Three Chinese web giants create streaming video 'standard'

ByteDance, Alibaba Cloud, and Tencent Cloud team on improvement to WebRTC's startup times

Updated Chinese web giants Alibaba, Tencent, and ByteDance – the latter through its Volcano Engine hyperscale cloud service – have teamed up to create, in their terms, a new video streaming standard.

The project was announced at a Chinese conference in late February. The Register has now been able to confirm information revealed in Chinese media at the time.

The project focuses on ensuring a better experience in the first few seconds of a live stream by reducing the time required to initiate a stream to a single second – or perhaps even half that. The three companies say stream-watchers today need to count for between three and six Mississippis while they wait for streams to start – which is painful for individuals, and intolerable if streams are piped into broadcast platforms.

The "ultra-low latency live broadcast protocol signalling standard" – for that it is the standard's name – achieves that low latency with innovative signalling techniques between client and server. The tech appears to build on WebRTC, which the three Chinese giants bemoan lacks robust initial signalling features.

While the three companies have termed their work a "standard" and pledged it will be available to all comers, The Register has been unable to find code online. We put this issue to one of the participating companies, which has promised to advise on how or if the project might be shared – perhaps as open source software or as a project for a standards organization to adopt. [See update below - Ed]

Whatever the status of the project, if it can deliver on its promise of swift startups for streaming it will be very welcome – all streamers abhor latency.

In China, swift-starting video streaming is perhaps even more desirable as the nation's e-commerce providers have increasingly turned to live-streamed infomercials to promote products. The tech therefore matters to Alibaba. Tencent has reason to care because it offers a Netflix-like service called Tencent Video, and ByteDance cares because its flagship Douyin app is all about streaming video (after video, after video) and is used for livestreaming in China.

If this tech is submitted to a standards body, the friendliness or otherwise of the reception it finds will be interesting to watch. Western nations and large democracies have explicitly stated they wish to dominate standards processes, thanks to a collective belief that China exercised disproportionate influence over the evolution of 5G standards and to some degree shaped them to meet local needs.

Low-latency video streaming may not be quite as contentious as 5G, so perhaps global reaction will be positive. But in today's geopolitical turmoil, who can predict anything? ®

UPDATE, 03:25 UTC, March 14th.: We've received a response to our question about how the standard might be shared. One of the tech's authors revealed this white paper (in Chinese) that we were told provides third party developers with information and instructions needed to use the ultra-low latency live broadcast protocol signalling standard.

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Cisco execs pledge simpler, more integrated networks
    Is this the end of Switchzilla's dashboard creep?

    Cisco Live In his first in-person Cisco Live keynote in two years, CEO Chuck Robbins didn't make any lofty claims about how AI is taking over the network or how the company's latest products would turn networking on its head. Instead, the presentation was all about working with customers to make their lives easier.

    "We need to simplify the things that we do with you. If I think back to eight or ten years ago, I think we've made progress, but we still have more to do," he said, promising to address customers' biggest complaints with the networking giant's various platforms.

    "Everything we find that is inhibiting your experience from being the best that it can be, we're going to tackle," he declared, appealing to customers to share their pain points at the show.

    Continue reading
  • Alibaba continues international expansion – adds two datacenters and a bank
    Bit barns in Saudi Arabia, all-digital bank in Singapore

    Alibaba's cloud business and financial services affiliate Ant Group has expanded further out of China this week, by opening a pair of datacenters in Saudia Arabia and a digital wholesale bank in Singapore.

    Alibaba Cloud and Saudi Telecom Company (STC) have opened two cloud services in Riyadh which will serve as a regional hub as part of a joint venture called the Saudi Cloud Computing Company (SCCC). STC confirmed the launch on Tuesday and the joint venture, SCCC, shared scenes from the launch.

    Other businesses playing a part in SCCC are eWTP Arabia Capital, the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI), and the Saudi Information Technology Company (SITE).

    Continue reading
  • Cloudflare explains how it managed to break the internet
    'Network engineers walked over each other's changes'

    A large chunk of the web (including your own Vulture Central) fell off the internet this morning as content delivery network Cloudflare suffered a self-inflicted outage.

    The incident began at 0627 UTC (2327 Pacific Time) and it took until 0742 UTC (0042 Pacific) before the company managed to bring all its datacenters back online and verify they were working correctly. During this time a variety of sites and services relying on Cloudflare went dark while engineers frantically worked to undo the damage they had wrought short hours previously.

    "The outage," explained Cloudflare, "was caused by a change that was part of a long-running project to increase resilience in our busiest locations."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022