Vonage Video API, formerly and still affectionately known as TokBox, is a father figure of sorts for the streaming video age. TokBox has been around since 2007, has seen several iterations and innovations, and is still quite reliable today for live streaming video. Their basic functionality and fast setup time makes TokBox ideal for establishing multiple video connection points for all kinds of events.
Like other video services, TokBox has its own special drawbacks, particularly with scaling costs and customization. They charge by the minute per stream. So as you gain more users, beware of the cost of growth: multistreaming can increase costs exponentially. Plus, they charge extra for what they call “advanced” features, yet they truly should be considered standard, such as video recording and live video streaming. If using over 2,000 connections, TokBox automatically switches to a CDN delivery, which eliminates low latency, among other issues.
Can anyone else do TokBox better than TokBox? Let’s look at some companies that are similar to TokBox... cousins, if you will:
ANT Media’s inexpensive pricing will appeal to money savers, and who doesn’t appreciate saving cash? Their non-hosted solution is $49 per server instance, and their hosted option is good for teams who don’t have server maintenance resources. Thanks to WebRTC, ANT Media provides sub-500 latency. Cheap can be chic, but buyer beware.
ANT Media’s scalability is a bit of an issue. Their Large Enterprise Instance hosted package is limited to 400 high latency subscribers (HLS), and only 8 concurrent broadcasters. WebRTC subscribers are only allowed 300 clients. On the plus side, ANT Media does offer some flexibility: they have a Custom Scalable Cloud for a flexible amount of viewers and publishers.
Guess what? ANT Media doesn’t always update. They built their platform on top of our Red5 open-source software. But we here have control of the Red5 code, so as soon as new features and optimizations are added, we update the open source to decrease bugs and other issues. This helps the Red5 open source and Pro systems stay in sync.
ANT Media is so good at copying--they copy our features quite well! But this limits their updating speed and decreases their opportunity for new product features of their own. Customers who have switched to Red5 Pro have said that ANT Media’s support is not terribly robust. While ANT Media gives TokBox a good run, their lower price point comes with some lower standards.
Many factors come into play when choosing a live streaming provider: scalability, price, latency, functionality, and overall quality. Agora is a great TokBox alternative, especially for chat (both video and voice) and live streaming. They have an easy, customizable, API-rich user interface. Agora has their own Internet network throughout 200 worldwide data centers, through which they run their WebRTC-enabled Real-Time Engagement PaaS. They showcase solidly developed SDKs for point-to-point communications to support industries including e-commerce, mobile gaming, online dating, social media, and telehealth.
Agora, similar to TokBox, has some things to be aware of, especially with streaming. They claim to support up to one million passive video viewers, but their live streaming game needs work: they stream to a max of 17 people. Not 1,700, 17. Agora’s maximum video resolution with interactive activity on a one-to-many call is 240p, and on a one-to-one call it is 360p. 720p is the highest recommended resolution for passive streaming video. The cost of setting a higher resolution with Agora could end up being prohibitive. Customers who have switched, or are in the process of switching, from Agora to Red5 Pro have said that the quality of HD video is less than ideal even though Agora supports it.
Like TokBox, Millicast presents as a good video streaming choice too. They use WebRTC for their hosted solution. Millicast provides real-time streaming with sub-500 millisecond broadcasting (Millicast...milliseconds, we get it).
Similar to TokBox, Millicast’s hosted solution is convenient. But users can ONLY use the service their application was built on as it’s from a third party, so they’re bound by that third party’s limitations. Millicast is a closed infrastructure. Because it’s closed, users can be blocked from trying to add their own features like custom authentication, transcoding, AI integration, or pushing out streams to different processes. Like TokBox, if Millicast doesn’t support your technology, then you’re stuck. On the flip side, Red5 Pro uses plug-in based architecture that’s hosting agnostic, so a user is free to add what they want to.
Millicast’s hosted model shares your application’s infrastructure with other companies’ apps. If your business involves gambling, or anything else that is meant for adults, then any child-content protection filters will block out Millicast servers. So if your app is for children, say a reading or education app, Millicast may not be the best choice if there’s potential to be blocked.
Millicast’s “Pro” plan is $2,495 per month with 40,000GB of data included. They do charge more if a user goes over the data limit, however that’s a good limit to have, plus they include mobile SDKs.
If you look at Red5 Pro’s pricing, our Growth Pro plan + mobile SDKs with DigitalOcean hosting equals $1,238/month, and our annual plan brings the rate down further.
Phenix is said to be a good streaming service choice, and it’s similar to TokBox in that they have a major partnership. Like Agora and Red5 Pro, Phenix relies on WebRTC protocols for ultra-low latency. They claim real-time streaming at a sub-second latency/speed for syncing capability. One of their most notable features is a fast time to first frame. Verizon must be a big fan, however, as Phenix has now partnered with them to broadcast live streaming sports events. Looking at their website, Phenix keeps their information extremely close to the chest. Their partnership with Verizon is a fantastic vote of confidence, but if you want more info, we suggest you contact Phenix directly.
If you’re seeking to connect to millions, consider Red5Pro, real-time, sub-500 millisecond, WebRTC-driven latency. We support other protocols including MPEG-TS, RTSP, and SRT, all in concert with WebRTC. Because we’re open source, hosting agnostic, our solution avoids third-party service traps and plays nicely with your cloud provider. Users have serious back-end architecture flexibility. Your software is also customizable, and we offer full-featured SDKs for Android, iOS, and Linux for robustness across mobile devices, too.
Because Red5 Pro is so flexible, you will need some additional configurations, but with our help. We will never let you go it alone. We give detailed documentation, and a very responsive, helpful technical team to make sure all is running as expected and needed. If you need a hosted plan, we will be launching one this fall, it is currently in beta testing. If you want to run your own servers, we can set up and manage an account with our Enterprise Plan, with no added maintenance.