This article is part 9 of the "21 Thoughts on Video Streaming in 2021"-series.

Phil Cluff's (Product Lead at Mux and self-proclaimed video nerd) 2021 thought is about how the lines could start to blur for live streaming infrastructure. Keep reading to get 1) context and 2) my take.

2020 was a challenging and stressful year for everyone, but for many in the video industry it was challenging for different reasons. 2020 brought a year of explosive growth into the sector with customers and prospects experiencing a sudden, unplanned swing into live streaming video. Professors, gym instructors, standup comedians, yoga teachers, politicians, and F1 drivers were all suddenly live streaming super stars.

As customers were scrabbling to build out platforms for all these new services, and platforms scaled infrastructure, one thing became increasingly clear - the lines between real-time and broadcast video are becoming increasingly blurred. Consumers of video APIs and services don't want to care about the underlying technologies that back them, and in a year where LL-HLS finally became a reality, what does this mean for the ecosystem in 2021?

My prediction for 2021 is that we'll start to see more of the industry offering hybrid experiences which are capable of transitioning between traditional technologies like HLS and DASH, to their low-latency variants, **but also** onto real-time infrastructure, such as WebRTC, much more dynamically, and seamlessly than is possible today. This is not only to allow for a larger range of target latencies and use cases, but also to protect infrastructure and manage costs for unpredictable live streaming workloads.


HLS and DASH are adaptive video streams. Adaptive means: if you're internet is good/bad, then your visual video quality is good/bad. LL-HLS is an extension to HLS which makes it possible to reduce its latency beyond what was previously possible. (Meaning: the live stream you're watching is closer to the actual live point.)

WebRTC is a different type of stream. (Wowza compares LL-HLS versus WebRTC if you want to explore this topic!)

My take

Consumers don't care about the tech; the product just needs to work well. And, as an app developer: the less complexity, the better. A good API is a simple API.

What Phil's hoping for is quite ambitious though, but I think I get the vision.

  • As an app developer, you shouldn't have to care about HLS, WebRTC, or any of the boring stuff.
  • Instead, as an app developer, embedding a video should be as simple as embedding an image, and your "video streaming stack" should decide what to show – and care about the boring stuff.

Let's hope we get there one day. 🙏