to avoid choppy play. Users with faster Internet speeds can watch high definition video with little delay and interruption. This change is also dynamic, so should a user with high bandwidth move to a location with low speed, the video will adapt until the user returns to higher bandwidth locations.

MPEG-DASH

MPEG-DASH is the latest HLS competitor. It was originally created to be an alternative to HLS. It has a few advantages over HLS. First, it’s open-source, which means the media content publisher community as a whole can contribute to its changes and updates.

This streaming option is globally supported and codec agnostic, which means that you can encode video in most ways and deliver it to your viewers without worrying about codec support (except macOS, see below). It has lower latency and supports publishers that use ads in their video.

Compared with HLS, MPEG-DASH is also dynamically adaptive to the end-user’s bandwidth speed. Lower bandwidth users will have low quality video delivered, but once they move to a place with higher bandwidth and faster data transfer speeds, video can be upgraded while watching to HD quality.

Which One Should You Choose?

Some claim that MPEG-DASH is the way to go because it’s the newest technology on the market.  Both technologies are dynamic and adaptive to user speeds. Originally, MPEG-DASH only supported 4k video, but HLS recently had 4k support added to it. Because they are main competitors and capture the biggest audience, the two technologies have most of the market. There isn’t a huge difference between the two except for one major factor: support.

Apple is infamous for only supporting its propriety software, and this is another one of those moments. Safari supports HLS but not MPEG-DASH, so using MPEG-DASH would require macOS and iOS users to run another browser. Since Safari is embedded and widely used by millions of Apple users, the better choice is HLS. Since HLS is supported by other browsers, a publisher can offer video for all users rather than a subset.

In addition to choosing the right technology, don’t forget that integrating a CDN into an application can also improve speed and quality. A CDN distributes delivery across several data centers and edge servers that store the content in cached resources. Combining HLS streaming with CDN integration will improve performance and ensure the best user experience.

 

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How CDNs Facilitate Faster HTTP Live Streaming

If you’ve ever accessed your favorite video and slow streaming ruined the experience, it’s probably because the site you browsed doesn’t have a CDN configured. CDNs increase performance and stop the choppy, slow videos users hate. HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) is the next generation of live streaming video offered on media platforms. It’s a faster, more convenient way for content providers to deliver media, but without a CDN user experience can ruin a content provider’s subscriber interest.

Where HLS Started

HLS was originally created by Apple to stream media to its iPhone and iPad devices. These devices originally didn’t support Flash content, which was common around the Internet. Apple needed a way to stream media to mobile devices, so it came up with HLS. What was once only supported by Apple, HLS is now supported across multiple devices including Android.

HLS works by breaking up video into ten-second parts and sends it to the viewer. By breaking up video content, performance is increased especially for people with low bandwidth capabilities. In addition to breaking up content into ten-second chunks, HLS allows the viewer to watch with different encoded material and data rates. The viewer’s browser can detect slower bandwidth speeds and reduce quality dynamically. When faster speeds are detected, the browser can then increase quality for higher resolution.

Content Delivery Networks and Better HLS Quality

HLS supports live streaming and video on demand (VOD). Content quality is automatically increased or decreased based on streaming bandwidth, and this speed factor can be improved with a CDN. A CDN increases bandwidth at the server location, but it also gives content providers a broader presence across the globe using strategically placed data centers.

CDN.net has global PoP locations in 131 locations and in 88 cities. Its locations cover 40 countries, which will improve performance just from being closer to the viewer. By configuring a CDN with media publishers, the content creator can improve speed by distributing requests and streaming servers and serving content much closer to the viewer’s location rather than sending responses to requests from one origin server.

Bottlenecks are a thing of the past for content providers. CDNs provide high gigabit capacity. CDN.net offers 2000 gigabit capacity, which means the content provider can scale up as more media is published and user traffic increases. Should an unusual traffic spike happen where an extraordinary amount of traffic is sent to the site, a CDN is able to handle the traffic without performance degradation or choppy streaming. Eliminating both of these factors will keep users coming back to watch videos as user experience is improved.

In addition to performance, CDNs provide an added level of site availability should an origin server fail. CDNs cache data on local servers, so the data is available at the cached location instead of users experiencing downtime. It can be useful during site maintenance and upgrades when the site has a planned outage temporarily.

For any media publisher, CDNs are a must. An origin server could have potentially thousands of viewers in one day, and this kind of traffic can take a huge load on the server resources. CDNs distribute the traffic and load across numerous servers with cached content, which is faster than traditional dynamic data. Get started with CDN.net and provide viewers with the best HLS video experience possible.

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Replacing Adobe Flash with HLS Protocols

For years, Adobe Flash was the de facto protocol for streaming online content, but the software has fallen victim to several critical vulnerabilities. In 2016, a critical vulnerability in Adobe Flash allowed attackers to take over a user’s computer.  In the aftermath, users and big browser developers lost trust in Flash and took strides to protect from an application with multiple vulnerabilities. Chrome disables Flash by default, and most users are told to avoid enabling Flash unless it’s absolutely necessary. The 2016 debacle led to a push to find a better way to stream video, and HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) was the answer.

What is HLS?

The release and acceptance of HTML5 introduced several tools that replaced old technology. HTML5 has animation and video tools directly built into its structure. Before HTML5, browsers needed third-party applications to play video, but with HTML5 content providers and developers can work directly with the language to stream video or display animation.

HLS chops MP4 content into ten-second segments and streams content to a user’s browser with only 15-30 second delays. Quality can be determined by the developer who can store content with different settings to cater to viewers with slower Internet speeds. HLS even detects Internet speed on the user’s browser and will lower quality to avoid choppy video when the user’s Internet speed slows. The change in quality is invisible to the user other than noticing that images are high resolution. Once speeds get better, quality reverts to the original high-resolution stream.

Several other streaming protocols are available, but HLS has become the most prevalent for content creators since it requires no additional software and works with any major browser. It’s easy for content creators to publish video since HLS works with the common MP4 video format.

Using a CDN to Speed Up Streaming

Content creators that don’t provide fast streaming service risk losing viewership, and a CDN can be a game changer. Video is notoriously slow if the content creator doesn’t take steps to ensure that there is plenty of bandwidth and resources on the host. Instead of paying for expensive hosting, a content creator can instead host video streaming on a CDN at a very low cost.

With a CDN configured, a content creator no longer needs to have high bandwidth and resources on one server. Content streams from CDN edge servers, which are strategically located in populated areas of the world. When a user makes a request for a stream, the request is served by the CDN. With streaming content located closer to the viewer, speed is immediately improved compared to content hosted at one location in thousands of miles from the viewer.

Content delivery is distributed with a CDN, so there are no more issues during any spikes in traffic should content go viral. A CDN can be a form of backup should the origin server crash as a CDN has a cached version of content. Content creators have numerous benefits that bring speed to video, and creators can harness the latest technology without paying for expensive equipment.

Using just one origin to host video is no longer enough. With potentially thousands of viewers across the globe, content creators need a better way to publish video without worry of poor performance. With a CDN, performance is never an issue.

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Avoiding Network Latency Using a CDN

Just a 100ms delay in a gamer’s experience can have a negative impact on gaming subscriptions. With this in mind, online game files continue to get larger and larger requiring fast bandwidth and server resources. Traditional online games had servers behind load balancers that handled user requests. For older, smaller games this type of infrastructure was feasible, but now online gaming requires much faster, distributed resources that only a CDN can offer.

How a CDN Works

Instead of pooling all gamer requests to one location, a content delivery network distributes requests across data centers. Requests are sent to the nearest data center based on the user’s location. CDNs might have several data center locations in the same region such as the west and east regions of the US.

Online gaming servers still push content to the CDN’s edge servers, but these edge servers are located in data centers and cache data. Cached data is processed and returned to the gaming request much faster than relying on traditional infrastructure to dynamically send data. Cached data keeps it in memory, so servers can quickly respond without waiting for drives and databases to search content and reply to a request.

For game developers first starting out, having a CDN offers the latest technology and infrastructure that most new developers can’t afford to deploy. These small indie game developers can harness the best in infrastructure for a low monthly cost instead of spending thousands on in-house equipment.

Lower Ping Times

Lowering ping times immediately speeds up a game’s performance and keeps gaming customers engaged. Latency is a game developer’s worst nightmare, and it can destroy a game’s popularity. Latency could also stem from the gamer’s poor Internet connection, but a gaming developer can avoid massive backlash from most players by offering everything possible to keep latency low.

Gamers use the term “ping times” which also reflects latency factors. Other factors can affect ping times. The gamer could be on a congested network. The gamer’s ISP could be having infrastructure issues. Even some cyber security attacks affect global Internet connectivity for entire countries. A gaming developer can’t control these factors, but infrastructure can be put into place to avoid being the main cause for slow gameplay.

In addition to lowering latency and ping times, having a CDN installed also improves availability and performance for expansions and patches deployed by the developer as an online game evolves. Boxed gaming developers can also use a CDN to deploy new gaming content where thousands of users would request DLC files at the same time. Since requests are distributed, these thousands of people will make requests to the closest data center.

As gaming files continue to grow, having a CDN is a must for any developer. Adding a CDN reduces latency and can even ensure that patches and updates are always available on the launch date. CDNs are super easy to configure and integrate well with any origin servers and infrastructure. It’s a cost effective way to keep gamers engaged and keep coming back for more play time.

 

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Adding an Affordable CDN to Your Infrastructure

In-house infrastructure can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the cloud has given even small businesses the opportunity to harness enterprise equipment. A CDN is a cost-effective way to add availability, integrity and security to infrastructure. Administrators can still support an in-house environment but adding a CDN to public-facing applications will improve speed and availability.

Improving Performance at a Low Cost

A cheap CDN can make a huge difference in the performance of your applications for several reasons. First, the business can leverage advanced infrastructure located within a CDN’s point of presence (PoP) data center locations. It’s expensive to keep hardware and applications up-to-date, but with a CDN performance is a main advantage at a low cost.

CDN infrastructure is maintained by data center employees, so the business doesn’t need to spend thousands in upgrades. Infrastructure in a CDN is some of the fastest equipment on the market, so it’s a speed boost for a business application.

When you choose a CDN, its PoP locations matter. These locations house edge servers where customer data is cached. PoPs are strategically placed on each continent so that the CDN can cater to any users around the globe. Although data transfer speeds are fast, bringing users closer to a content delivery server makes data transfer even faster.

Edge servers cache content from the main origin server. When you incorporate a CDN, the CDN’s edge server pulls data from the main application server located at the business host provider or in-house infrastructure. Content is pulled from main origin servers, stored on local CDN servers and cached. Cached content is delivered faster than if it must be processed and pulled from databases and returned to users.

Content Delivery and User Requests

Any public-facing application suffering from speed issues can benefit from a CDN. It’s simple to configure a CDN to work with a public web server, and the performance boost is immediate after the application is configured to work with the CDN.

When users request content, instead of sending the request to the origin server, the request is sent to the nearest CDN edge server. These edge servers are fast and cache content for quicker delivery. By distributing requests to different data centers, the application doesn’t suffer from performance issues during launch dates. When a new release is deployed, it’s not uncommon for a developer to see a large spike in Internet traffic. With a CDN, these requests are now distributed across several servers that manage traffic spikes using load balancers.

With users closer to edge servers, content delivery is much faster than should they request it from servers thousands of miles away. Combine closer geographic locations to users, cached content and advanced cloud equipment, a CDN always brings better performance to an application.

CDN costs are based on the amount of bandwidth and traffic you need, so costs scale with the popularity of the application. With scalable costs, a developer can improve performance while sticking to a strict IT budget.

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How Boxed Game DLC Content is Faster with a CDN

Although developers such as Steam create an open marketplace for digital downloads, some gamers still enjoy the thrill of having a boxed game delivered. Boxed games are more easily managed if you have space to store them, and you don’t need extra storage space on your computer. Storing games digitally can take terabytes of storage space, so boxed games have their advantages over downloads.

DLC and Boxed Games

Many big gaming developers release content that extends a game’s story. Downloadable content (DLC) can be several gigabytes, and it’s released on a certain date where gamers excited for the release will contact gaming servers immediately when it’s available. MMO gaming developers often have several patches and expansion packs released each year.

DLC content is often a good revenue generator for developers. With boxed games, gamers look for deluxe editions where they can get added extras and collectibles. Games with this kind of userbase often have a strong following, and gamers look for extended DLC content to keep playing. This type of content is what gives a game longevity and keeps gamers coming back for more.

CDNs and DLC Releases

For popular games, having one origin server that delivers DLC to gamers can be problematic. Even with load balancers and a web farm, gaming developers could find their servers crashing when thousands of gamers decide to download new content the day of release. Servers crash and gamers find another one to play. The result is a loss of userbase for the developer.

An alternative to possible release date crashes is to incorporate a CDN into infrastructure. With a CDN, the gaming developer harnesses the power of data centers and state-of-the-art infrastructure that’s fast and secure. A CDN caches content from the gaming developer’s origin server, so a user’s request is quickly processed, and the content sent.

The other major benefit of a CDN is point of presence (PoP) locations strategically placed across every continent. With servers closer to a user, DLC requests are faster compared to forcing users thousands of miles away to request content from one location. When a server and user are close, data transfers are faster.

Having a CDN also provides distributed DLC requests, so data centers across the globe process requests. Should the gaming developer’s origin server fail, the CDN’s edge servers are still available. CDNs also have their own failover infrastructure, so gaming developers have 100% uptime for their DLC.

Boxed games, digital downloads and any content that must be downloaded by gamers will always transfer faster. Providing a good user experience is imperative for a gaming developer, because gamers will easily and quickly turn to another subscription should a game have high ping times and slow performance.

CDN costs also scale with a game’s popularity, so even a gaming developer on a budget can integrate a CDN’s infrastructure. With a CDN, developers will immediately see performance improvements without adding expensive components to network design.

 

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Why a CDN Takes the Guesswork Out of Gaming Server Placement

Gaming developers have the unique responsibility of providing around-the-click lightning quick speed for gamers who will quickly leave a game should performance wane. Gamers don’t stick to a game for long if graphics are poor and ping times are too high. Gaming ping times determine user experience, and it’s one of the only industries in the development market that mean more than most other metrics. To reduce ping times, gaming developers must seriously consider the way they build infrastructure for their game’s launch.

Using CDNs in Gaming Infrastructure

In some infrastructure designs, the first idea is to build a powerhouse of servers and network appliances on-site. While this type of build could be sufficient for a game with small traffic and userbase, it won’t be sufficient for a global, worldwide audience with millions of gaming subscribers.

The alternative – and possibly more cost efficient – option is leveraging infrastructure of a CDN. A good CDN has data centers and point of presence (PoP) locations that cover the globe. These PoPs are strategically placed on each continent so that a CDN’s customers can support users from any country.

With a CDN, the gaming developer no longer needs to design infrastructure or find the right appliances. Finding the right performance infrastructure can be trial-and-error for developers who aren’t experienced with building the right gaming network. A CDN already has infrastructure designed, provisioned and tested so that a gaming developer doesn’t need to spend the money to find the right support.

How a CDN Speeds Up Gaming

A gaming developer starts with an origin server, and a CDN is configured to pull content from cached resources located on edge servers. Since these edge servers are located across the globe, the developer doesn’t need to find the right locations for content delivery.

When a gamer requests content, a CDN’s edge server within the closest geographic location responds. Since the content is cached and the server is closer than the developer’s origin server to the gamer, the content is delivered faster. This provides a good user experience for the gamer, and the developer can avoid complaints of high ping times from frustrated customers.

Ping times rely on the gamer’s network as well. If the gamer uses Wi-Fi or has a slow network connection, high ping times aren’t always avoidable. The gamer’s computer resources could also be the reason for poor game performance. Although the gaming developer can’t avoid these issues, they can ensure gamers that content is delivered as fast as possible from the gaming servers.

CDNs aren’t only for online games either. Boxed games that release downloadable content in the future can leverage CDNs on launch days. Instead of thousands of gamers attempting to download content from one location, you can distribute traffic across global data centers. This reduces the chance of slow downloads and crashed servers due to overworked resources.

Using a CDN for gaming infrastructure has numerous advantages, and it’s relatively inexpensive to get started. CDN costs scale with your game popularity, so a CDN can keep initial costs low during development and beta testing.

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Preventing Player Lag and High-Ping Times with a CDN

A developer’s player base can be a delicate asset especially when competitor games are similar. Gamers are demanding when it comes to their favorite MMO. High-ping times cause lag that then cause frustration. Players need quick response times to win, and they can’t win if they go up against another player with superior resources. It’s the gaming developer’s job to create infrastructure and software that’s optimized for the best player experience, and a CDN can relieve much of the overhead supporting users across the globe.

MMOs and Lag

Massive multi-player online games (MMOs) require infrastructure unlike a traditional public-facing web server. With some luck and marketing, an MMO can go from a userbase of only a few thousand to millions of players across the globe. Take Blizzard’s Warcraft MMO released in 2004.  At its high, Warcraft had 12 million subscribers. The game was a success, but in early years any expansion releases were plagued with extreme lag and long login wait times.

To combat wait times and lag, Blizzard changed its infrastructure including the addition of a CDN. Warcraft has subscribers all over the world, so leveraging data centers at key geographic locations distributed customer authentication and content delivery. Instead of users connecting to one central location, they downloaded content and authenticated with servers closer to their play station.

Fast Content Delivery and Lower Ping Times

Anyone who remembers the old Blizzard launch days knows that it could take hours to log into a server during initial release of an expansion. Mists of Pandaria was especially difficult for players due to the massive popularity of the new release. After spending hours waiting to log into a Warcraft server, players then had massive lag that created frustration. This frustration led to abandoning the game until traffic died down.

Blizzard could retain players even with laggy launch days, but new developers aren’t as lucky. Poor performance and gameplay lead to incredibly bad reviews from all of the popular critics including gamers. When word gets out that gaming performance is poor, a new game’s player base will dwindle. For this reason, good infrastructure is just as important as good code.

Gaming developers can avoid this critical mistake by adding a CD to infrastructure proactively in the design phase. CDNs are incredibly easy to integrate into current infrastructure, and performance is guaranteed to improve.

CDNs aren’t just for MMO developers either. They can improve speeds for boxed games when developers release new downloadable content for gamers to purchase. Instead of downloading from a central server, gamers can download new content from an CDN edge server that caches content. Cached content is pulled from the developer’s main origin server but cached for faster processing and delivery. Gamers get a faster download without waiting for others first.

Whether a gaming developer serves a few hundred users or several million, a CDN is guaranteed to improve performance with faster servers, data center locations, and cached content ready for transfer to gamers.

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