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Live TV? P2PTV? Peercasting? Streaming video? Lifecasting?

Submitted by Druss on Wed, 2008-07-02 14:14

Anyone else notice the rising popularity of live video / TV sites and applications all over the place? In the last year or so, what was just a niche service / application has exploded into the mainstream and I won't be surprised if established sites such as YouTube also manoeuvre to get a piece of this pie.

Presently available offerings can be segregated into two categories:

  1. Web-based services: These are almost always an off-shoot of Lifecasting services (24-hour voyeur cams ala Big Brother) for individuals. Their popularity has expanded in the last year or so and now encompasses desktop broadcasting and the like. Examples of such sites are:
    1. [WP]: JTV is probably the most popular of the lot and is rife with lots of goodies - live sports channels (which was where I saw the Euro 2008 finals), streaming movie channels, anime, stand-up comedy and a whole host of foreign channels. Considering my interest in Spanish, this offers an excellent medium to learn languages. Spanish, Italian and Arabic appear to be the common ones.

      JTV also supports saved streams wherein the broadcaster can choose to save whatever he's broadcasting on the server and allow users to watch the clip on-demand. For e.g., he might save a movie that he streamed or maybe a highlights clip of a football game.

      JTV also features plenty of lifecasting / webcam channels where you can watch people sleeping for 8 hours a day and such ...

    2. Mogulus [WP]: Mogulus offers much of what JTV does, but it isn't as popular. The quality of the stream (in terms of bit-rate) also tend to be higher.
    3. [WP]: UTV (?) is another popular option, often used for event streaming, lifecasting etc. The pirates aren't far behind, although they don't frequent these waters as much as JTV.
    4. Stickam [WP]: Stickam appears to primarily feature live webcam streams and appears to be more community oriented than the rest.
    5. BlogTV [WP]: BlogTV is yet another of these services primarily focused on webcam streams and the like.

    Yahoo! has also jumped on this bandwagon.

    I personally, as of now, stick to JTV. Ergo, my opinions might be slightly off on the rest.

  2. Desktop software: Unlike web-based services, desktop applications are almost always peer-to-peer applications where your bandwidth will also be used to share the feed with other users (peers) in the swarm. This is not always a good thing in terms of your bandwidth consumption and additionally, is a little sketchy, IMHO, legally as you will now be an accessory to broadcasting copyrighted material (assuming that is what you are watching, of course). The flip-side is that they are frequently (and optionally) of much better quality and have a better feature-set.

    A lot of these p2p streaming applications are, oddly enough, based out of China.

    1. TVAnts: One of the more popular ones, TVAnts is written and maintained by students at a Chinese university. A lot of Asian channels are available as well as a few international ones. When it comes to sports however, language has no barrier :)
    2. Sopcast: Sopcast is another popular Chinese venture but is something I find less reliable than TVAnts. It however is said to work on Linux.
    3. TVU: While apparently based out of California, TVUplayer again has Chinese roots.
    4. Zattoo: Probably the only truly legitimate enterprise of this lot, these guys provide legal high quality streams of a number of TV channels, but restrict access to certain countries based on your IP address. This can, however, be worked around using a proxy.
    5. There are heaps more. But I'm getting a little lazy of typing, so I'll leave it here.

It is recommended that you at least have a 512 Kbps connection to use any of the above, else you will very likely fall prey to buffering, syncing and other issues.