What is RTMP?: The Ultimate Guide to Real-Time Messaging Protocol

By Emily KringsOct 20, 2022

Online video streaming has evolved rapidly over the past decade, and RTMP has played a huge role throughout this process. It rose to popularity with Flash Player and has remained relevant because of its low latency capabilities.

In this article, we will cover all things RTMP. We will start by discussing what RTMP stands for and what it means in the context of live streaming. From there, we will explore the role this streaming protocol has played in the evolution of the streaming industry.

To wrap things up, we will discuss some RTMP alternatives for streaming and ingest.

Table of Contents

What is RTMP?

Real-Time Messaging Protocol, or RTMP for short, is a video streaming protocol that has played a variety of roles in live streaming workflows over the years. It is a communication protocol that is used to transport video signals from one part of the streaming workflow to another. 

RTMP is known for its low latency capabilities, which means it can transport video at a relatively quick speed. However, the current roadblock for this protocol is an issue with compatibility.

There are several variations of RTMP, including RTMPS, RTMPT, RTMPE, and RTMFP. Each of these is a little different and serves different purposes.

The History of RTMP

Understanding the history and evolution of RTMP requires a bit of an understanding of the two most prominent video players in online streaming history.

RTMP was developed by Macromedia, a tech company that has since been acquired by Adobe. It was originally built to deliver video streams from a hosting platform to the Adobe Flash Player. This setup was one 

However, Flash Player is no longer used in online streaming. Although the official “death” of Flash Player was in 2020, it was on its way out for several years.

The transition away from Flash Player was sparked by the growth of mobile phones. Since Flash Player was not compatible with mobile, Apple developed and launched the HTML5 video player. With that came the development of the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol, which was designed to deliver streams to HTML5 video players.

Since the inception of the HTML5 video player and the death of Flash Player, RTMP has since taken on a different role in the streaming setup. This is because RTMP is not compatible with delivery to HTML5 video players. 

RTMP is now used for ingest. RTMP ingest is commonly paired with HLS delivery for optimal compatibility, latency, and efficiency, but we will discuss this in more detail later.

RTMP Streaming vs. RTMP Ingest

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Although we briefly mentioned RTMP streaming and RTMP ingest as part of the history of RTMP, it is important to clearly outline the differences between these two functions of the protocol.

RTMP streaming, which is also known as RTMP delivery and RTMP egress, is the process of delivering a video signal from the hosting platform to the video player, typically via a content delivery network (CDN).

On the other hand, RTMP ingest is the process that transports video signals from an encoder to the video hosting platform.

How Does RTMP Fit Into a Streaming Workflow?

Every live steaming workflow is unique, but there is a general flow that most live streams follow. The process typically looks like this:

  1. The stream is captured on camera/audio recording equipment
  2. The stream is fed to the encoder
  3. The hosting platform ingests the video stream from the encoder via RTMP
  4. The video hosting platform sends the stream to the content delivery network (CDN)
  5. The CDN delivers the stream to the viewer-facing video player via HLS or another streaming protocol

As the workflow demonstrates, RTMP is important for ingesting the video stream from the hosting platform to the encoder in step three. 

This workflow is efficient and effective because it couples RTMP’s low latency coupled with a more compatible protocol for delivery.

RTMP Alternatives

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With the way the streaming industry is evolving, it is wise to prepare yourself for the future of streaming. One step you can take to prepare is to familiarize yourself with some of the emerging technologies in the live streaming industry.

Let’s review a few alternatives to RTMP.

Alternatives to RTMP for Streaming Delivery

As we’ve covered, RTMP is no longer used for delivering streams to the video player, so at this point, using an alternative streaming protocol for delivery is a must.

Currently, HLS is amongst the most popular streaming protocols for delivering live streams since it was designed to work seamlessly with the HTML5 video player. 

MPEG-DASH is another viable option for streaming delivery. This streaming protocol is particularly known for its multi-bitrate streaming capabilities.

Alternatives to RTMP for Ingest

Although RTMP is still widely used for ingest, there are a couple of alternatives available that are worth considering. Some other popular streaming protocols for ingest include Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) and WebRTC.

SRT is a newer technology from Haivision that is known for its efficiency, speed, and security. This open-source video protocol was designed to ensure stable video transport over any internet connection, even weaker connections.

WebRTC is a streaming protocol that was designed for video conferencing because its latency is as close to real-time as possible. It was not originally designed for streaming at scale but has since been updated to stream to larger audiences effectively.

It is worth noting that while these newer streaming protocols are designed to be more powerful and more widely compatible, a lot of other streaming technologies, such as the top encoders, are still mostly RTMP-enabled.

Stream on Maestro


Maestro uses RTMP ingest, which means it is compatible with the most popular encoders, streaming software, and other sources. 

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