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What Is RTMP: The Streaming Protocol You Need to Know About

What Is RTMP?

Online video streaming is taking over the world! Recent studies revealed that consumers spend almost 92 minutes per day watching online video. Live video, in particular, is being favored by internet users. In fact, live content earns 27% more minutes of watch time per viewing compared to video on demand.

With live video streaming, you never know what will happen. But, you do know one thing: if you don’t tune in to the broadcast, you’ll miss it entirely. This is exactly what attracts viewers. 

There is suspense, fear of missing out (FOMO), and instantaneousness. All three are excellent ingredients that are responsible for the massive popularity of live video. If you combine them with smartphones and social media, your brand will be a step away from fighting off competition.

But you can’t shine and stand out without supporting technology. Luckily, online video streaming technology has developed over the years. With viewers expecting live videos, publishers and content creators want to avoid poor video streaming that includes unnecessary buffering and low video quality. Advanced solutions can help them with this.

Learn more about streaming protocols that are available in the industry here.

RTMP has been a solution for brands during the live streaming process for years now. But, what is RTMP? You will find the answer to this question and more in our article.

Let’s dive into one of the oldest streaming protocols on the market!

The Evolution of RTMP

When the world was introduced to streaming, Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) was the go-to standard for delivering video over the internet.

Originally developed by Macromedia, Adobe acquired the company, including the rights to RTMP, back in 2005. The protocol’s main function became to bring content to the Flash Player. As this popular plugin powered 98% of internet browsers, RTMP had a crucial role. In fact, RTMP streaming was once the most popular streaming system. However, it had a major flaw: it wasn’t supported on most mobile devices.

In fact, Apple decided not to allow Adobe’s Flash technology on its devices in 2010. Steve Jobs even published an open letter criticizing the company’s plugin for rapid energy consumption, poor performance on mobile phones, computer crashes, and abysmal security

As the use of iPhones and other mobile devices increased, the fact that RTMP wasn’t compatible with them became a serious problem. Publishers and content creators were aware that they weren’t catering for a larger audience base because their content wasn’t accessible to smartphone users.

For this reason, Apple developed HTTP live streaming (or HLS protocol) which is compatible with a HTML5 video player. Over the years, HLS became a superior standard for live streaming delivery, largely replacing RTMP.

Regardless of this, RTMP still has a place in the industry. But it remains to be seen for how long as Adobe stopped supporting Flash Player.

Now that we know this, let’s answer your main question. What is RTMP?

Have you heard about RTSP? Want to know how it differs from RTMP? Then check out this article!

What Is RTMP?

As you know by now, RTMP stands for Real-Time Messaging Protocol. This technology was developed for a high-performance transmission of video, audio, and data between a server and Flash Player. Although once proprietary, RTMP is now an open specification.

What’s more, RTMP can also be used to transmit video between an encoder and a server. This is known as first-mile delivery. Perhaps publishers and content creators will continue to leverage RTMP for this now that Adobe Flash Player is no longer available.

Additionally, RTMP is a TCP-based protocol and it works to maintain persistent and low-latency connections. This is a huge plus as it delivers smooth streaming experiences. The protocol relies on a continuous TCP connection to stream fragments of video and audio data from a source to a specific destination.

Although you can still use RTMP for first-mile delivery, we wouldn’t recommend it as the protocol is no longer supported on many endpoints. Nevertheless, content creators still use many RTMP encoders. In fact, according to a 2019 report, 33% of respondents used this protocol. We expect they will change their habits in the near future and choose other, widely used adaptive bitrate streaming protocols like MPEG-DASH.

You’re probably wondering how Real-Time Messaging Protocol works. Let’s check it out.

How Does RTMP Work?

Real-Time Messaging Protocol ensures a smooth and high-performance transmission of audio and video data on the internet. It relies on three distinct parts to make this happen:

  • The Handshake
  • The Connection
  • The Stream

We’ll delve deeper into each process.

Need a live streaming platform for your business? We compared some of the best platforms in this article.

The Handshake

Firstly, RTMP establishes a TCP connection to begin the delivery of data. After that, it performs a handshake by exchanging three chunks of data between the client and the server. The first process goes like this:

  • The first chunk of data reveals to the server which protocol version is being used.
  • Even before getting a response, the client sends another chunk which includes a timestamp.
  • The server confirms it has received the two chunks.
  • After this, the client delivers the third chunk.
  • Once this exchange is completed, the second process (the connection) can begin.

The Connection

At this stage, the client and server exchange encoded messages to negotiate a connection. Basically, the client sends a connect request and waits for the server to respond with the appropriate encoded message.

This marks the end of the connection process.

The Stream

After the server responds to the connect request, the client can begin with the real-time streaming of video or audio data by sending three messages:

  • createStream
  • Ping
  • Play

And just like that, the RTMP specification helps you deliver content to your viewers’ video players.

Codecs and Playback Compatibility

While we’re on the subject of Real-Time Messaging Protocol, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention which codecs it supports and its playback compatibility. We believe this information will be beneficial for you, especially if you want to invest in an RTMP encoder.

Supported Audio Codecs

  • AAC
  • AAC-LC
  • HE-AAC+ v1 & v2
  • MP3
  • Speex
  • Opus
  • Vorbis

Want to discover the best audio codec for online video and live streaming? We’re here to help you! Check out this article that will reveal more.

Supported Video Codecs

  • H.265
  • H.264
  • VP9
  • VP8

Choosing the best video codec is also vital in the live streaming industry.

Playback Compatibility

  • Not widely supported
  • Quicktime Player
  • VideoLAN VLC Media Player
  • 3GPP-Compatible Devices

Closing Thoughts

In the past, publishers and content creators couldn’t have imagined live streaming without RTMP. However, it is time for this protocol to step aside so that more advanced solutions can take its place.

One of those solutions is certainly HLS. This protocol is compatible with most browsers and devices. Not only that, but it is also used in HTML5 players. With HLS, your viewers receive high video quality and excellent user experience.

At Brid.TV, we use HLS to help publishers and content creators deliver online videos and live streams to viewers. Our video platform supports video and streaming content, offering an advanced solution that will improve user experience. With Brid.TV, publishers have a wide range of monetization options at their disposal as well.

Host, manage, and monetize your content with Brid.TV today!