RTMP vs HTTP Live Streaming: A Comparison Guide 

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What is HTTP Live Streaming?  

HTTP Live Streaming is a powerful method for delivering low-latency video content to diverse audiences across various devices and geographical locations. It incorporates adaptive bitrate streaming, a feature that optimizes video quality according to the viewer’s network bandwidth. As a leading CPaaS Platform, EnableX provides both RTMP and HLS protocols to its users. You can learn about our HTTP Live Streaming solutions here. Note that HTTP Live Streaming is also popularly referred to as HLS or HLS streaming.

This technology proves highly valuable for hosting live video streaming use cases such as webinars, conferences, and meetings. By integrating a web-based video user interface, you can customize the viewing experience for your audience, ensuring seamless playback on a range of devices. For further insights, please refer to additional resources on HTTP Live Streaming. 

How does HTTP Live Streaming work?

Video streaming operates by sending compressed video data over the internet to a viewer’s device. In the case of HTTP Live Streaming a linked Video UI is designed to automatically connect to the video room, establishing an HTTP Live Stream using the same view. Once the Stream is prepared, endpoints are provided with an HTTP Live Stream URL for playback in an HTTP Player. This technology enables adaptive bitrate streaming, ensuring that the video quality adapts to the available network bandwidth at the receiving end to deliver the best possible viewing experience. 

Benefits of using HTTP Live Streaming for Providers 

  • Wide Compatibility: HTTP is supported by a vast array of devices, operating systems, and web browsers. This broad compatibility ensures that content providers can reach a large and diverse audience without the need for complex device-specific encoding or streaming solutions. 
  • Adaptive Bitrate Streaming: It supports adaptive bitrate streaming, allowing providers to deliver video content at multiple quality levels (bitrates and resolutions). This ensures a seamless viewing experience for users, regardless of their internet connection speed or device capabilities. 
  • Live Streaming with Low Latency: It is ideal for live streaming events, offering low-latency options and adaptive streaming for real-time interactions with viewers 
  • Efficient Content Delivery: It divides video content into smaller, downloadable segments and serves them over standard HTTP. This approach enhances content delivery efficiency, as it leverages existing web infrastructure, content delivery networks (CDNs), and caching mechanisms. 
  • Security: HTTP supports encryption and digital rights management (DRM), providing content providers with the tools needed to protect copyrighted content and ensure that only authorized users can access and view the streams. 
  • Analytics and Monitoring: It offers analytics and monitoring tools that enable content providers to track viewer engagement, diagnose streaming issues, and optimize their content delivery strategies based on user behaviour and preferences. 
  • Error Recovery: It includes mechanisms for error recovery. If a segment of video is lost or corrupted during transmission, the player can request the missing segment again, minimizing playback interruptions and providing a more reliable streaming experience. 
  • Global Reach: It is suitable for live streaming events, allowing content providers to reach a global audience with minimal latency and high-quality streams. This is especially important for live sports broadcasts, concerts, and other real-time events. 
  • Cost-Effective: By using standard HTTP servers and CDNs, content providers can reduce infrastructure costs associated with content delivery. HTTP Live Streaming leverages existing web technologies, making it a cost-effective streaming solution. 
  • Ease of Integration: HTTP is well-documented and widely adopted across the industry. This simplifies integration with streaming platforms, content management systems (CMS), and third-party services, reducing development time and costs. 
  • Content Monetization: Content providers can monetize their streams through advertising, pay-per-view models, or subscription-based services, and HTTP supports these revenue-generation methods. 

Benefits of HTTP Live Streaming for End Users 

  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: HTTP is widely supported across various devices, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, desktop computers, and gaming consoles. This ensures that users can access HTTP streams on their preferred devices without compatibility issues. 
  • High-Quality Streaming: HTTP can deliver high-quality video streams, including support for HD and 4K resolutions. Users can enjoy crisp, clear visuals and immersive audio, enhancing their overall viewing experience. If a segment experience buffering or interruptions, the player can seamlessly switch to a different quality level or fetch a different segment, minimizing playback disruptions. 
  • Pause and Rewind Live Streams: HTTP allows users to pause and rewind live streams, providing flexibility and control over their viewing experience. This feature is especially useful for live events or broadcasts. 
  • User-Friendly Interface: It offers user-friendly interfaces with features like closed captions, subtitles, and easy-to-navigate controls, enhancing accessibility for a wider audience. Interactive features such as live chat, polls, and comments are often integrated into the HTTP platform, enabling users to engage with content creators and fellow viewers in real time. 
  • Multi-Device Streaming: It supports multi-device streaming, allowing users to seamlessly switch between devices while watching a stream without losing their place or progress. 
  • Accessibility: HTTP offers accessibility features, such as closed captions, audio descriptions, and screen reader compatibility, making video content more inclusive for individuals with disabilities. 

What is RTMP Streaming?  

RTMP, or Real-Time Messaging Protocol, is a streaming protocol that allows for live video and audio to be transmitted over the internet. It was originally developed by Adobe for use with Flash Player, but it is now widely supported by many other streaming platforms and devices. RTMP streaming works by sending a continuous stream of data from the encoder to the server. The server then distributes the stream to viewers in real time. RTMP streaming is designed to be low latency, meaning that viewers can see and hear the stream with very little delay. 

How is HTTP Live Streaming different from RTMP?  

RTMP HTTP Live Streaming 
While RTMP is often praised for its low latency, it can introduce significant delays when utilized with popular public content delivery platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. In certain instances, this delay can extend to as much as 30 seconds or more, particularly on platforms like YouTube where sub-10-second latency isn’t guaranteed. HTTP Live Streaming is renowned for offering a more immediate streaming experience, achieving latencies as brief as 2-3 seconds. Latency, denoting the lag in video streaming, stands as a critical element in sustaining user engagement. While many services claim to offer low latency, HTTP distinguishes itself by delivering an experience closer to real-time. As such, it becomes the preferred choice for interactive applications where minimizing latency is paramount.  

Is HTTP Live Streaming better than RTMP? 

When confronted with the decision between HTTP and RTMP streaming servers, the choice hinges on specific needs and prerequisites. 

HTTP Live Streaming stands out as a widely embraced adaptive bitrate streaming protocol compatible with most contemporary devices and platforms. It divides video content into compact segments, delivering them via HTTP. This approach facilitates efficient distribution and playback across diverse networks and devices. Notably, HTTP shines in the realm of live streaming events, dynamically adjusting video quality in response to available bandwidth. This adaptability guarantees a seamless and uninterrupted viewing experience for the audience. 

On the other hand, RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) represents an older streaming protocol primarily employed for live video streaming. It leans on a dedicated media server for dissemination and boasts support for various codecs and formats. HTTP excels in offering reduced latency and superior video quality when compared to RTMP. As such, it emerges as the preferred choice for applications necessitating real-time interaction or the delivery of high-fidelity videos, such as online gaming or sports broadcasting. 

HTTP Live Streaming vs RTMP Streaming: Use Cases 

HTTP and RTMP are the two most popular protocols for streaming media content over the internet.  

HTTP Live Streaming is an adaptive bitrate streaming protocol that delivers media content in a series of short segments. This makes it ideal for streaming over unpredictable networks, such as the internet, as it allows the player to dynamically adjust the bitrate of the stream based on the available bandwidth. HTTP is also widely supported by all major browsers and devices, making it a good choice for delivering content to a broad audience. 

Some specific use cases for HTTP include: 

  • Streaming video on demand (VOD) content 
  • Streaming live video events 
  • Streaming video to mobile devices 
  • Streaming video to smart TVs and other connected devices 

RTMP is a real-time streaming protocol that is typically used to deliver live video streams. It offers low latency, which makes it ideal for applications such as live gaming and broadcasting. However, RTMP is not as widely supported as HTTP, and it is not compatible with all devices. 

Some specific use cases for RTMP include: 

  • Live streaming video games 
  • Live streaming sporting events 
  • Live streaming webinars and conferences 
  • Live streaming corporate events 

Which Protocol Should You Use? 

The best protocol for you will depend on your specific needs. If you need to deliver video content to a broad audience and latency is not a critical factor, then HTTP Live Streaming is the best choice. If you need to deliver live video streams with low latency, then RTMP is the best choice. 

In many cases, the best approach is to use RTMP for ingesting live video streams and HTTP for delivering the streams to viewers. This allows you to take advantage of the low latency of RTMP for live streaming while also delivering your streams to a broad audience using HTTP. 


HTTP Live Streaming and RTMP are the two most popular protocols for streaming media content over the internet. HTTP is the best choice for delivering video content to a broad audience, while RTMP is the best choice for delivering live video streams. In many cases, the best approach is to use RTMP for ingesting live video streams and HTTP for delivering the streams to viewers. 

Note that HTTP Live Streaming is more technically sophisticated to deliver, and very few CPaaS globally offer it as an option. With EnableX, you can choose the best choice for you between RTMP and HTTP Live Streaming to get the outcomes you need.

If you are looking for a best in class HTTP Live Streaming (HLS solution) click here to start a free trial and build your solution today!

To learn more:

Read Apple’s description of HTTP live streaming here.

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