Following my previous post about companies using the WebRTC data channel I started doing some in-depth interviews with a few of them. This is the first interview done with Petar Bojkov, COO of Viblast.
Can you tell us what your company is all about and what makes it stick out of the crowd of WebRTC start-ups?
Viblast is providing scalable video streaming solutions. Our software platform addresses the unique challenges of broadcasters and over-the-top (OTT) video content providers to reliably deliver high quality video to an ever-growing number of broadband viewers worldwide. Viblast’s groundbreaking functionality relies on the principle of a peer-assisted Content Delivery Network (CDN), where content is delivered to end-viewers using a traditional CDN model improved by the addition of a peer-to-peer (P2P) layer between users.
Our solution uses WebRTC’s data channel to exchange video/audio data chunks between users. While the prevalent uses of WebRTC we’ve seen so far have been centered around making video calls, Viblast tackles a larger scale problem which is poised to grow in parallel with the exponential demand for video streaming.
The data channel is one of the more interesting capabilities of WebRTC with boundless innovation opportunities. How are you innovating with it?
Theoretically, the data channel has unlimited potential. However, current implementations usually assume that the data channel will be used for small amounts of data. As Viblast is one of the few companies using the data channel to transfer more than simple text messages between users, we were one of the first developers that tried to pass big chunks of data between peers.
Of course, being off the beaten track is very interesting and challenging. We had to solve some unique challenges, the answers to which cannot be found with a simple web search. We also had to implement various workarounds such as limiting the amount of data we are sending in one message.
While there are many start-ups dealing with WebRTC not many of them are looking at the data channel. Do you think there is any special reason for that?
The core idea behind WebRTC is to provide a real time communications stack for the web and as such, most startups tend to focus on this space, building one video calling app after another. Since video calling does not require a data channel to work, it gets largely ignored. Such a pity, since there are many interesting use cases of the data channel that would solve real world problems.
An example would be Viblast as a peer augmented CDN using the data channel for peers to communicate, another interesting use is direct file sharing between browsers and yet another one would be a distributed web without servers. The list goes on and I expect that once the initial hype with video calling starts to fade, we will see more and more of these use cases taking advantage of WebRTC’s data channel.
Lately there has been a lot of buzz around net neutrality and the FCC actions in this regards. In addition to that there are announcements about Netflix relationship with Comcast and Verizon, while on the other hand there are rumors about Netflix looking at P2P technology to save on bandwidth and cost. Can your company provide remedy to this issue and does Net Neutrality impact your solution?
The recent Netflix – Comcast deal and the surrounding net neutrality debate is an interesting issue when considered in the context of Viblast as Viblast’s technology has a potential impact on both. As it currently stands, Netflix streams directly to their subscribers, each subscriber consuming gigabytes upon gigabytes of data, which are delivered by Netflix’s own infrastructure and Amazon Web Services. With the planned move to Ultra HD (4K), these numbers are set to grow in the coming years. Streaming to millions of users is an expensive proposition and the recent Netflix – Comcast peering agreement only compounds the total cost for Netflix.
Are there any customers already using it? Can you name a few?
Although a young company offering an innovative and yet market unproven solution, interest for our product has been strong and the company is making strides. Viblast is running pilots for a few TV stations, including a national TV channel and a couple of OTT video providers.
What’s next for your company?
Obtaining a patent for our technology, opening an office in North America and aggressively expanding our customer base once Viblast’s technology becomes more mainstream.