Video Streaming Standards

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Video Streaming Standards

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00016874

Publication Date: 2111

Report Type: STANDARD


Video streaming is a highly-standardized technology that is based on protocol
developed by a number of international standards bodies. Among many protocols,
HTML5 stands out as an alternative for mobile device and tablet users in
particular, while Microsoft and Adobe also support a release known as MPEG-DASH.
Given the degree of fragmentation in the industry over these and other
standards, the primary market differentiator for video streaming continues to be
product platforms. Software such as Adobe Media Server (which is often
preinstalled by computer manufacturers), Apple QuickTime, the Windows Media Server, and the Wowza Media Server are popular because each tends to be supported by most
Web sites
that offer streaming videos. This report identifies the most commonly
used media
players, the underlying standards, and future considerations related to
growing market for online video streaming.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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Video streaming is the process of transmitting content
in a compressed format over the Internet or a data network in real time. This
exchange traditionally occurs between either an Internet- or Intranet-based
server and an end-user’s system. Given (a) the growing popularity of
remote-broadcast software after the onset of COVID-19, (b) consumer
services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, and (c) live streaming options such as
Zoom, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat, it stands to reason that the
enterprise segment might benefit from a standardized video-stream
delivery platform for viewing content.


Faulkner Reports
Streaming Media Market Trends

For this reason, an organization’s platform choice is
becoming an increasingly decisive factor in the types of videos and manner of
broadcasts that it offers.
For example, a group that streams live videos “in house”
is less likely to be impacted by running a single video-streaming platform,
while companies that distribute streams to consumers would be wise to consider
supporting as many video formats as possible.


There are only a handful of major platforms, with the
high-level ones including:

  • Adobe Media Server – Delivers HD-quality
    video to “large” audiences across most Internet-connected devices.
  • Apple QuickTime – Handles various digital
    video formats, and runs on Mac.
  • Microsoft Windows Media Player – Plays
    multimedia video on a Windows system or device.
  • Microsoft Silverlight – Free .NET-powered
    framework that is compatible with multiple browsers, devices, and operating
    systems. Reaches end-of-support status in 2021.
  • Wowza Streaming Engine – Streaming server software that can be
    deployed either on-premise or in the cloud; features customizable,
    extensible software; and supports all known streaming protocols.

Top Standards

Unfortunately for many
organizations, there is no common standard for live video streaming,
even among
the aforementioned software. Some of the more commonly used ones,
however, include HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), RTP (Real-time
Transport Protocol), RTSP (Real
Time Streaming Protocol), SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration
Language), HTML5 (W3C’s HyperText Markup Language, 5th Revision), IP
Multicast, MPEG-4, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC
(MPEG-4 Part 10, Advanced Video Coding), and MPEG-DASH (MPEG
Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP).


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Video streaming technology, at its core, represents an attempt to replicate the immediacy of
broadcast television over the Internet. A streaming video presentation can be viewed
in real-time as it is transferred, thus allowing it to potentially provide a
similar experience to watching TV. Users can view and listen to programming as
it is received rather than having to wait until the entire video file
downloads. Video streaming is actually a three-step process:

  • Recording and encoding it to work with a particular
    player/server combination.
  • Making it viewable by client machines via a video
  • Serving it to the end user(s).

Because the file does not need to be stored on the end-user’s computer, the
content provider has the ability to serve it at a speed commensurate with the
user’s Internet connection speed. A video player can receive packets while
decompressing and playing others for a streaming transmission. The streaming
software decompresses this video data and displays the video on the screen while
also sending audio to the machine’s speakers. This happens as quickly as the PC,
server, and connection speed allow. For this reason, two of the biggest
restrictions to effective video streaming are (1) Internet bandwidth limitations and
(2) overburdened video servers that render programming either unavailable or of a
lower quality.

Market Leaders

Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and Wowza are considered top companies
for live enterprise video-streaming software.
Table 1 offers a comparison between these companies’ products.

Table 1. Major Media Player Comparison
Player / Version Minimum OS Support Minimum Hardware

Adobe Media Server 5.0.16

  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Red hat Enterprise Linux Server 6.6
  • CentOS Linux 6.6
  • 32GHz Intel Pentium Processor

  • 4GB RAM (8GB recommended

  • 1Gbps Ethernet card recommended
    (multiple network cards and 10Gbps cards also supported)

Apple QuickTime 7.7.9

  • Mac OS X
  • 1GHz Intel or AMD processor
  • 512MB RAM

Microsoft Silverlight 5.1.5x*

  • Windows 8.1-11
  • Mac OS X (via Silverlight plug-in)
  • Also requires compatible Web browser such as Internet Explorer 11*

  • 1.6GHz or higher
  • 512MB RAM


  • 1.83GHz or higher Intel processor
  • 512MB RAM

Microsoft Windows Media Player 12

  • Windows 7-11
  • Mac OS X**
  • 233MHz (1.5GHz recommended) processor
  • 64MB RAM (512MB or higher recommended)

Wowza Streaming Engine 4.8.5

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Mac
  • 3GHz or better RAM
  • 4GB disk
  • 1Gbps Ethernet
  • OpenJDK Java SE JRE 9.0.4, Supports Java versions 9-12

* Silverlight has moved to end-of-support status as of October 2021.
The development framework is currently only supported on Internet
Explorer 10 and Internet Explorer 11, with support for Internet Explorer 10
having ended on January 31, 2020. There is no
longer support for Chrome, Firefox, or any browser using the Mac operating

Adobe Media Server. Adobe’s Media
Server (formerly Flash Media Server) is a real-time media server that delivers
1080p HD, bit-rate video on demand and live video to Adobe Flash Player, Adobe
AIR, Adobe Flash Lite, Apple iOS, and Mac OS.
This product is designed to deliver content, applications, and media that can be
run consistently across most platforms and browsers. It also supports streaming
music, video blogging, video messaging, multimedia chat, real-time datacasting,
and multi-user gaming features.
Table 2 compares the Adobe Media Server Editions.

Table 2. Adobe Media Server Editions
  Starter Standard Professional Extended Amazon Web Services
(Real-Time Messaging Protocol)
10 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
streaming for Adobe Flash on iOS devices
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Unlimited Unlimited Not
(Real-Time Media Flow Protocol) unicast
50 Not
500 15,000 100;
1,000; 10,000
P2P introductions
50 Not
500 15,000 100;
1,000; 10,000

Apple QuickTime. Apple’s QuickTime platform is a multimedia platform that can handle various
digital video formats. It offers an extensible multimedia framework that
includes a built-in media player. Version 7 of Apple’s QuickTime platform offers
multimedia technology that includes a built-in media player for viewing HD
Internet video and personal media in multiple file formats.
QuickTime features advanced H.264 video-compression
technology to deliver high-definition video that consumes less bandwidth and
storage. In addition
to the free, basic version of QuickTime, Apple also offers:

  • QuickTime Pro
    – Includes functions for converting media to different formats; in addition to recording,
    editing, and sharing videos.
  • QuickTime Broadcaster

    Offers features for producing live broadcasts using a MPEG-4-based Internet
    broadcasting system.
  • Darwin Streaming Server
    – Open-source version of the QuickTime Streaming Server for
    delivering live or pre-recorded content in real time, using RTP/RTSP
    protocols. The Darwin Streaming Server is available under the Apple Public
    Source License from Mac OS Forge.

Figure 1 shows the QuickTime player.

Figure 1. QuickTime Player

Source: Apple

Microsoft Windows Media Player. The Windows Media platform and its set
of end-to-end components – including the Windows Media player, encoder, codecs,
server, and software development kits (SDKs) – provide a comprehensive staging
environment for the creation, distribution, and playback of audio and video
content, offering high-quality presentation at any bit rate. In addition to
serving consumers, the platform enhances communications and training for
enterprises and improves digital media commerce opportunities. It meets the
needs of content and service providers by delivering media-rich content and
services. Developers can also take advantage of a more efficient platform on
which to build their products and services. Figure 2 depicts the Microsoft
Windows Media Player.

Figure 2. Microsoft Windows Media Player 12

Source: Microsoft

Wowza Media Server. The Wowza Media Server offers a
customizable media-streaming server and cloud-based solutions for helping to
build, deploy, and manage high-quality live and on-demand video. This software
includes the Media Streaming Engine, for creating video with broadcast-quality
live video streaming software – available “in minutes, with unparalleled control
and flexibility” – for any use case or device. The portfolio also includes the
Wowza Streaming Cloud, a managed live-streaming solution with end-to-end
workflows and support for building a streaming service on REST APIs.

Current View

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Currently, there are only a small number of
streaming standards
groups and industry alliances, notably among them the MPEG Industry
Forum; DASH
Promoters Group; World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and its HTML Working
Group; and
the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Even though these industry
organizations and standards bodies attempt to create and promote
standards, they become littered within the proprietary and customized
of the few applications mentioned in this report. These leaders tend to
proprietary technology into standards to create the appearance that
products adhere to and support them.

While the standards listed in Table 3 are relevant to video streaming, they are, at this
point, hardly checklist items to most streaming video buyers.

Table 3. Streaming Standards




The entire
video clip is first downloaded to the user’s computer, and then it is played.
This is hardly streaming, in that the user must wait for the file to download,
but it does have two advantages over real-time streaming: the user retains a
copy of the file if he or she wishes, and the video quality is likely to be
better since the clip will run, in its entirety, locally on the user’s
machine. The Internet connection speed does not affect the playback, only the
download time.


Application-level protocol that streams video and other forms of media over
unicast or multicast IP. RTSP works on top of RTP
in that it controls and delivers real-time content. RTP provides its own
services to expedite video streams, such as header compression. The RTSP and RTP
protocols are in the process of traversing the Internet Engineering Task
Force’s standardization process, but are supported by the major streaming
video technology providers. 


SMIL allows content
producers to synch up sound, text, and other multimedia elements using
tags rather than programming code. An XML-based language, SMIL can
combine text,
audio, video, Flash, and other media into a single stream. HTML+TIME,
primarily by Microsoft, is Hypertext Markup Language-Timed Interactive
Extensions, which does something similar to SMIL. Both standards focus
on improving the quality of multimedia content over the Internet,
particularly over
low-bandwidth connections. In terms of video, the standards allow
text and graphics hyperlinks in video streams, as well as video-like
of a series of images.

IP Multicast

The streaming video servers support IP multicast, although the routers on
the corporate or ISP network must also support multicast for this methodology to
work properly. Caching technologies can, depending on the architecture and
preference, enhance or eliminate the need for multicasting, as they move copies
of the original stream closer to the end user, for example in a regional office
of the service provider or corporation. Caching and multicasting can work in
concert, or each can still provide a large boost to performance in the absence
of the other.

Allows a
user to play any content with a single player, while
simultaneously easing the load on content providers by making content creation,
management, and delivery simpler. This is the codec standard that could open the
door to the interoperability between platforms that many users and content
providers seek.


Designed to be interoperable with many other
video streaming standards. It was established by the DASH Promoters
Group, which included Microsoft, Netflix, and Qualcomm.

H.264 Digital encoding format for high-definition video, providing powerful
compression technology that delivers high-quality video at a low bit rate
to a variety of devices ranging from low-powered cell phones to high-powered Blu-ray
devices. Since the majority of computers can handle HD video, H.264 allows
content providers to deliver the HD content in a more efficient manner.

Includes the HTML5 video
element, which is designed to partially replace the object element in HTML
and eventually become a viable open-source video standard alternative.


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Despite the lack of a single, broadly accepted standard, video streaming
continues to grow in popularity. Based largely on the popularity of various online content services, video
streaming seems poised to continue to buck the trend of squabbles over industry
standards and proprietary approaches. Video streaming becomes more pervasive
each day. A number of users actually have Flash Media Server, Windows Media
Player, and QuickTime
installed on their systems, allowing them to view content from a multitude of
different Web sites.

Instead, considerations
such as network bandwidth and, to a lesser extent, computer processing
have become the primary drivers of video streaming advancement, as
platforms and
standards coexist on the Web without any noticeable slowing of growth in
streaming technology. Market leaders seem unable to agree on standards,
protocol support, or the development of proprietary technology for it.
As a
result, eliminating fragmentation, improving player integration, and
improving cooperation between vendors
seems unlikely.


For this reason, product
platforms seem to continually play larger roles in shaping the
technology trend.
Microsoft, for example, has expansive access to PC users and corporate
environments. Apple, meanwhile, takes a large share of the consumer
market with
its popular iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac devices. These companies have
designed various codecs to increase video streaming quality while
file size, thus making it so that less bandwidth is required. A video
codec is software for compressing and decompressing digital video.
Despite having made
strides in these areas, neither Microsoft nor Apple can control issues
such as
dropped packets, latency, and Internet connectivity issues that
sometimes affect
transmissions. For this reason, many organizations looking to stream
video turn
to content delivery networks and caching providers.


Another consideration is the
potential to stream video to Web browsers. Unlike streaming media players that
can only display streams created and served by their associated platform,
Internet browsers such as Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, or Safari can, for the
most part, display content for most Web pages.


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video has two major applications for business:

  • Providing content or
    to customers
  • Offering a way of communicating with employees,
    business partners, or the media.

For consumers or users who are otherwise
streaming outside of a corporate setting, the best recommendation would be to
support all video-streaming platforms on a single system, if possible. For
larger organizations, however, the decision to choose a single platform provides
it with greater control over its user base, as well as the ability to streamline
enhancement and maintenance tasks within a streaming infrastructure.

For this reason, computer system selection can largely
determine which media platform, and thus standard, should be deployed. The
choice of mobile device support also complicates this decision, as not all
devices support all formats. One final option is to outsource one’s streaming
video operations to a content delivery network. This option works best when offering streaming to customers, or when
internal use is sporadic and consists mostly of a large number of users. These
providers attempt to move data closer to the end user to improve streaming and
also remove the burden of dealing with various platforms and standards.

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