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StreamRoot, Viblast, Pipe and Mera Showcase Data Channel Solution at WebRTC Paris

WebRTC is mainly viewed as a technology for voice and video. Many think highly of the opportunity the data channel presents but only a few use it for services that are not related with voice and video collaboration.

Given the capability of WebRTC to enable browser-to-browser communication it can be used for peer-assisted content delivery saving content owner bandwidth cost, increasing scalability and service quality.

StreamRoot, Viblast, Pipe and Mera will showcase their recent realizations during a start-up demo session at the WebRTC Paris conference.

Pipes at Pompidou Paris

Let’s look a bit into what these companies and demos comprise.

French start up StreamRoot was founded in 2013 At the edge of HTML5 adaptive streaming technology, StreamRoot created the first MPEG-DASH peer-assisted video player working for both Live and Video on Demand streaming, and have since expanded its expertise to other adaptive streaming formats and platforms.

Bulgarian start-up Viblast has added to its live video streaming platform a support for much requested adaptive bitrate streaming.

This functionality works in two ways:

– Automatic, where the platform offers the highest bitrate (stream quality) possible based on each viewer’s bandwidth (and adjusts it as it fluctuates during playback) and screen size,

– Manual, which allows viewers to select the bitrate themselves through a designated control in the Viblast player.

Pipe, a Berlin based startup brought the latest WebRTC technology to its peer-to-peer file transfer service on Facebook. The Pipe app allows people on Facebook to connect by sending and receiving files up to 1 GB in a way that is simple, fast, private and secure. No one else can access the file because it’s a transfer directly between two friends: just pick a friend and drop a file into the Pipe. Pipe is among the first to integrate WebRTC within a consumer app.

Mera engineers have done a pilot project leveraging the capabilities of data channel for MSRP-based transfer of text messages and files. With this practical knowledge and results MERA plan commercial outsourced development around WebRTC. Mera is a Russian company.

Visit the conference website for more information about the Data Channel training, lectures and demos.

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Exploiting WebRTC Data Channel Potential: Interview with Viblast

Petar BojkovFollowing 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?

Petar Bojkov:

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.

Viblast-Solutionn-Diagram

The data channel is one of the more interesting capabilities of WebRTC with boundless innovation opportunities. How are you innovating with it?

Petar Bojkov:

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?

Petar Bojkov:

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?

Petar Bojkov:

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?

Petar Bojkov:

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?

Petar Bojkov:

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.

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The non-Telecom Side of WebRTC Data Channel

Connected Data Peers in WebRTCGet rid off servers, save bandwidth! Easy to say, hard to realize. Swarmify, Viblast, Peer5, StreamRoot and Pipe focus their efforts on data transmission of video images and/or file transfer. These innovative start-ups have begun to launch their commercial products in 2014. Their forceful argument? WebRTC data channel uses peers to send data, creating opportunities for innovation and lower cost content distribution without the need for a browser plug-in.

Data channel gets ignored: Such a pity

There are more and more companies dealing with WebRTC but not many of them are looking at the data channel. Many of those who are using it are looking at it as an add-on to voice and video communications services. This is mainly because early adopters of WebRTC are coming mainly from the VoIP and telecom market. Many try to force it into their existing approaches instead of creating new services with it. Some have taken WebRTC to new domains and utilized only the benefits of its data channel part:

  • Peer-to-Peer communication
  • Zero download of plug-ins
  • Secured/encrypted communication

“WebRTC data channels has given developers new possibilities to interact on the web, and we think the biggest innovations will come from this area as WebRTC will become more mainstream” explains Nikolay Rodionov, co-founder of StreamRoot, a French startup providing peer-to-peer video distribution service. The start-up has three pilot customers (France Television, Orange, L’equipe) and claims to reduce bandwidth cost by 50% to 90% thanks to its video streaming technology and adaptive bitrate streaming tool. “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” says Peter Bojkov, COO of Viblast, a Bulgarian start-up providing scalable video streaming solutions.

Not only video streaming

Other startups are using the WebRTC data channel for a wider set of content distribution use cases. Swarmify recently launched their first commercially available service utilizing WebRTC to distribute website video and images. Pricing plans span from free to paid Enterprise grade options. “Free plans allow users to test Swarmify. It allows them to understand Simultaneous Connections and how this number can reduce their content distribution costs by using our service. Many customers are saving 50% to 75%“ stated Jesse Delia, Swarmify Partner. Peer5, a Palo Alto start-up, redesigned its platform so it would be useful for many use cases, not only video streaming, but also audio, games, image delivery and file transfer.
The new peer5 downloader is now out in beta. “Why are we doing all of this? Many developers had asked us to help them deliver their web apps, but unfortunately our solution was only for video.
Video is cool, but there are so many other varieties of media, and we wanted to provide a more inclusive and generic web peer-to-peer platform.
Our service is helpful in scenarios that require high bandwidth and great performance, and now it’s as encompassing as ever” explains Hadar Weiss, Peer5 Co-Founder and CTO. Pipe, a Berlin­based startup has brought the latest WebRTC technology to its peer­to­peer file transfer service on Facebook. The Pipe app allows people on Facebook to connect by sending and receiving files up to 1 GB in a way that is simple, fast, private and secure. According to Simon Hossell, Founder & CEO of Pipe. “This is ground­breaking technology, essentially re­wiring the Internet. WebRTC allows us to connect and communicate directly with each other through the computer browser ­ peer­to­peer ­ instead of exchanging data with remote third-party web servers.” Pipe was first made available on Facebook in June 2013, based on Adobe Flash. The new Pipe app has been completely rebuilt using JavaScript and integrating WebRTC, instead of Flash. This was also an opportunity to simplify the user experience and make the app more robust and reliable.

CDNs and content owners are moving to Peer-to-Peer

CDN service providers and content owners are bearing increasing cost as video becomes more and more pervasive. Some such as Netflix are already making their way towards this direction. WebRTC data channel can be a solution for this need; companies in this space create a network of peers that off-load the servers when possible and save significant cost. What is your experience with WebRTC data channel? Let us know in the comments below or contact us.

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