What is RTMP? The Real-Time Messaging Protocol: What You Need to Know in 2024

What is RTMP_ The Real-Time Messaging Protocol_ What you Need to Know Image

Real-time messaging protocol (RTMP) is significant in the world of streaming today. The RTMP protocol provides fantastic video quality for online video broadcasting. With RTMP, you can stream video and audio data with the quality viewers today expect. Whether you’re a seasoned live streamer or new to online broadcasting, RTMP can enhance your performance and authority.

In this post, we cover the inner workings of RTMP and highlight its role in online video broadcasting. We also look at RTMP’s specific purpose in live streaming, variations of the video protocol, RTMP encoding, and more. Finally, we talk about how RTMP works with Dacast. By the end, you’ll know how to leverage the power of RTMP for yourself.

Table of Contents

What is RTMP?

Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) is a communication technology that enables live video streaming over the internet. It’s based on Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) technology and was originally developed by Macromedia for their Flash Player, which later became Adobe Flash Player after the company was acquired by Adobe.

Originally, RTMP was mostly used to transmit content between a hosting server and a video player. Today, its purpose is a bit different. In terms of the most modern live streaming setups, RTMP’s primary role on streaming servers is to deliver content from an encoder to an online video host. This is a process known as “ingestion”.

In the context of its new role in live streaming, RTMP is important but also somewhat reduced in scope from what it used to do. It’s capable of low-latency streaming, which is a major plus for broadcasters who are streaming major events in real time. It’s also known for its minimal buffering, which truly enhances the user experience. RTMP streaming is one of the best ways to deliver low latency streaming no-buffer streaming content.

RTMP technology also plays a role in adaptive-bitrate streaming and some web conferencing tools. There are several variations of the RTMP protocol used for several different purposes, which we’ll discuss further along in this post.


RTMP at a Glance

Here are some facts that will help you better understand what RTMP means and what the protocol does for video content.

  • RTMP is a live streaming protocol that transmits video files from an encoder to an online video hosting platform.
  • RTMP and its variations stream on TCP and UDP (User Datagram Protocol).
  • RTMP doesn’t stream on HTTP (whereas standards like HLS do).
  • RTMP supports audio codecs like AAC and MP3.
  • is a common video codec for RTMP encoding, but it also supports other codecs like x264
  • RTMP ingest supports the use of low-cost encoding tools.
  • RTMP ingest on Dacast automatically supports conversion to HLS on iOS, Android, and all browsers.
  • RTMP has several distinct variations.
  • RTMP has been mostly deprecated for general use and is no longer supported by Adobe.

Although RTMP is technically discontinued, it can still be used with certain transcoders in different broadcasting workflows and contexts.

The Three Primary Components of RTMP

RTMP operates based on three primary components, each serving a specific purpose in the live-streaming workflow:

  1. RTMP Server: The RTMP server acts as the central hub for handling incoming streams and distributing them to connected clients. It manages the media data flow, handles authentication, and ensures smooth transmission between the server and clients.
  2. RTMP Client: The RTMP client is responsible for receiving the live video and audio streams from the server and presenting them to the end viewer. Clients can range from web browsers and mobile applications to dedicated streaming software.
  3. RTMP Protocol: The RTMP protocol defines the rules and mechanisms for the delivery of media content over the network. It enables real-time communication, supports adaptive bitrate streaming, and facilitates the exchange of control messages between the server and client.

The Advantages of RTMP

RTMP offers several key advantages that have contributed to its widespread adoption in the live-streaming industry:

  1. Low Latency: RTMP minimizes the delay between the time the content is captured and when it reaches the viewer’s screen. This low latency is crucial for live events, where real-time interaction and engagement are paramount.
  2. Adaptive Bitrate Streaming: With RTMP, broadcasters can deliver live streams at different quality levels, adapting to the viewer’s internet connection and device capabilities. This ensures a seamless viewing experience, regardless of varying network conditions.
  3. Wide Platform Compatibility: RTMP is supported by a wide range of platforms, including desktops, mobile devices, smart TVs, and set-top boxes. This compatibility allows broadcasters to reach a larger audience across multiple devices and operating systems.
  4. Interactive Features: RTMP supports interactivity by enabling features such as live chat, real-time audience polling, and synchronized playback. These interactive elements enhance viewer engagement and foster a sense of community during live streams.

RTMP in Action: The Live Streaming Workflow

To fully grasp the significance of RTMP in the live streaming ecosystem, let’s walk through a typical live streaming workflow that incorporates RTMP technology:

  1. Capture and Encoding: The live video and audio content are captured using cameras, microphones, or professional broadcasting equipment. These signals are then encoded into a digital format suitable for transmission.
  2. RTMP Server Configuration: The broadcaster configures an RTMP server, specifying the necessary settings such as stream keys, access control, and streaming quality parameters.
  3. Streaming Software Setup: Broadcasting software, such as OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) or Wirecast, is configured to establish a connection with the RTMP server. The software handles the encoding, packaging, and transmission of the live content.
  4. Initiating the Live Stream: With the streaming software configured, the broadcaster initiates the live stream, which establishes a connection with the RTMP server. The server receives the encoded data and prepares it for distribution.
  5. Viewer Engagement: Viewers access the live stream through various platforms, including websites, social media platforms, or dedicated streaming applications. The RTMP client on their end receives the video and audio streams from the server, allowing them to watch the live content in real time.
  6. Real-Time Interactivity: During the live stream, viewers can actively engage with the content and other participants through features such as chat, comments, likes, and interactive overlays. These interactive elements foster a dynamic and immersive viewing experience.
  7. Archiving and Storage: After the live stream concludes, broadcasters often have the option to archive the recorded stream for later playback. This feature enables on-demand access to previously streamed content, extending its reach beyond the live event.

How Does RTMP Ingest Work?

rtmp ingest
RTMP is an important protocol for live streaming.

Three distinct components make RTMP ingest work:

  1. The handshake
  2. The connection
  3. The stream

This sequence of events can happen almost instantaneously. RTMP ingestion is a relatively simple process, but it’s complicated by the fact that the protocol is no longer supported by Adobe.

RTMP ingestion mostly takes place in professional broadcast environments these days. It can get complicated, but one of the reasons it sticks around is that it has long been a reliable and manageable tool for streaming video. It can still integrate easily with a professional video hosting platform.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the RTMP ingest process.

Step 1: The Handshake

The handshake phase involves a series of quick exchanges between the client and server. First, the client sends what’s commonly called a header. This is a cryptographic signature. Immediately after the header is sent, the client sends 1536 bytes of random data.

The server then responds in kind: they send a header, then 1536 bytes of random data immediately following it. Finally, the client sends the server a copy of the server’s random data back to them, then the server sends the client a copy of the client’s random data back to them. This completes the handshake.

Step 2: The Connection

Once the handshake is complete, the connection phase is in effect. The connection phase involves an exchange of data using AMF (Action Message Format) encoding. This establishes a communication standard between the client and server, including general specifications for things like video playback, frame dimensions, and bandwidth.

Step 3: The Stream

Once the connection and communication standards are established, the stream is initiated. This phase allows for essential user commands like play and pauses to be executed.

Action Message Format (AMF) Explained

AMF is a binary serialization format that has largely been used to exchange data between Adobe Flash applications and servers. It also serializes object graphs, such as in XML data. Although it was developed for Adobe Flash, AMF is now supported in numerous server-side environments.

The role that AMF continues to play in RTMP is the same as that which it played for Flash. It’s the mechanism that allows a client to send commands to a server, which then processes the request and sends a response.

Is Flash Dead?

Flash may well be gone. But RTMP isn’t completely dead, it’s just deprecated for general use. It’s not uncommon in broadcasting for older standards and formats to continue to be used in professional facilities for several reasons. One of those reasons is that when a still useful technology falls out of favor with the general public, it can be less vulnerable to piracy. Although Adobe Flash player (the video player that originally used the protocol) is practically dead, RTMP itself is still valuable in other roles in live streaming.

The Adobe Flash Player is no longer supported by Adobe and has largely been replaced by HTML5 video players. As we mentioned, RTMP was used to connect the Flash player to an RTMP delivery server. The HLS protocol has taken over this role with the .

RTMP delivery is dead but RTMP ingest for HLS is not.

RTMP remains important in the realm of live, streaming data only, even though its previous main use case is quickly phasing out.

RTMP Protocol Variations

There are several variations of RTMP, including RTMP proper, RTMPS, RTMPE, RTMPT, and RTMFP. These video protocols serve slightly different purposes from one another in the world of live streaming.

Let’s take a look at what exactly each of these streaming protocol variations has to offer.


RTMP proper is the oldest version of the RTMP protocol. This is the streaming format developed by Macromedia (later Adobe) that formed the foundation for the other standards on this list.


RTMPS streaming uses SSL certification to generate a more secure stream. Large streaming platforms like YouTube still use this variation of RTMP to protect streamers who go live on public internet servers.


RTMPE was an alternative secure streaming method that was initially developed by Macromedia. It still has limited usage in 2022 but doesn’t use SSL security certification (which remains one of the predominant standards for securing data and content over the internet).


RTMPT is streaming video through tunneling. Tunneling is a way to send private data through public networks. Although this may be useful in certain contexts, it’s also known to introduce extra latency into the process or workflow of streaming work.


Real-Time Media Flow Protocol (RTMFP) is the RTMP variation that’s built on UDP instead of TCP.  This technology is the basis of many video conferencing tools and many social media platforms and apps with video live-stream chat features. The reason that this protocol is preferred for this use case is that it requires less data, which keeps bandwidth costs reasonable.

RTMP Encoding

RTMP encoding
Learn about the different RTMP video streaming protocol variations.

As previously mentioned, RTMP technology is typically used these days for transmitting video content from a live stream encoder to a streaming platform. To stream with a setup that uses the RTMP protocol in this fashion, you must use an RTMP encoder

Luckily, many of the top encoders on the market still support RTMP, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one that works for you.

Which Encoders Support RTMP?

When it comes to RTMP encoding, broadcasters have options when it comes to software encoders and hardware encoders. There are solutions for almost every need and budget.

Here’s a list of a few of the top RTMP encoder options:

  • OBS Studio:  is a free, open-source encoding software program that’s perfect for broadcasters who are new to the game. OBS offers a custom version for Dacast users.
  • WirecastWirecast is a popular software encoder from Telestream. This software starts at $599, making it better suited for more advanced broadcasters.
  • VidBlasterVidBlaster is a live-streaming software program with editing, mixing, and encoding capabilities. It’s a great option for broadcasters who are looking to add a professional touch to their streams. The software starts at $9 per year.
  • vMix is another live-streaming software program with encoding capabilities and plans for every budget. Plans currently range from free to $1200 for a lifetime license.
  • TriCasterTriCaster is a series of encoding devices from NewTek. This series includes both portable and stationary options.
  • TeradekTeradek is a hardware company that offers an assortment of encoding devices.

For more information on how to set up an RTMP encoder, please check out our Encoder Setup Guide. You’ll learn more about how to set up your RTMP encoders and what RTMP is.

RTMP Apps for iPhone

iOS RTMP Streaming Apps
Real-Time messaging Protocol live streaming allows for iOS apps to broadcast live via RTMP servers.

In addition to the encoding tools we mentioned above, there are iOS apps that support RTMP streaming from your iPhone. These apps are designed for live streaming on the go.

Here are some examples of the best live-streaming apps that support iOS and RTMP:

We’d like to point out that although it’s possible to stream from an iPhone smartphone, streaming with professional-grade equipment is ideal. However, if you’re streaming on-site and don’t have mobile live-streaming equipment, an iPhone or iPad can still get the job done.

For more details of iOS apps such as Twitch, TikTok, and others not mentioned here that support RTMP streaming, please check out our iOS RTMP App Comparison

RTMP vs. RTSP: What’s the Difference?

RTSP, which is short for Real-Time Streaming Protocol, is another protocol that’s used for online, audio video and data streaming. It’s considerably less popular than RTMP but is still important.

The main difference between them is the part of the live-streaming process that they’re each responsible for. RTMP transmits the video from the encoder to the video player whereas RTSP controls commands between the viewers, the streaming server, and the video player.

How to Live Stream with RTMP on Dacast

RTMP streaming technology
RTMP technology is still very important for live streaming.

Dacast automatically uses the RTMP ingest and is compatible with any RTMP encoder. That means that RTMP is a Dacast default rather than a choice. That is how important RTMP is to the process of streaming videos.

What Dacast doesn’t support is RTMP delivery or the Adobe Flash player. The reason for this is that it uses the HTML5 video player, which is a more modern alternative. The HTML5 video player is what makes all-device streaming a possibility.

If you want to learn more about live streams and how to set up a live stream on Dacast, please check out the Introduction to Live Streaming guide

RTMP and Beyond: The Evolution of Live Streaming Protocols

While RTMP has long been the go-to protocol for live streaming, the industry has witnessed the emergence of alternative protocols that aim to address specific challenges or offer additional capabilities. Two notable examples are HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) and DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP).

HLS (HTTP Live Streaming)

HLS is an adaptive streaming protocol developed by Apple Inc. that delivers live and on-demand content over standard HTTP connections. It breaks the video stream into small, manageable chunks and adjusts the quality dynamically based on the viewer’s network conditions. HLS has gained popularity due to its broad compatibility and native support across iOS devices.

DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP)

DASH is an adaptive streaming standard developed by the MPEG industry consortium. It offers similar adaptive bitrate streaming capabilities as HLS but with broader device compatibility, supporting a wide range of operating systems and devices. DASH utilizes media presentation descriptions (MPDs) to provide dynamic stream selection and switching.


RTMP is the gold standard in live streaming. It enables efficient, low-latency video delivery. It’s highly compatible and has adaptive bitrate streaming, interactive features, and more. This means RTMP empowers broadcasters to enhance real-time audio engagement and create compelling live experiences. Using RTMP’s capabilities, you can make the most immersive live video streaming experiences.

Daast can help you. Dacast works hand in hand with the RTMP protocol. Dacast is trusted by the biggest brands and businesses worldwide to host, store, and stream the highest-quality video content. With advanced features such as white-labeling, monetization, and secure hosting, it’s no wonder Dacast was selected as the Streaming Media Readers’ Choice for Best Small/Medium Business Platform.

You can try Dacast and all its features for free today.


In the meantime, please check out the Dacast Knowledgebase, which is a special part of the site that includes documentation on how to use every function of the Dacast video streaming platform.

Thanks for reading, and happy streaming.

Harmonie Duhamel

Harmonie is a Senior digital marketer with over 6 years in the Tech Industry. She has a strong marketing and sales background and loves to work in multilingual environments.