What is Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) in Video Streaming?

Most broadcasters live stream through RTMP but how does RTMP live streaming work? Is there a better option? Read through our blog to find out

Since the flash player has been obsoleted, one of the misconceptions we have out there is that RTMP is also outdated. The protocol was the secret behind live and on-demand streaming with Adobe Flash Player. The reason behind this is that the flash plugin powers 80% of desktop chrome users in 2014. If you see today, the usage is left to just 17%. Nevertheless, RTMP is not dead and is used for the first-mile delivery in live streaming through an encoder.

This blog will give you a brief of what RTMP is and how it works. The usage of RTMP with pros and cons and in the end, we have discussed how to get started on streaming through RTMP.

What is RTMP?

Going down the memory lane, Developed by Macromedia for streaming video, audio and data over the internet. RTMP was primarily a proprietary protocol. It is now owned by Adobe, which released incomplete versions of the specification of the protocol for public use.

RTMP stands for Real-Time Messaging Protocol. RTMP is a protocol that makes live streaming possible which was developed originally by the predecessor of Adobe to work with Flash. It was used to transmit content between a hosting server and a Flash Player.

Today it works differently. It now delivers content from an encoder to an online video host, now known as RTMP ingest. From an encoder, the live stream is pushed forward to a video streaming server, which converts it to modern streaming protocols such as HLS and MPEG-DASH for video playback.

The Usage of RTMP

Following is the usage of RTMP

  • Low Latency

RTMP ends up splitting data into fragments. It enables the transmission of higher data to users with low latency (delay). Achieving low latency is vital for live broadcasting, which can be a challenge for streaming platforms that streams sports events and others.

  • Reduced Buffering

Buffering can be annoying when you’re watching a live stream. RTMP causes minimal buffering, which is bearable. According to research, 90 seconds is all it takes for a user to switch if the buffering doesn’t stop. Personally, I wouldn’t last 10 seconds.

  • Adaptive Bitrate Streaming 

Adaptive bitrate streaming matches the video quality of the stream according to the available bandwidth of the user. RTMP can use Adaptive Bitrate Streaming technology but configuring them is not as easy as it is in other protocols.

  • Rewind and Fast-Forward

It’s technological to be able to rewind and fast forward a live stream. RTMP also uses this technology to rewind and fast forward to the point of your choice.

How RTMP Live Streaming Works?

RTMP generally works in packets. The data packets are the smaller fragments of audio or video sent over virtual channels. The working and the sequence of events happen in a matter of minutes.

This happens in two steps.

The First-mile delivery where a live video is first picked up by the camera and sent off to an online video host via an encoder. The processed feed then is pushed forward to Content Delivery Network (CDN) for the content to be cached on servers.

In the Second-mile, the stream is supposed to be delivered to the flash player, but since Adobe Flash Player is obsolete instead of RTMP, other protocols such as HLS and MPEG-DASH take over here.

RTMP would have delivered the data packets in the last-mile through the following way:

  1. The TCP/IP handshake where the client and server agrees on streaming. It involves three chunks. The first chunk lets the server knows that RTMP is being used. The second chunk has the timestamp, and after sending the third chunk, the connection begins.

  2. The connection is made where the client and server negotiate via a message sequence that involves the coded dialogue.

  3. The stream is the last step. In order to start the video, the invocation of create. The stream is sent, followed by a ping and play message.


Pros and Cons

Here are the pros

  • It is natively supported by Flash Players.
  • One of the most popular benefits is low latency which is 5 sec as compared to HLS.
  • Another pro of RTMP is that transmission of audio and video is supported in various formats.
  • Secure cloud-based streaming through RTMPS is possible.


  • It doesn’t work on HTML5 players. Since it is an old technology, it is no longer accepted by iOS, Android, and other browsers and embedded players.
  • Configuring adaptive bitrate streaming is not easy for a live stream as compared to HLS.
  • RTMP content is at risk of getting blocked because the content is sent from a non-standard port: 1935, this limits the scalability.
  • Few of the advanced codecs are not supported by RTMP and renowned CDNs don’t support them either.
  • It is not compatible with HTTP as well.
  • Another con is that the dropping connection makes the stream stutter for a few seconds.

Read more about other video streaming protocols.

RTMP Live Stream – With VIDIZIMO

VIDIMZO supports a wide variety of encoders that will help you push an RTMP live stream onto the streaming player then converts it into HLS or any other supported formats for a smooth live stream.

<Learn More about Interactive Live Stream in VIDIZMO>

Been in the game for about 20 years, VIDIZMO provides much more than RTMP live streaming. It allows you to upload, manage and stream live and on-demand videos for internal and external audiences. You can even create an online video library management system for your video or carrying out a live stream with low latency.

A screenshot of multiple video portals of VIDIZMO EnterpriseTube

VIDIZMO’s EnterpriseTube is Gartner-recognized enterprise video hosting and streaming platform, that enables organizations to stream videos for end-to-end video use cases. We have had many notable customers such as US Department of State, NEC, Xcited, and many more. You can do so much within the platform, integrate it with existing platforms such as LMS, CMS, CRM, and SSO, or ingest recorded meetings from MS teams and Zoom. We also provide customized integration. Feel free to get in contact with us for any queries or consultations. You can set up a free trial today and use the platform for yourself!

Learn More About VIDIZMO EnterpriseTube

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Posted by Bareerah Shoukat

Bareerah is a product strategist at VIDIZMO - An expert in video streaming technologies. She helps businesses create marketing content that connects with their audience.

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