Our goal for the back end of the TokShow application was to make it as simple as possible while supporting a couple thousand people.
The biggest concern for performance was moving a new fan on stage. When that happens, everyone in the TokShow needs to hit the server to get the connection ID of the next fan. We thought the ‘aha’ moment of a fan meeting the artist for the first time would be a major part of the experience, so making the transition smooth and simultaneous for all of the viewers was critical.
To keep things simple, we used PHP and MySQL on the server. There is very little state saved for the application. We basically need to know:
- Who is on stage
- Who is in the line
- Whether the show has started yet
- What time the show is scheduled to start.
We had one PHP file to wrap our reads and writes to the server, and that’s about it. For our TokShows we needed only one PHP server, which also hosted the database.
Building the TokShow app gave us another great opportunity to test our API in a real-world app. And, sure enough, we discovered some additions for the OpenTok API.
Not all clients using the app and participating in the session have the same audio-video capabilities. Some clients use older versions of Flash Player or hardware that does not support acoustic echo cancellation. The acoustic echo cancellation feature was added in OpenTok v0.91.18 (in June), and it works great. It pretty much eliminates acoustic audio feedback. We wanted to build an app that allowed the administrator to see if a potential participant (fan) had acoustic echo cancellation supported on their machine. However, the OpenTok API did not provide that information … so we added it. And the new API includes other information on the quality of each stream in the session. In addition to acoustic echo cancellation support, the API provides other information about the publisher of a stream, including the upstream bandwidth, whether the microphone and camera are enabled, and whether H.264 video is supported. These enhancements were added in the November 10 release of the OpenTok API (v0.91.35).
There are a number of huge challenges being a platform company, as the product we build has to work under many conditions. One of those major challenges is the issue of scaling a realtime communications platform to support both one-to-one conversations and also 5000+ participant talk shows. Now some people might say “Doesn’t YouTube already let thousands of people view a video?” Yes, but the difference is that YouTube is about consuming and OpenTok is about face-to-face.
TokBox Launches IncuBox, a Developer Competition for University Students. Team with the best app using the OpenTok API receives premium mentorship, ownership of IP, plus the opportunity to present to VCs
San Francisco, CA – December 5, 2011 – TokBox, the company behind the OpenTok video platform, today announced IncuBox, a competition giving student app developers the opportunity to receive dedicated tutorial and assistance bringing their app to market.
The team that submits the best app using OpenTok’s online face-to-face technology will be invited to work out of TokBox’s San Francisco headquarters for eight weeks. They will work closely with TokBox’s elite development team, product managers, marketing team and other key players responsible for creating the OpenTok API from the ground up.
Someone once told me that if your customers are forcing you to move so quickly that you’re constantly on the brink of crashing, you’re likely onto something big. I’m starting to believe that more and more with each day.
In the last two months the TokBox team has been moving at record speeds. We’re doing something right. In fact, I think we’re doing a lot right. The small pieces that we’ve been pushing on for a long time are starting to come together as we had imagined and hoped they would.
Most recently, we’ve been working on one of our newest plug-n-play apps, TokShow, which has been the cause of much of this craziness. TokShow allows musicians, politicians, celebrities or really anyone to host a live conversation with their followers on any web site. Think MTV’s old-school show TRL hosted by Carson Daly. Your favorite band takes the stage to field questions from the audience about their upcoming album or tour.
With TokShow, that type of fan and celebrity interaction is now possible online to the masses, not just to the crowd lucky enough to be in the studio.
No, I’m not talking about the Rocky theme song here – I’m actually referring to the mascot at Princeton University, but now that you already have it playing in your head…
At TokBox we’ve travelled to dozens of Startup Weekend events but there was definitely a different type of hunger at Princeton Startup Weekend. Not many of these events get the chance to be hosted on a prominent university’s campus, with the leagues of inspired and creative students anxiously awaiting their opportunity to make a dent on the universe. It made the weekend exciting and fruitful for some of the future entrepreneurs that we met. I’d like to highlight some of my favorites here.
Update: March 13, 2014 – Please note that this blog post references the archiving functionality in our OpenTok 1.0 platform. This feature is no longer being supported. Learn more about archiving using our OpenTok 2.0 platform.
A few weeks ago we were very excited to release our archiving feature to a wider audience. Now a video conversation is no longer a fleeting moment in time, but something that can be recorded and played back.
What we noticed however was that people wanted a bit more then just having the ability to record and play back archives. Our partners want to take ownership of the individual videos, to modify them, and to more easily share them with family, friends and their own end-users.
What to do?
It’s been an exciting few weeks for video quality. In the world of the wild, wild web (www), a stranger riding into town could be good, bad, or something else…
That’s what we thought here at TokBox when Adobe Flash Player 11 galloped into the land of OpenTok last week. From a distance, the stranger looked like a bandit, triggering an old hardware acquisition bug that threatened to break the OpenTok API. But we squashed that bug right quick. After the dust settled, we realized that Flash 11 was actually one of the good guys. There was a new sheriff in town—and Flash 11 was gonna use his H.264 revolver to bring justice and a new dawn for OpenTok video quality. Thanks to Flash 11, the OpenTok API now offers beautiful images that are clearer, crisper, and sharper than ever before.
Last weekend I and ~50 other developers, businesspeople and designers attended the SF Startup Weekend EDU hackathon at Grockit HQ, located right around the corner from TokBox here in SoMa. The event marked the first in a series of events in a new Startup Weekend track (EDU) focused on learning and education.
This was the second Startup Weekend I’ve attended since starting here as a Developer Evangelist, and it was noticeably different from the first one I attended which was Startup Weekend MEGA, at Microsoft HQ in Mountain View. Even though SW Mega is generally regarded as a sexier Startup Weekend event due to its visibility, prizes and the three startup tracks it features, this smaller event was more fun for me because it was more focused and seemed to be a more cohesive and intimate.
Here at TokBox we’re always trying to find ways to improve the quality of your video experience. We’ve pushed out H.264 support with the new Flash Player 11 plugin. We’re learning how to pump more bits down the same bandwidth pipe to make sure your video is clear and crisp. And now, we are excited to enable Peer to Peer video for two party video chats.
What exactly is Peer to Peer (P2P)?
Traditional OpenTok sessions stream video via our servers. With P2P, participants stream video directly to each other, resulting in better video quality!