TokShow: Building a large scale video comms platform

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.

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IncuBox: Take your App from Beta to Blast-off!

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.

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Introducing TokShow

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.

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Eye of the Tigers

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.

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Downloading archives

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?

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The good, the bad, and the…beautiful

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.

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SF Startup Weekend EDU

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.

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Peer to Peer Video has arrived!

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!

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Video Hack Day SF

Last Saturday at TokBox HQ in San Francisco, 40 awesome and friendly hackers (and 1 mascot) came together to create 13 video apps built with a variety of video APIs. Six out of 13 projects incorporated OpenTok, including:

You Got Served: Two videos went head-to-head to compete for votes to see which one is the crowd pleaser.  One of the hackers presenting deftly showed off his dance skillz vs a football game; dance was the winner there.

8sec.tv: App that integrated OpenTok video archiving and RottenTomatoes to let users record video reviews.

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Quick Note Regarding Session ID Changes

A few weeks ago we sent out an email regarding changes to our session IDs (they are now longer, up to 255 characters).  If you are storing session IDs for re-use, make sure that your database field supports this (we recommend a length of 512 just to be safe).

Also, when you switch your app from staging to production, make sure to also modify the client JavaScript src URL and server-side API URL to point to production!  You’ll also want to make sure that you start using production and not staging session IDs.

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