What Is WOWZ Protocol?April 29, 2019
WOWZ™ is a TCP-based messaging protocol that achieves lightning-fast video delivery, broadcast-quality resolution, and interactivity via bidirectional data flow. You may have seen it mentioned in our forums, docs, and marketing content. But what’s the story behind the WOWZ protocol and how does it work? Let’s take a look.
WOWZ Protocol Snapshot
The WOWZ protocol powers the Wowza Streaming Cloud™ service with Ultra Low Latency and the Wowza Streaming Engine™ software for server-to-server communications. It’s also built into the Wowza Player and the Wowza GoCoder SDK™, enabling seamless workflows from capture to playback.
Why Do We Need WOWZ?
Live streaming has become an intuitive way for consumers to research, engage, purchase, and contribute. But today’s audiences demand high-definition content and smooth video delivery — no matter where they are or what device they’re using.
While enticing users with real-time video allows today’s brands to stand out from competitors, that’s only the case when it’s done right. Reducing latency and ensuring quality are two key requirements when distributing these broadcasts.
To march the streaming industry forward and reach viewers on their own terms, Wowza Cofounder and CTO Charlie Good developed the WOWZ protocol for sub-three-second latency and enterprise-level stability when used with Wowza Streaming Cloud’s Ultra Low Latency plan.
Leading up to WOWZ
RTMP used to be the preferred method for streaming video over the internet. This proprietary protocol enabled high-speed video delivery via Adobe Flash — but it came with security and compatibility issues. With Adobe’s announcement that the Flash Player would die off in 2020, developers searched for another solution.
The industry shifted to HTTP-based (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) technologies, with MPEG-DASH and Apple’s HLS being the most common protocols. Whereas RTMP streams were delivered via dedicated streaming servers as a continuous stream of date, HTTP-based video delivery took the form of progressive downloads sent via web servers.
HTTP-based protocols helped improve scalability and optimize viewer experience with adaptive bitrate technologies. But RTMP still outperformed DASH and HLS when it came to minimizing delay. This is because the cache-based methodology of HTTP-based streaming increased overall latency.
After originally designing the WOWZ protocol for server-to-server communications across Wowza Streaming Engine, Charlie decided to repurpose it as the secret sauce for Wowza Streaming Cloud’s Ultra Low Latency plan.
Take a look at how WOWZ compares to three prominent streaming protocols in regard to latency: RTMP (Real-Time-Messaging Protocol), Apple HLS (HTTP Live Streaming), and MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP).
How WOWZ Works
Several aspects set WOWZ apart from other protocols in the industry.
- Continuous Connection: When delay between broadcast and playback is unacceptable, WOWZ enables efficient stream-based delivery. This non-packetized firehose approach acts as a pipe to rapidly move video and audio data through to the viewer.
- Supports Interactivity: Because WOWZ is delivered over the WebSocket protocol, it allows two-way ongoing conversation between viewer and broadcaster. By allowing the server to send data without requiring the client to request it first, WebSockets keep the connection open as messages are passed back and forth.
- Broadcast Quality: Unlike WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications), the WOWZ protocol supports broadcast-quality resolutions of up to 1080p60.
- Timecode Preservation: For scenarios when content distributors want to map data to specific time or locations, WOWZ helps preserve the timecode information related to audio and video packet frames.
Streaming protocols directly impact the latency of your streams, and WOWZ was designed for speed.
The innovative WOWZ video transport protocol leverages WebSockets to ensure speedy delivery and interactivity. What’s more, WOWZ allows for broadcast quality and scalability — which are stumbling blocks when using other low-latency alternatives like WebRTC.
In the past, broadcasters had to choose between low-latency streaming or high-quality delivery at scale. When using the WOWZ protocol, that’s no longer the case.