Projects involving streaming video present a series of challenges to any business or organization. One of those challenges is choosing the right 3rd party players for your website.
Most people don’t know much about 3rd party players or how it works because their only interaction with this technology is to click the “play” button.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the popular 3rd party players, both open-source and commercial, which are available today. We’ll look at the pros and cons of these off-the-shelf video players, and discuss how each can fit in the the streaming media services model used by your business. Let’s get started.
Why Use Streaming Media 3rd Party Players?
With the decline and fall of Adobe’s Flash Player due to concerns about stability and security, a gap has gradually opened up in video delivery over the web over the past decade. There is a need for a video delivery solution that is compatible with a wide range of systems, that is fast and lightweight, and that can support a range of changing media formats.
3rd party players have existed for years, mostly supporting Adobe Flash formats. But since Steve Jobs refused to allow flash video on iPhones and iPads, the rise of HTML5 video has allowed a number of third party streaming video players to rise, each with different strengths, weaknesses, plugins, and features. Some are ideal for small operations looking to do video in-house; others are designed for enterprises.
None of these has come to completely dominate the market in the way that Adobe Flash did for so long, but this is probably a good thing. Today, there is a wide diversity of video players available with different price points, features, and appearances.
Here are three of the most popular video players in use today.
We’ll start by looking at JW Player, the most widely-used embedded media player, found on thousands of websites around the world.
From the viewer end, JW Player uses standard HTML5 to render most content without requiring any plugins. Flash content will still require Adobe’s Flash plugin.
JW Player is also a well-supported technology. It’s easy to configure; most websites are able to deploy with a simple point-and-click setup. It supports a wide range of technologies for video delivery, from standard HTTP to Apple’s HLS format, Adobe’s HDS, and both adaptive and standard RTMP. (If you’re confused by this terminology, check out this article on streaming video formats).
JW Player also has a wide range of add-ons available to extend its functionality and add features like a paywall.
The major con of JW Player is that it’s commercial software. Even though the codebase is open source, the support package (which includes 250GB of streaming per month, HLS adaptive streaming support, and OTT for compatability with Chromecast and AirPlay) costs $299 per year — and this is the limited version.
The full version costs more. Enterprise-level customers interested in higher volumes of streaming and storage, as well as tools like content protection, are given custom pricing structures.
In the past, JW Player has also been criticized for a “clunky” design, but newer releases have kept up with stylistic trends.
Learn more about JW Player at https://www.jwplayer.com.
If you’re looking for a flexible and powerful video player, FlowPlayer is a solid and unique option.
FlowPlayer is focused on quality. Each video begins with a retina-optimized image of your choice, so you have maximum control over enticing the viewer to watch your content. High-quality encoding maximizes video quality, and video overlays can be easily coded via CSS. In fact, nearly every aspect of the video player can be customized.
One of the innovative features offered by FlowPlayer is the ability to set an “end screen” for your videos to direct viewers to a website of your choice. This screen can be custom-coded with HTML, which is a great feature for increasing sales, capturing user data, or simply keeping viewers on your site.
FlowPlayer emphasizes video management with features like the “video library,” a central dashboard for your video content that provides analytics and engagement statistics. A number of add-ons extend the functionality of the player as well.
On WordPress, Flowplayer is highly popular as a plugin that’s easy to use and integrates quickly with existing websites. Another major advantage of the platform is support for Google AdExchange, which is normally only available to websites with more than 10 million streams per month; FlowPlayer users get access for free.
One of the biggest downsides of FlowPlayer is a somewhat complicated pricing structure. The player is purchased on a per-domain basis, meaning you’ll have to pay a lot more to host videos on more than just one site. One domain starts at $94 a month.
Learn more at https://flowplayer.org.
Another great third party media player is Video.JS, a free and open source project created by programmers at Zencoder.
The major advantage of Video.JS is that it is completely free and open souce. Anyone is free to use and modify the code with no restrictions.
Video.JS is also ultra-lightweight: the code is less than 2500 lines and the package takes up about 86 kb on your server. This results in a clean, snappy experience for the user.
Because of its simplicity, Video.JS is easy to get up and running. It’s also compatible with just about any device and browser, including a lot of legacy systems. That ease of use extends to integration as well; the player can be easily customized to match any website.
The biggest drawback to Video.JS is that it is relatively feature-light. It just doesn’t have the functionality of a more complete solution like JW Player. However, this is somewhat mitigated by the availability of a library of plugins that provide features like playlists, advertising, analytics, and support for formats like DASH and HLS.
Video.JS website: https://videojs.com.
Here at DaCast, we use a custom HTML5 video player based on the Video.JS codebase, but customized for our platform. Our API is compatible with a wide range of other 3rd party players, including the three mentioned here.
With the DaCast API, users can control their content in every way. They can even create a video player of their own, or use a 3rd party player like one of the three described above. This allows users to choose the video player that provides the user experience and features that they require.