How to Create a Live Streaming App: Must-Have Features, Tech Stack
Live streaming is the king of the media today. Every year this type of media grows in popularity and takes more and more viewers attention. According to analysts, the global live streaming market will reach $223.98 billion by 2028. This growth is due to the fact that more and more investments are coming into this industry and more businesses are creating their own live streaming applications.
However, in order to build a live streaming app and avoid mistakes, you need to have specific knowledge and a rough idea of how your application will look. In this article, we will dive into live streaming app development and consider aspects such as features, monetization strategies, and proper development pipeline.
Live Streaming App Market Perspectives
Before diving into live video streaming app development, you should first study the market you are going to enter. And the live video streaming market has something to surprise you. We have already mentioned its prospects in the future. However, it should also be said that the growth of this market is very rapid. For example, the live streaming industry has grown by 99% between April 2019 and April 2020, which is a staggering indicator.
During this period of growth, many streaming apps and platforms have experienced unprecedented increases in audiences. However, the Twitch platform is still the leader in terms of audience and time of views. In total, Twitch has 9.3 billion hours of watched content. This number of views is resulted from 63% of people aged 18-34 watch live streaming content regularly.
As you can see, the live streaming market is a very promising place and if you enter it with a well-thought-out application, you will definitely get a return on your investment.
Types of Streaming Applications
Let’s start with the basics. Live streaming is a live video broadcast of certain events available for viewing in real-time via the Internet and is one of the best and most efficient ways to report from the scene. All broadcasts are hosted by streamers who use different applications divided into several types. divided into different types. There are so many different live streaming apps floating around the most popular app stores. So if you plan to find out how to build a live streaming app, we suggest finding out what kinds of video streaming apps there are.
Live Broadcasting Apps
Well, it’s one of the most popular types of streaming media. This is when you watch videos in a real-time mode. It’s recorded and broadcasted simultaneously. You can build a live streaming app that broadcasts how users play games(Twitch), how they talk about different things, or even how they simply answer questions online(Periscope, Instagram Live, Facebook Live). The most popular live streaming apps are Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Livestream, Periscope.
The principle is the same — users can listen to music without downloading it. Everything is simple. Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music are the most popular music streaming services you can find today.
Video on Demand Streaming (VOD)
This one makes it possible for users to watch TV series and movies without downloading them on devices. However, a distinctive feature is that they can pause content, resume, and rewind it. As a rule, users have to pay for subscription to have access to the content. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video are leaders in this area.
TV Live Streaming App
The final streaming type that allows users to watch TV online. But, when they switch to on-demand video streaming services, they lose their favorite TV shows, sports channels, series, and so on. That’s why companies create live streaming apps with TV broadcasting. Hulu, Youtube TV, Amazon Prime Video are video on demand platforms but they also have plans for TV live streaming.
Live streaming apps can also vary by area of focus. Some of them are used for work purposes, others for personal needs. But most of them combine both directions.
How to Make Live Streaming App: Vital Steps to Take
There are certain points that you should avoid, and our goal is to tell you about possible pitfalls. So, here are the most important steps you should undertake to create a live streaming app.
Pick Your Team
Before starting development, you need to find a team that can create a live streaming app from scratch.
If you want to build an application and maintain it for the long term, an in-house development team is your ideal choice. However, this approach is quite costly, as you will need to rent an office, equip it and then start the long and tedious process of hiring employees. In addition, if you do not have technical knowledge, you will need the help of a specialist who will help you carry out the hiring process and hire the necessary specialists.
Choose a CDN
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network, and it’s a must-have step if you want to scale your server and build a live streaming app. Even if you think that you don’t need it, try to think ahead of time, and you will probably see that it will be a useful option. You will need to pay additionally for CDN, but everything will be paid off. It will ensure flawless delivery of content without interruptions. Your development team should help you make the right choice.
Use a Reliable Hosting
To create a live streaming app that will be fault-tolerant, you have to choose a reliable hosting that will ensure smooth streaming services for your customers. The quality of hosting may not be so important for a start, but once your app is getting more popular, the number of users will grow and one video will be watched by thousands of users simultaneously.
To ensure that users will have a quality video delivery, you should have a strong server infrastructure. A good option is to use a ready-made cloud solution like Amazon S3. Again, your development team will choose the most appropriate solution for your specific case, so don’t worry about it.
Think About Storage
All your content should be stored in a reliable place that makes it possible for users to watch a video without failures and unexpected distortions. We believe that cloud services are the best option for live streaming app development. They are scalable, have affordable plans, and save you money on buying hardware.
Attractive UI/UX Design
You should mind that appearance means a lot, and users will judge your streaming service according to their first impression. So you should hire high-skilled UI/UX designers or find an experienced software development company that offers all services on a turnkey basis. You can analyze your competitors’ live streaming apps and what UI and UX they have for now. UX in your software should be intuitive and not overloaded with tons of images.
Add Basic Features
In order to test your features and make sure that your service will be interesting for users, create an MVP version — an app with a minimal feature list. If you don’t know what features your streaming app should contain, our next section will spell everything out.
Testing Is Important
Customers won’t forgive your mistakes because today’s market offers a lot of alternatives. If something works improperly, a customer will stop using your service and find something more reliable. That’s why quality assurance of your live streaming app should be performed on a high level.
When you build a live streaming app you definitely want your app to be talked about. For a successful launch, your live streaming application should generate some fuzz. Even before you finish building a live streaming app, you need to run an advertising campaign to get more people to know about your app. For these purposes, it is worth using various channels such as social networks, blogs, and so on. In social networks, you can create your brand’s community, which will start attracting potential customers and disperse the hype around your live streaming application. You can buy ads from more popular groups to draw attention to your product and brand.
Alternatively, you can arrange press releases with popular, relevant blogs. Press releases will help to highlight in detail what your streaming app will be like, what its killer features, and much more.
Don’t forget about streamers. Buying streams is a common way to draw attention to the platform. You can agree with the streamer about several paid streams on which he will invite his audience and stream with the native advertising.
Now we are clear with the steps you have to take to create a live streaming app. It’s time to proceed to MVP features and highlight what features your new streaming app or website should include.
Live Video Streaming App Development: MVP Features
Impressed by the success of giants, don’t jump in feet first and don’t stuff your streaming app with all features at once. It makes more sense to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) first. When you create a live streaming app, it helps you to understand how viable your application is and what it lacks at the initial stage.
Focusing on the native live streaming app development, you’ll have to choose a platform your first version will be created for. It can be iOS Android, or web.
What should be the MVP of a live streaming application? Here are the main features without which such application can’t exist:
- User registration
- Creating a personal user profile
- Online streaming
- Comments to broadcasts
- Server side (ability to convert stream)
That’s all for now. Users can register, broadcast, search for other users, and comment streams. This way, you get a skeleton of your application, which is enough at start.
What’s next? After getting a positive response and making sure that the project is viable, you have to develop additional features.
Advanced Features of a Live Streaming App
In this section, you’re going to find out what features you can add to your application to make sure it’s competitive with other players on the market.
1. Signup Options
To build a live streaming app’s MVP it’s enough to make one registration option. It can be a simple registration with phone number or email address and password. Also, you need to add the password reset feature via email or a text message.
For example, in the process of live streaming Android app development, you can add several signup options via social networks. That’s how users will be able to log in using their account on Facebook or Twitter.
Mind that everything in your app should be fairly simple and clear. Usability is one of the main success factors of your application.
2. Personal Profile
Another question to solve during the live streaming app development process is to decide what kind of personal information will be in user profiles. You don’t need much user data in the beginning:
- Full name
- Profile picture
- Subscription plans
Later, you can add more options. They may be:
- Date of birth
- Feed preferences
Personal information allows users to monitor streamer’s popularity, find people who follow similar persons, and share the same interests.
To get deeper into live video streaming app development, you should understand the whole concept of streaming. Streaming is a transmission of an audio and video file from a server to users.
This is possible due to various streaming protocols. The most well-known protocol for live streaming is RTMP (real-time messaging protocol). This protocol works simply and precisely. A Media player contacts the server in order to establish a connection. Then, the server reacts to this response and sends a video file back. It can be broadcasted to an unlimited number of users simultaneously. The only condition is a high bandwidth on both sides.
To enhance the user experience, you can store the stream on the server. This way, users will be able to watch the broadcasts after it has finished. But this feature requires you to have a large storage. Building your own server is not an option. For example, Twitch streamers may have a 6-hour long record. The required amount of memory will cost you a fortune, so it’s better off using cloud servers. On top of that, cloud storages are easy to scale, so I’d definitely recommend you paying attention to Amazon S3, DropBox, and OneDrive for business.
4. Donation System
How to create a live streaming app which will encourage creativity? Implement a donation system. Apart from payment subscriptions, donations are the main source of streamers’ income. Viewers who enjoy the broadcast can support the streamer with a sum of money on a voluntary basis.
The main advantage of this feature is that users can apply a message to their donations that will be seen on the stream. It becomes a way of paid communication with the streamer.
To implement the donation system, you can use third-party tools or develop your own. Twitch, for instance, uses Donation Alerts that supports a wide range of payment methods, provides statistics for streamers, and announces messages with a variety of voice tones. This service has a fee that depends on the amount of donations streamers received during a calendar month. On average it is between 5% to 7%.
Chatting is an essential feature that is needed to create a live streaming app. With the help of chat, streamers can communicate with their audience. That’s how broadcasters get the feedback, and viewers keep in touch with their beloved influencers.
Chat is very important for streamers because they can monetize it. For example, Twitch streamers with many viewers can grant the chat access only to their subscribers. This way, they unload the chat for comfortable conversations and earn additional money. Also, streamers engage the audience to subscribe with unique chat emojis and a chat status that depends on a subscription duration.
However, there’s a significant pitfall that hides behind the chat. Some inconsistent users may spam the chat with inappropriate content and symbolics. This may hurt the feelings of some groups or race representatives. So, to avoid issues that may lead to lawsuits, you have to organize a strict chat moderation.
Twitch assigns moderation on streamers, that’s why they have to moderate the stream by themselves, or look for other users who will keep the chat in order. If you want to provide a top tier streaming experience, you can develop an automated moderating system with the help of AI. However, it is a very time-consuming and expensive feature.
To build a live streaming app with a chat you can use Twilio. This set of SDKs provides you with basic instances needed to develop a chat, like users and messages. Twilio is a cross-platform SDK so you can cut the development time and expenses on the iOS or Android development team.
6. Video Quality
Remember to take into account the bandwidth of every user. Some users may have a weak internet connection, so your app should be able to switch video quality. On the other hand, users with a high-end internet plan may want to watch the video with the highest possible bitrate. This range in quality will show that you treat every user equally and attract more audience to your website.
Therefore, the live streaming app development company of your choice should know how to handle the video encoding algorithms and make optimized server queries.
The next step in live streaming app development is a search engine. Your users should be able to navigate through their favorite channels and streamers fast and conveniently.
Sooner or later, users are getting tired of channels they watch every day, so you have to provide some filters helping to find new content that will match users’ tastes.
Here are some of the sorting options:
- By location
- By interest
- By broadcasts topic
- By the language of broadcasts
- By popularity
- By the number of watching
8. UI/UX Design
If you want to create a live streaming app that will catch the eye, you should take care of a unique and attractive design. It’s not a secret that design influences how people feel about your application. The convenience of the app entirely relies on the design. So, you have to hire a team that will deliver professional UI/UX design services from the very first steps of your application.
Mind that design is something that should be updated constantly. The more features you add to your app, the more design tasks will appear.
Even media persons want to have some privacy. Streamers spend a lot of time with their audience, and may feel burnout one day. The issue is how to make a live streaming app more private for streamers?
To get more personal space for your users, you should give them the ability to choose whom they will broadcast to. Make sure that streamers can stream the video to:
- One particular person
- A chosen list of people
- Only in a certain area
For example, Discord allows users to stream only to those users who joined the same channel with a streamer. It also allows to create a specific list of users who are allowed to watch the video.
So, don’t ignore this feature and try to find options that will suit your application.
10. Hosting Other Streamers
A brand new feature introduced by Twitch can be beneficial both to popular streamers and developing ones. And you can add it to your list to create live streaming app for your business. The point is that when streamers are inactive, they can host streams of other users on their channels. Viewers that follow famous streamers get a notification that a streamer went live. When the audience enters the stream, the hosting user gets more viewers.
This feature is another way of monetization because famous streamers often charge money for this kind of promotion. Less popular streamers are also happy because of improving the ratings and the flow of new viewers.
11. Screen Sharing
Any application for online conferences has the screen sharing feature these days. To show the contents of your screen, you can broadcast the image to your partner. Screen sharing is useful for various tutorials and streaming games.
Video games for desktops and consoles captured the world’s attention a long time ago. Now, game streaming is a vast niche with thousands of popular streamers, millions of viewers, and large sponsorship investments. This niche became popular due to simple screen sharing, so invest some development time in this feature. I bet that if you diversify your content with some games, it will make your live streaming app stand out.
12. Notifications and Schedule
One of the peculiarities of live streaming is that streams are spontaneous or scheduled. It’s somehow similar to TV shows — if you miss one episode of the series, it’ll be hard to understand what’s going on in future episodes. For the sake of user convenience, you have to think about stream schedules and notifications during streaming app development.
Actually, any app should come with this feature because it’s quite simple to implement. Users get push-notifications on their devices when a broadcast starts. So when a broadcaster decides to start streaming, their subscribers are invited to join. No matter if they are using the app at the moment.
Further, you’ll have one more feature to create. A live streaming app will enhance the user experience with a streaming schedule. If the broadcaster is going to stream at a certain time, they can show this in their timetable. This way, viewers will have a schedule based on their subscriptions. Users won’t miss any interesting events, streamers will get a stable audience, and your app will be on the wave of success.
Technical Stack for Live Streaming App Development
Here’s the list of technologies that may be used to make a live streaming app.
- Programming languages: Swift, Kotlin, Java
- Content delivery network: Cloudflare/Amazon CloudFront
- Hosting: Amazon EC2
- API server: Node.js
- Media processing platform: DaCast, Wowza
- Streaming protocols: WebRTC, RTMP
- Database: MySQL, Oracle
- Push notifications: Firebase Notifications
- Messaging queues: AWS Simple Queue System
Programming languages are used to create a live streaming app’s logic. Custom video players, video files encoding, payment integration, all of these features mostly rely on the programming languages.
The database is used to store the user information and VODs of previous streams. Flawless database structures and optimized queries are things that grant constant access to video streaming content.
Media processing platforms convert your audio and video files to formats that are compatible with smartphones, PCs, TVs, and so on. For example, Wowza is a solution for optimizing video bitrates, video encoding, and other aspects.
DaCast is a broadcasting and hosting platform that suits well for live video streaming app development. Developers use APIs and SDKs provided by this streaming platform to integrate all DaCast’s features into your software. DaCast also has it’s own CDN like Akamai at affordable prices. As for the cons of DaCast, it has rather high latency, and it can be slow from time to time.
As for the streaming protocols, by far, there are two leaders — WebRTC (web real-time communications) and RTMP(Real-Time Messaging Protocol). RTMP is used for transferring audio and video data over the Internet between a Flash player and a server. In turn, WebRTC allows exchanging data between two different browsers.
Monetization Strategies for a Live Streaming App
Let’s be honest. When you want to create a live streaming app, you want to generate income using various monetization strategies. It’s time to take a closer look at this live streaming app development aspect.
So, how to make a live streaming app that earns money? Here are some popular ways:
- Paid app. The paid strategy speaks for itself. In order to use your live streaming application, the user must make a one-time purchase. After that, the user will have access to all the functionality of the application. In addition, in such systems there is no advertising and various forms of in-app purchases. For example, the Broadcast Me app is a great example of a paid live streaming app that costs $5.99.
- Freemium app. The freemium strategy is the most common strategy when you need to build a live streaming app. This strategy means that your application is free to use, but it has additional privileges when making a purchase (this can be either buying a separate feature or subscribing). For example, the popular Twitch platform has a Twitch Prime subscription that provides users with free games, various in-game content, free subscriptions to their favorite channels, and more for $12.99 per month.
- Advertising. Advertising is a fairly common form of app monetization and app streaming is no exception. Such advertising can be in the form of banners that appear in different parts of the application screen, or full-fledged commercials that block the ability to use the application for 15-30 seconds. However, in live streaming applications, the advertising feature is often used by streamers to monetize their streams. For example, in the Hang app w/a streamer can show ads and share income from views between the streamer and the app itself.