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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