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.