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HLS vs. MPEG-DASH: A Comparison of Two Streaming Protocols

HLS vs. MPEG-DASH

Online video has become a preferred medium of both brands and consumers. With an estimated 55% of people watching video every day, businesses are competing to deliver the most engaging content on the internet. One of the ways to catch their customers’ attention is through live streaming.

Broadcasting over the web has become a huge hit in recent years. Indeed, 80% of people say they would rather watch a live stream than read a blog post. This probably has to do with the fact that our attention span is decreasing. We need content that has the ability to hook us in just a few seconds. Video, and especially live streaming, has proven to have this capability.

To deliver a seamless experience to their consumers, brands rely on advanced technology. Specifically, streaming protocols help them get broadcasts to their viewers. Two of those formats, HLS and MPEG-DASH, are popular in the industry, with publishers often wondering which one to choose.

If you face a similar issue, our article is here to help you! We’ll compare HLS vs. MPEG-DASH, help you figure out what they are, and more.

Prepare for a streaming protocol face-off!

What Is HLS?

HLS is short for HTTP live streaming. Basically, it is an adaptive bitrate streaming protocol that ensures audio and video content reaches users on the internet. Chances are, you are already encountering HLS on a daily basis without even being aware of that, especially if you own Apple devices.

Apple originally developed this format in 2009 to ensure the iPhone could access live streams. Although it is Apple’s brainchild, different devices and platforms support  HLS streaming. These include:

  • Android smartphones
  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Smart TVs
  • Video game consoles

Today, HLS is the leading standard in the industry, overtaking Adobe Flash. As you probably know, Adobe Flash was the go-to method for delivering video and audio media over the internet for years. However, as the online video industry developed, publishers largely replaced Flash with HLS streaming. They wanted to provide a safer, faster, and smoother experience to their customers which they could not do with Flash.

Want to find out how HLS works? We have you covered! You can learn more about the way HLS operates here.

The fact that HLS streaming is quite possibly the best streaming protocol to use with HTML5 video players works in its favor. Brands can easily implement its content tags into a website’s HTML code, making this protocol universal and compatible.

Now, we’ll move on with our HLS vs. MPEG-DASH comparison and mention a protocol that is becoming more and more popular.

What Is MPEG-DASH?

Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP, also known as MPEG-DASH, is the second streaming protocol we’ll discuss in the article. A direct competitor of HLS, MPEG-DASH is a newer standard that is spreading across the industry. With this in mind, it’s crucial that you understand what it is and how it works.

MPEG-DASH is an adaptive bitrate streaming protocol (just like HLS!). In a nutshell, this means it relies on a technology that is capable of delivering video of the highest quality and creating the best viewer experience possibleregardless of the internet connection, software, or device!

Just like HLS, MPEG-DASH uses standard HTTP web servers. This means that the cost and technical difficulty of implementation are lower than expected.

In addition to that, MPEG-DASH is an open-source standard, i.e. it isn’t controlled by any company. Its huge advantage is the fact it supports the following:

  • DRM
  • Lower-latency streaming
  • HTTP delivery

In the article on HTTP live streaming, we explained how this protocol works. So, it would be remiss of us not to do the same with MPEG-DASH.

How Does MPEG-DASH Work?

We’ve already mentioned that MPEG-DASH works on delivering the highest-quality video possible to customers. How does it do that? By following these steps:

  • Encoding and segmentation: The first step is for the origin server to divide the video file into smaller segments. Although segment duration is 10 seconds for HLS, it is only 2-4 seconds for MPEG-DASH. After segmentation, the said server creates an index file. Then, the segments are encoded which means the system formats them in a way that makes them suitable for various devices.
  • Delivery: The user finds a live video they want to watch. For that video to start playing, the encoded segments are sent to their device over the internet. Usually, a content delivery network is used to provide a more seamless streaming experience.
  • Decoding and playback: The user’s device decodes the received data and plays the video. Their video player automatically shows either a low- or high-quality picture based on the network conditions.

And that’s it!

This is how MPEG-DASH brings your live streams to your viewers’ devices. Now that we know this, it’s time we do a bit of a face-off. Here’s our HLS vs. MPEG-DASH comparison!

HLS vs. MPEG-DASH

Our HLS vs. MPEG-DASH comparison will answer some burning questions that are probably on your mind right now. We hope this will help you determine which protocol is more useful and suitable for your business.

Here we go!

Which One Is Widely Supported?

To provide the best experience to your viewers, you need to know which streaming protocol is widely supported across different platforms and devices.

Our table revealed that MPEG-DASH is codec-agnostic. This means that it can be used with any encoding format. Regardless of this, MPEG-DASH is not widely supported. For instance, the Safari browser does not support MPEG-DASH. Given that it is the default browser for Apple users, this is a major downside.

HLS, on the other hand, is supported on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and many other platforms. From this perspective, it’s obvious that HLS would be a better choice than MPEG-DASH.

Which Provides a Better Live Streaming Experience?

There’s nothing more frustrating for viewers than watching low-quality live streams. Most of them will probably abandon your video before the end if they find the broadcast unsatisfactory. A powerful streaming protocol ensures you deliver nothing but the best to your audience.

So, which protocol provides a better live streaming experience?

It’s a tie!

Both HLS and MPEG-DASH can deliver high-quality live streams. In this regard, there’s not much difference between the two.

MPEG-DASH used to lead as far as picture quality was concerned, but this has changed over the years. This protocol can deliver better quality at lower bitrates which many believe to be its biggest advantage. However, HLS supports H.265 (also known as HEVC). Compared to H.264, HEVC offers improved video quality at the same bitrate.

Where do MPEG-DASH and HLS stand when it comes to resolution? MPEG-DASH used to support higher video resolutions than HLS. But, in 2017, Apple updated its protocol, adding support for 4K video resolution. This means that there isn’t much difference here either.

So, in terms of live streaming quality, both protocols can deliver high-quality video.

Which Is More Reliable?

Both HLS and MPEG-DASH are adaptive bitrate protocols. The client device and server are able to automatically adjust video quality to the internet speed of the user. Therefore, the viewer receives the best-quality picture their connection can handle.

Because of this, both protocols are easy to implement, powerful, and stable. You can expect the same degree of reliability from MPEG-DASH and HLS.

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

As you’ve probably realized, there are some similarities between HLS and MPEG-DASH. They are both adaptive bitrate streaming protocols, can deliver high-quality streams, and are reliable.

However, there is one major advantage HLS has that MPEG-DASH doesn’t. And that’s compatibility. According to a research, Apple numbers over one billion active devices globally. This means that these users can’t play MPEG-DASH live streams unless they resort to third-party browsers. And you don’t want to lose such a large audience!

Therefore, after our HLS vs. MPEG-DASH comparison, we can confidently say that HLS is the best protocol to use for your videos and live streams. It is compatible with various devices and systems and has features that can provide a seamless experience.

Brid.TV supports high-speed HLS streaming! Not only that, but we also offer a feature-rich, powerful HTML5 player, reliable video platform, and extensive monetization options.

Use the benefits of a state-of-the-art platform and the HLS streaming protocol to grow your business!

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