Wowza Origin Stories: How Superhero Products Are BornMarch 5, 2018
Every great superhero has an origin story. In this post, I’m going to tell you the story of how our flagship Wowza Streaming Engine™ software was born, and compare this with the origin of our newest hero: the Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance.
Just as a spider bite transformed mild-mannered Peter Parker into the mighty Spider-Man, Wowza Streaming Engine came from humble beginnings, gradually transforming into the industry leader in streaming technology. It all started in 2005, when a former colleague and I—Charlie Good, who today is chief technical officer and co-founder at Wowza—decided to go into business together. We were drawn to the streaming media industry, but agreed that if our new venture didn’t make enough money to support a daily Starbucks run, we’d try something else.
When we started creating our first product, a video-blogging solution, we attempted to build on other companies’ technology. After all, there were other media servers out there; why reinvent the wheel? Well, it turned out that this particular wheel needed reinventing. We couldn’t find an existing media server product that worked well enough to bring a video solution to market.
At the time, Adobe Flash Media Server was the dominant product in the market, but we had run into a lot of difficulty with it. After joining a mailing list called FlashCom Guru, we realized that other users were experiencing similar frustrations, and were as hungry for something new as we were. So Charlie decided to roll up his sleeves and build a new solution from scratch: what would eventually become Wowza Media Server (now known as Wowza Streaming Engine).
The FlashCom Guru crowd proved a perfect testing ground for this new product. We started with a simple base, and to inform our development, asked what members needed to get their jobs done. We focused on streaming solution developers and included important new capabilities from the get-go, so we had a solid foundation to build on over time. In fact, we implemented HLS (HTTP Live Streaming; Apple’s proprietary streaming delivery protocol) so early in the game that there wasn’t an official name for it yet; we had to call the protocol “Cupertino Streaming.”
We also answered questions about streaming for members of the FlashCom Guru group, positioning ourselves as a resource for the community. When we had a beta version of the product ready, we asked the group if they were interested in trying an alternative to Flash Media Server. Since we already had their attention, before we knew it, we had 700 people in our trial!
This was huge, given that Charlie and I were still relatively new to the streaming media market. We continued to use the group to test new features and take the pulse of our target user segment, and market interest grew over time to reach staggering levels. At first, there were a number of people who said they’d never use Wowza Media Server, because it didn’t offer certain features they wanted. But as we iteratively improved on the product based on their feedback, many of these doubters later became die-hard Wowza users.
We were propelled along our trajectory by some early wins: From the time we released Wowza Media Server for general availability, it only took 10 days to get our first sale. And we were cash-flow positive in our first month of operation. That daily Starbucks habit was finally within reach for me and Charlie. And the momentum just built from there.
As we grew, we came to realize what our superpowers were: meeting market demand and solving customers’ biggest problems by delivering innovative streaming products. In doing so, we built a loyal following that has only grown over the years. That first product evolved from Wowza Media Server to Wowza Streaming Engine, enjoying greater and greater adoption. Our portfolio gradually expanded to include the Wowza Streaming Cloud™ service, the Wowza GoCoder SDK™, Wowza Player—and now, the Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance.
There are some significant differences between our two heroes. Wowza Streaming Engine came from a market need to create a version of an existing product that worked better and offered greater customization than the competition. Like Peter Parker gradually discovering and mastering his superhuman abilities, it went through a long beta period, during which we tested and refined the product before releasing it to the public.
ClearCaster has a different origin story. It’s a new kind of product, born of a need to take maximum advantage of a new and growing platform: Facebook Live. It’s more akin to Superman, who was born on another planet with all his powers and rocketed down to Earth to save humanity. When building ClearCaster, we worked directly with the engineering team at Facebook to deliver the foundational version of the product. This rocketed it from development to initial release in well under a year, targeting a very focused market with a Facebook-first workflow.
However, there are also similarities between our superheroes. Just as we noticed frustration among streaming-server users when we were conceiving Wowza Streaming Engine, we have observed frustrations among today’s Facebook Live users in their inability to take advantage of the platform’s advanced features. There is a widespread need in the market to increase broadcast quality and reliability, improve engagement with followers and continuously leverage all that Facebook Live has to offer—and now, ClearCaster is here to fight these villains and rescue broadcasters everywhere.
Of course, iteration and continual improvement is the heart of software and hardware development, and ClearCaster will be no exception. We will continue to take the pulse of the market and learn as we go. With Wowza Streaming Engine, we changed minds and gradually won over the market with each new iteration. We expect that ClearCaster will become an equally important product to the streaming industry.
Because frankly, there isn’t anyone who can optimize a product for Facebook Live like we can. Wowza is a recognized leader in the streaming industry, with over a decade of video codec, application and server experience. Our extensive knowledge and skill in streaming software development has won us 10 consecutive Streaming Media Readers’ Choice Awards, and the trust of 20,000 customers in 170+ countries worldwide. ClearCaster pairs our software expertise with Facebook’s number-one position in social media and unparalleled access to content creators.
Wowza Streaming Engine started as an alternative to the market leader, then became the market leader. Soon, we hope to lead the Facebook Live streaming market with Wowza ClearCaster. After all, this is how superheroes are born. They become aware of their powers, test them out, master them over time—and then they save the world.