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Streaming traffic: how it's delivered

Before we discuss settings, let’s take a quick look at how internet streaming works, with a simple metaphor.

Imagine that streaming is like package delivery. It is, actually, we even call the bits of information “packets”. But let’s go with this idea: your computer is the packing center for the stream that your viewers have ordered. The internet is the Highway that the delivery guys will take to get your stream to your viewers.

Your computer will pack up your stream into small packets and give it to the delivery guys (RTMP or FTL transports), who will take your stream to our Ingests, which then forward them to our distribution network, to send the stream to your viewers.

Ok, got the image?

Now here’s how things can get wonky.

 

The first and most consistently unpredictable problem is the Internet Highway itself. There are many paths that the packets can take to get to your viewers, and all of these paths are affected by different individuals. For example, you may have the best access ramp onto the Highway, with incredible upload speeds, but you share the Internet Highway with millions of others, and if there is a traffic jam, a redirect, or a closed road between you and your viewers, your package delivery may be delayed.

One way to mitigate the traffic problem is to send smaller packets, at a quicker pace. So, say a 1080p 30fps 3500 bitrate stream is a big fancy bus. It can deliver gorgeously fancy packets, but it might get held up if the cars around it refuse to merge nicely. A 720p 30fps 2800 bitrate stream would then be a sporty little sedan, and can move more deftly than the bus and get there sooner. Yes, the quality is going to be slightly less than the fancy bus, but for stream viewers that really don't like waiting, the minor quality loss might be worth it.

Incidentally, with this metaphor, our FTL transport is a motorcycle. It can only carry small packets, but it has very little problem getting to the viewers quickly in the bike lane! Bikes do feel every bump in the road, and so will your stream, if the navigation is iffy, but FTL is an experienced driver, with good error correction skills, so the quality change is minimal, and speed unaffected by these.

Another problem that you may face is that certain deliveries may be delayed or even stopped by the viewer's Internet Highway access, or by their residential gates. If the viewer's browser is out of date, or it's holding onto old information (cache & cookies) about how to get the packets to the viewer, they'll have problems with your stream. Add to this list: mobile or wifi gates, firewalls, java, operating systems... all things that can change without notice, or fall out of date unknowingly.

 

The moral of this story is that your stream is a delivery service, and your viewers are your customers. Because we play a critical part in the delivery of your stream, we spend countless hours optimizing for the highest quality delivery with the fastest speed possible. There are many other things that may affect delivery, and the system is only as strong as it's weakest point. But we're happy to help you find the best path for your stream, to give your viewers the quality and speed they need.

If you need help tweaking your settings to find that balance, check out this article [coming soon].

If this still confuses you, drop us a line at mixer.com/contact, our support team would be delighted to help you find a good middle ground.

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