Choosing a video streaming API is a huge undertaking for professional broadcasters. It is one of the most important decision points to make and can be especially daunting for those who want maximum customization capabilities when it comes to optimizing the player in their online video platform.
The API you choose to integrate with your video player will influence your final outcome in many ways. Your API will be woven deeply into almost every line of your code. As a result, the features of this underlying technology determine your ability to customize your video player.
Today, we’re going to break down the process of choosing an API for video streaming so that you are equipped with the knowledge and know-how you need to make the best choice.
We will cover how to compare API features, how to determine which features you need and the built-in video APIs of several major video hosting platforms.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents:
- What is an API?
- Player API vs. Live Video Streaming API
- 8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Video Streaming API
- Comparing Live Streaming API Providers
- Conclusion: Which API Provider Will You Choose?
What is an API?
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a standardized language that allows you to customize the software. In the case of professional streaming, your API will give you the power to further customize preset features in your online video platform (OVP).
Since it allows computer programs to communicate with one another, your API integrates with your code and allows you to mesh the features of your OVP with external applications.
APIs come in a few different forms:
Which APIs you use will depend on what you are trying to accomplish. You’ll use an API to create the video player that aligns with your live streaming goals.
Player API vs. Live Video Streaming API
In addition, there are other less common APIs as well. For example, some platforms have separate APIs for analytics, user tracking, thumbnail manipulation, and so on.
What is Player API?
As the name suggests, Player APIs focus on the video player itself. More concretely, these APIs allow users to customize the appearance and features of the default video player.
For a live streaming platform, users can customize the built-in video player to:
- Add or remove buttons for sharing, sound controls, HD toggle, etc.
- Customize auto-play behavior
- Show or hide the number of current viewers
- Embed logo and branding
- Change the player size to a specific width or to a dynamic size based on a given device
- Insert advertisements or station breaks dynamically into a live stream (monetization)
- Switch between multiple live feeds (for example, different camera angles on the same event) from one player window
- Use a complete third-party video player (learn more about 3rd party video players here)
In short, a player API enables you to customize your HTML5 video player.
What is Live Video Streaming API?
A live video streaming API is a more powerful API. This is designed to integrate with the backend of a live streaming platform.
Overall, this API allows you to manipulate your live streams programmatically.
Some of the functions that are generally accessible via a live video streaming API include:
- Creating a new live stream
- Starting or stopping a stream
- Changing the stream name and description
- Changing settings for privacy and monetization
- Renaming and manipulating recorded live streams
To conclude: a live video streaming API allows you to control your live stream.
8 Questions to Ask When Choosing A Video Streaming API
Projects and priorities change, but choosing a live video streaming API is typically a long-term decision.
The API code for your live video hosting service will be integrated throughout your platform. It’s definitely possible to switch providers later, but it’s generally a big hassle. Your best bet is choosing the right API the first time around.
Here are eight questions to ask yourself to determine which video API will best suit your needs:
- What features do I need?
- Is there comprehensive documentation?
- What data formats does the API use?
- Do the naming conventions make sense to me?
- Does the API have limits on requests?
- What programming languages does the chosen API support?
- Is there a support system and community forum for this API?
- Is the Live Streaming API RESTful?
We’ve broken down each point to provide further guidance on your quest to choose the best video API. Let’s dive in.
1. What features do I need?
Most APIs contain the same basic features. However, each platform has its own “twist.” As a result, determining which is best for you depends on how each given API works with your goals.
Some APIs may deliver features that you consider obsolete. On the other hand, another organization might consider that feature to be essential. Your perspective on these features may change over time as your goals and needs evolve.
Make a list of which features are critical for you and which would be ideal to have but are not essential. You can assess your live video streaming API choices based on your desired features.
2. Is there comprehensive documentation?
Using a new API is similar to learning a new language. It’s hard to pick up the skill without formal resources. Of course, you can muddle your way through after some experimentation, but you’ll learn a lot faster by hitting the books.
In API terms, this means you should look for comprehensive documentation from the provider. These should explain what the calls are and give examples of usage.
Ideally, documentation should also provide a sandboxed testing environment. This allows you to test out commands without fear of messing things up.
3. What data formats does the API use?
Simply put, JSON is a better alternative all around.
Some APIs return data in other formats, such as in the form of URL encoded strings.
Before choosing a platform, check which data formats it uses. Will these integrate well into your existing video hosting platform? Are your developers comfortable with these choices? Are they simple?
If not, you may want to keep looking. Otherwise, you may end up spending more time than desired interpreting results and parsing code.
4. Do the naming conventions make sense to me?
It is important to note that each API uses a different naming convention to describe and interact with discrete parts of the system.
Before investing in an API, take a look at the parameter and method names it uses. Do they make sense? Do they match your sense of style in coding? If so, it’ll simplify the process of writing and interpreting code.
As proposed by Marcos Galperin, naming conventions can throw a wrench in things if they don’t make sense to you.
“Some API providers today try to be clever and require the usage of custom headers and HTTP verbs that are not trivial to program against. That might be right up your alley, or might be a pain in the ass, depending on your point of view.”
5. Does the API have limits on requests?
One concern with APIs—especially public-facing APIs—are Denial-of-service attacks (DDOS), or spamming the system.
For a variety of reasons, a flood of requests can overload the servers and slow things down for other users. This could be intentional, or simply the result of bad code.
To avoid excessive usage, many APIs use a threshold system. This limits the number of requests per API key or IP address per day.
These limits make sense from a provider’s perspective. However, as a client, you don’t want to be surprised by limits like this. Take the time to investigate if API limits exist on a given platform. If so, will your application fit underneath that headroom? If not, can you get an exception?
Keep these questions in mind when selecting a platform to help prevent future problems.
6. What programming languages does the chosen API support?
APIs are agnostic when it comes to programming languages, but that doesn’t mean language is irrelevant.
Many APIs include mobile SDKs and sample code that are written in and for specific languages. By using these same languages, you can save a lot of time.
In addition, you can prevent bugs by recycling some of that sample code into production use. This saves money, speeds up development, and results in a better product at the end.
7. Is there a support system and community forum for this API?
Technical support is essential when working with any sort of complex software. Pay attention to the support and resources that are available with your chosen API.
Any complex system like an API may have bugs. Things can and will go wrong occasionally since there are so many working parts. Errors in your code or in the system itself can cause things to grind to a halt.
Most APIs are extremely robust. However, with a quality customer support platform, you can quickly fix problems that do occur.
Do the platforms you are considering have robust technical support? Do they offer support communities to share issues and best practices with others who are using the same Live Video Streaming API?
These considerations may swing your preference towards one live video streaming API over another.
8. Is the Live Streaming API RESTful?
REST is an abbreviation for “representational state transfer.” This is an architectural style for web communication. REST is a standardized approach that uses components, connectors, and data elements in a distributed hypermedia system. The entire internet uses REST, but it’s also been adapted for APIs.
A RESTful API is fast, scalable, simple, and reliable. It’s also predictable. Not all APIs stick to the REST standard, but it’s the most popular style today. We recommend you look for a RESTful API over a different architecture.
Comparing Live Streaming API Providers
The specific features and organization of each API are unique. It is important to take the time to study the features of different platforms in-depth before making a decision.
We’ve outlined the basic features of the most popular live streaming API providers and organized them by video hosting solution.
Please keep in mind that this is a basic overview, and we recommend taking a deeper look into each of these platform providers.
- JSON RESTful live streaming API
- Content management API: create, delete and edit in bulk
- Simple integration with external applications and services
- Designed for optimal user experience
- Sandboxed testing environment
- Dedicated API support team
- Player API
IBM Cloud Video
- Create video databases for viewers
- Supports VOD hosting
- Ads for free users; no ads for premium users
- Integrates with advanced analytics
- Live streaming API
- Player API
- Channel API
- Content management API: create, edit and manage live streams
- Live streaming API
- Broadcast scheduling
- YouTube Data API
- Video content management system
- Organize information about videos
- RESTful API
- API tokens
- Video transcription
- Video cloud media embedding
Conclusion: Which API Will You Choose?
Using an API has many benefits, but it can be daunting. Choosing a live video streaming API is a major decision, and it can have ramifications for your whole organization. It gives you the ability to completely customize your video player, but it requires a little bit of know-how.
The information we’ve outlined should serve as a trusty guide in your API-choosing process. We hope that we’ve given you the information and confidence you need to make an informed decision.
Dacast supports API for video hosting, content management, and custom video players. Sign up for Dacast today to explore the API integrations. Your first month is free, so you can try all of the amazing features before you decide to purchase a pricing plan that suits your needs.
We’d love to hear from our audience on this one! What APIs have you used in the past? What features are important to you? How do you plan on integrating live video with your existing systems? What challenges do you face? What new features are you looking for in a Live Video Streaming API?
Let us know in the comments! We’ll respond, and we look forward to the dialogue. For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, you can also join the Dacast LinkedIn group.
As always, thanks for reading, and good luck with your live streaming.