What is the HLS Streaming Protocol? What are the main benefits of the HLS Video Streaming Protocol?

This article explains the HLS streaming protocol and highlights its key benefits for video streaming, such as adaptive bitrate streaming, compatibility with multiple devices, and improved viewer experience.

By Keira Manifold

December 30th, 2022

There were days when delivering video via the internet was majorly done by Adobe’s Flash video technology. However, in recent years we all have witnessed a major shift in the world of online video. That is why the preference to deliver streaming video has been moved to HLS streaming protocol and online videos are played by HTML5 video players thus replacing Adobe’s Flash protocol. 

HLS Streaming Protocol has a drastically positive impact on both broadcasters and viewers. As HLS and HTML5 are open specifications. Hence, users can modify them according to their specifications. Furthermore, anyone can access them without any charges. It is free of cost. With new upgrades of HTML5 and HLS streaming protocol, these technologies are safer, faster, and more reliable than older technologies. These technologies are a preferred way to deliver streaming video to users.

What is HLS?

HLS is a short form of HTTP Live Streaming. It is a media streaming protocol to deliver visual and audio media over the internet to the viewers. HLS is used for both live streaming and on-demand streaming.

How does HLS work?

HLS is compatible with the largest number of devices and browsers. It works in simple 4 steps:

  1. Content has been captured by capturing devices such as cameras, microphones, etc. 

  2. Capturing devices sent the content to a live video encoder.

  3. The encoder transmits the content to the video hosting platform via RTMP.

  4. The video hosting platform uses HLS ingest to transmit the content to an HTML5 video player.

This whole process depends mainly on two software solutions which are HLS encoder and a powerful video hosting platform. If you want to stream with HLS, your both software should support the protocols and above-shared functionalities.

Key Benefits of HLS Streaming

HLS Streaming offers great impactful benefits for both professional broadcasters and newcomers to the live and on-demand video content world alike. Let’s look at the main 3 key benefits of HLS Streaming.

  1. Devices and Browsers Compatibility

  2. Ensures Quality

  3. Embedded Closed Captions

1. Devices and Browsers Compatibility

HLS protocol is compatible with a wide range of devices and firewalls. Whereas, lag time (latency) is likely to be in the 15-30 seconds range with HLS live streams.  Luckily, a low latency streaming feature is also offered. HLS is a nearly universal protocol.

HLS is supported by the following devices and browsers:

  • All Google Chrome browsers

  • Safari

  • Microsoft Edge

  • iOS devices

  • Android devices 

  • Linux devices

  • Microsoft devices

  • macOS platforms 

2. Ensures Quality

HLS video streaming allows the content creators to encode the same live stream at multiple quality settings. Though, viewers can request the best option available, given their specific bandwidth at any given moment. We can say that the quality of the data can differ from chunk to chunk to fit different streaming device capabilities.

Let’s look at an example, we assume you are sending a full high-definition video in one moment. However, a few moments later, a mobile user encounters a “dead zone” in which their quality of service declines. Amazingly, with HLS streaming it doesn’t stop working.  The player will detect this decline in bandwidth and instead deliver lower-quality movie chunks at this time.

3. Embedded Closed Captions

HLS supports closed captions embedded in the video stream. In order to embed the captions with HLS output, you must include captions language information in the manifest. With the integration to closed captioning into streaming video, you can make your online content accessible to a broader audience. You can ingest caption data from multiple in-stream and file-based sources and convert it to the appropriate format.

You can further learn about the technical aspects of HLS through extensive documentation and best practices provided by Apple.

Final Verdict

HLS Streaming is the choice of broadcaster due to its notable advantages that include embedded closed captions, good advertising standards support, synchronized playback of multiple streams, DRM support, and more. According to Video Streaming Latency Report, 45% of broadcasters are using HLS streaming. RTMP came in as the second choice of the broadcaster with 33%. And only 7% of broadcasters are using MPEG-DASH, trailing behind even further. Hence, HLS streaming is the most up-to-date and widely used protocol for media streaming. 

Vodlix is one of the best choices when it comes to OTT/ VOD platforms. It offers Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) Streaming which means it defeats buffering by Vodlix’s advanced ABR technology. Deliver over any network and adjust content quality on the fly in line with each user’s bandwidth. Vodlix supports both RTMP and HLS feeds for Live Streaming services. Vodlix Video Player will embed the feed and play it back to the viewers in no time without losing a single frame. You can give your viewers a seamless experience across all platforms, browsers, and devices as Vodlix ensures high-quality streaming and the best user experience anywhere.