The Technology That Powers Your Favorite Video Streaming Services

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@ashely-johnAshely John

Entrepreneur

With the advent of digital broadcasting and networking technologies, the need for video content has increased enormously. Video streaming platforms make it possible for people to view videos anywhere, anytime. The number of streaming media services is one the rise, which means the choices are abundant. When you consider how routinely we view videos via apps like Netflix or YouTube, it’s hard to digest that some time ago, it was impossible to view or transmit videos of any type over the internet. 
In the early days, there just wasn’t the speed or bandwidth we have today to make it possible. Today, with faster internet and better technologies, content service providers have the right technologies like live video streaming software, to remain competitive and meet expectations of evolving audiences. 
For example, underneath a new series from Netflix with millions of viewers are evolving user interface, efficiently powered back end data operations and several complex streaming video pipelines. In this blog, let's breakdown the competitive video streaming landscape and the technology side of video streaming. 
The core of technical complexity to handle video streaming is one plain truth- The internet wasn't created to stream high-quality videos to millions of viewers concurrently. People talk about streaming technology as if the TV content is just uploaded over the Internet. The Internet was not designed for that and it cannot physically handle it. 

How Video Streams Over The Internet

To understand how video streaming works on a deeper level, let’s go back to the basics. The popular streaming services have spent millions of dollars putting together their streaming infrastructure to stream on-demand content across the web. If you are learning how `to make a video streaming website, you have to find out effective ways to distribute videos to a large number of devices and screens. 
No one prefers watching movies or shows that don’t stream smoothly at the resolution they choose. If you take the case of Netflix, to ensure reliable service delivery, it uses a custom content delivery system that allows a reduction in the backhaul required to offer a great user experience. Similarly, you can rely upon the best open source video streaming platform to deliver a reliable viewing experience. 
Netflix uses CDN infrastructure from Amazon’s AWS that caches, stream data from the POP, and restricts the data that it needs from the cloud hosting services. The streaming giant brings down its overall operational expenses this way. In the past decade, the connectivity between devices has become much better band the possibility of delivering high-quality streams to viewers concurrently is also currently possible. 
Like TV, streaming is not a static medium. In the on-demand landscape, the audience consumes videos in their own time and their own way. To deliver a video to whatever device a viewer is watching, be it on a desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablets, smart TV, or even a game console- It has to go through several steps. 
Over-the-top streaming or OTT as it is popularly called can be divided into 5 steps and are as follows. If you are looking for different ways on how to start a streaming service like Netflix, understanding these steps is essential. 

Ingestion

Video streaming either uses recorded or live content. With live streaming, the content is captured and played live at the same time. If a live event takes place in New York, the signal from New York is the ingestion. 

Transcoding 

The video is then transcoded, which means it is converted from one file format to another. 

Management

This includes things like content protection, digital rights management, and dynamic ad insertion if you follow an ad-based business model. 

Delivery and Playback

The final video stream is then delivered through the Internet and reaches viewers through multiple devices. However, the process is more complex than it sounds and it is necessary to understand the concept if you want to learn how to start a video on demand website. 
A transcoding device receives an encoded video stream that is decoded into a raw video, changed, and then re-encoded again and the output is multiple variants. For example, if your original stream is 1080p, transcoding helps you to create alternative streams like 480p and 720p streams. As your viewers have a different range of network speeds and display capability, transcoding helps them to watch the stream on almost any device with clarity.
In addition, there is a standard for encoding and for the same reason video files must be wrapped differently for every platform they are delivered to. A single video stream can be wrapped up to 20 times or more depending on devices to which it is delivered to. 

Chaos Engineering

Netflix is not just home to popular TV shows and movies streamed over the Internet. It has also created the discipline of chaos engineering. It is a famous approach to make the resilience of modern and complex technology architecture better. Over the years, Netflix has evolved its infrastructure to assist increasingly complex activities especially as its customer base is spread in over 190 countries with over 100 million customers
If you are creating video streaming sites based on the Netflix business model, it is significant to prepare for growing concurrent streams. The term chaos engineering was created by Netflix to depict running chaos experiments on a system to find and solve minor issues before they evolve into problems that could take a streaming service offline. 
In short, it is about pushing a system beyond its limits to find the cracks to make it stronger.
It is exactly the same concept as security penetration testing or bug testing programs. Netflix has created its own open-source program called Chaos monkey that randomly causes small-scale issues that are tracked and fixed by engineers. 
It is built to find out errors and to help the engineering team identify the most vulnerable parts of the system and to make it more resilient. Not just Netflix, Hulu also uses chaos engineering as well mainly for its live TV service. Chaos engineering is what keeps Netflix and Hulu ahead of the curve. If you are business looking forward to learning how to create a video streaming website, implementing chaos engineering will be a great idea to keep your platform in its best performance all the time. 

Content Delivery Networks Explained

When it comes to video streaming, the delivery of video streams quickly and reliably across the globe is equally important. That is where content delivery networks or CDN come in offering streaming service a distributed array of data centers to cache and stream videos locally to nearby users. 
A CDN is nothing but a network of inter-connected servers to transport media files. CDN speeds up the content delivery by caching the content of different systems and servers and deliver it to the nearest user who requests the content. It is mainly used for speeding up content delivery and to enrich the user experiences by eliminating delays and lags. 

Benefits of CDN

CDN’s facilitate faster delivery of videos and offer other important benefits including their following advantages. By connecting servers across the globe, CDNs create a path that reduces the time it takes to send video streams from origin to users. Sharing the load across a network also improves scalability. 

Scalability

This is the most important benefit of using a CDN; it is the quickest and reliable way to deliver content to a large number of users anywhere in the world. CDNs can effortlessly accommodate viewership spike and a large live audience. 

Reliability

Uptime is one of the most critical elements when it comes to video streaming. A good CDN helps with load balancing by distributing network traffic evenly across all services making it easy to scale rapid traffic spikes. 

Data security

Data security is an integral part of a CDN. It helps to keep a website secure with fresh SSL certificates that ensure a high standard of encryption, authentication, and security. CDNs offer an extra layer of security and prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that occur when a website faces multiple breach attempts. That is because a CDN with multiple access points causes failover. 

Speed

CDNs deliver media content at low latency as they use speedy networks to send video streams to a wide range of audiences worldwide. Even if your ISP or local network causes a slow delivery, your CDN will help to bypass any traffic in between. 

Quality

Streaming via a CDN helps to attain the best possible video and audio quality. It also offers the best user experience to the viewers by reducing delays and buffering.

Choosing a CDN

Most video streaming businesses face questions about what type of network to choose from. There are different types of CDNs like general-purpose CDNs, on-demand CDNs, and live video CDNs built especially for on-demand and live video content delivery.
You can also choose from internet-based or private networks that integrate with online video platform offering features that improve video distribution. Not all CDNs support high definition videos. Live streaming CDNs offer high speed and stable connection to enable quality video content delivery to viewers. 
Consider the following factors when you are choosing a CDN for video streaming:
  • HD videos are increasingly becoming popular but not all CDNs support it. 
  • Using mobile devices to watch on-demand content is very important to users, so you must ensure that the CDN supports mobile delivery. 
  • Protected or licensed material like pay-per-view requires digital rights management.
  • Analytics capabilities of CDNs become significant in real-time for many video streaming applications. Therefore, the owners must assess potential CDN networks for their analytic capabilities. 
If you want to create a streaming site just like Netflix, it is important to choose video-on-demand platform providers that offer integrated CDN along with the services. For example, Netflix also has its own globally distributed CDN called Open Connect and it is one of the standalone streaming platforms to build its own CDN network. Amazon also has its CDN AWS CloudFront and tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have their own CDN's. 

Characteristics That Define Modern Video Streaming

A shift in video technology has given way to chunked, connectionless, and HTTP based modern streaming from legacy video streaming protocols that were built on custom protocols and overlay networks. Modern video streaming leverages the topology of its underlying network. When compared to custom streaming protocols, HTTP streaming leverages the architecture to deliver best quality videos at an incomparable scale. What are the characteristics that make a video streaming protocol modern? How it makes sense to businesses looking for different ways on how to make a movie website like Netflix? 
Here are seven characterizes that define modern streaming. 

Chunked Video Delivery 

With modern video streaming, files are split into short video segments that are sent over the network. The segments can be of 2-10 seconds in length based on the type of protocol. 

HTTP Communication

Multiple short video chunks are transmitted over the Internet using the standard HTTP protocol. Mostly, all modern streaming communications depends on TCP ports 80 for unencrypted communications, and port 443 for SSL encrypted communications. 

Stateless Communication

When a user watches a stream, all request for the following video segments is processed independently of previous requests. Simply put, there is no consistent interaction between user and origin server during playback. 

Cache Friendly

Delivery of video segment in chunks is what allows modern streaming technology to work in harmony with HTTP cache that is universal on the internet, in CDNs, and in corporate networks. This helps in WAN optimization and network bandwidth management, too. 

Adaptive Bit Rate Playback

Video streaming that relies upon modern streaming protocols is encoded at various quality grades to deliver the best experiences based on the devices used by viewers. During playback, the bandwidth of the user is determined and dynamic modifications are made to reduce buffering and offer high-quality playback to users. 

Passive Network Structure

When video segments are transmitted on the network, intermediately nodes send the segments towards the last destination. The intermediate nodes don’t execute any code to modify the video segments. 

Benefits of Modern Streaming

The modern streaming protocol sets a sequence of video segments on a server and allows users to fetch them either on-demand or live. Let’s explore the benefits of modern streaming:  

Decreases Management Complexity

Modern streaming allows businesses to consolidate video network traffic to HTTP via TCP ports 80 and 443. This removes the need to deploy and manage a separate cache infrastructure. Additionally, modern video streaming also improves manageability at the edge of the network. 

Reduced Costs

When you take the case of custom streaming protocol, it increases the infrastructure cost in two ways. It requires server hardware and software to function and their inefficiency in caching content increases the amount of bandwidth required to stream videos. Modern streaming overcomes both of these issues. Modern streaming protocols use the existing HTTP network facilitating organizations to reduce costs. 

Better Scalability

The prevalence of HTTP services and the support for edge caching and mirroring makes it the ideal choice to stream frequently accessed on-demand content and large-scale live events. While legacy protocols deliver scalability through additional investment in hardware and software, modern protocols effortlessly offer scalability.

Improved Playback

Modern streaming offers improved video playback experience by offering compatibility with a broad range of devices and adaptive bitrate streaming. 

Personalised Interfaces For Video Streaming Platforms

One of the most common issues faced by users who enjoy video streaming services is navigating through a broad selection of content. If you want to create a movie-streaming website, more focus has to be given on the UI to ensure there is a smooth connection between the search and navigation mechanism. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, etc. invest lot of money in licensing and original content but the UI is the same old interface that resembles digital library shelves. Streaming services has to use both machine learning and AI in its platform to personalize the experience for each user. If you are looking for ins and outs of how to start a company like Netflix, you must understand the relevance of personalized user interfaces. 
Presenting a grid of videos is not a great way to deliver the content anymore. CBS TV uses a blend of automation and manual curation. It uses automation more in sending out notifications and emails to users to keep them engaged with news about new shows according to their preferences. 
With said, Amazon also follows a different user experience approach. The basic interface of Amazon Prime is a normal library-style homepage with tile-based section for movies, originals, etc. However, when you click on a particular section, you can see the same search result page just like a product search page in Amazons eCommerce platform has. Amazon still carries out multiple experiments on its UI and navigation, improving search and enhancing user engagement. It also leverages machine learning to process large amounts of customer data and behavioral patterns to predict what viewers might want to watch next. 

To Wrap It Up

Streaming video on demand has advanced dramatically. The need for a robust infrastructure is necessary to stream high-quality videos. Businesses are investing plenty of time, effort, and money to ensure smooth transmission of video streams to their users, less attention is paid to the quality of the final product. If you want to succeed in the market, delivering a quality viewing experience to your users is highly significant. 
Who doesn’t get frustrate when a screen freezes or a video takes a long time to buffer? The cost of this is unhappy viewers. It doesn’t have to be this way. With right technology that powers quality video streaming, delivering a great viewing experience to your users is easier. With delivery and quality measurement technology continuing to advance, the user experience of video streaming will only get better in the future.

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