The past decade has seen a big boom in over-the-top streaming; it is the most rapidly growing form of entertainment media. Projections indicate that we should not see any decline in growth this decade. So don’t hesitate and jump on the train of streaming success that Netflix started.
Netflix is the leader in the OTT and SVOD streaming industry. The company was founded in 1997 and launched its web-page in 1998. Throughout the 2000s Netflix focused on developing an online video streaming page. In 2008 it finally launched the product which through many iterations is with us today. This path was not an easy one, but Netflix is now a giant, producing its own series, shows, and movies.
It was reported in 2020 that Netflix’s operating income is $1.2 billion. So how has did it happened that Netflix has become so popular? The obvious answer is that everybody loves movies and shows and having a bunch of them in one place for a reasonable price is, at the least, very convenient. But there is another reason Netflix is so convenient. Netflix is probably on every device you know that is capable of playing video while connected to the Internet. I will focus on this part of its success.
As you may know, there are two main parts to every app on the web, and that is a frontend and a backend. This division is key to making an app smooth, dynamic, and safe.
The frontend is the client-side part of an application and therefore the part that users directly see when an app is launched. In this article, I will focus mainly on the front-end because for a Netflix style of app, it is the part that differs the most from other developments you may have encountered in the past.
Opposite to the frontend, the backend is the part of the software that the user does not see. It manages requests from the user, accessing data from a database, etc. The backend of streaming applications is also very important and complicated, but its development may not vary so much from general backend development.
One of the key features that has led to Netflix’s success is the fact that its app is available on all common platforms. This is not an easy task to manage and if each platform is developed separately, it will also be very expensive. So how to simplify this problem? We can divide platforms into two groups - platforms with their own codebase and HTML5 - based platforms. This will help us to navigate through this problem.
Platforms such as Android, iOS, or Roku are very important for the range of your app. Sadly, to reach the audience of these platforms you will have to develop a separate application for each platform. This is due to the limitations set by the operating systems of these devices. Luckily, not all platforms have these specific codebases.
Many platforms run their software programs as HTML5 web apps. For example, this is the case for the most common web browsers, game consoles such as XBOX or PlayStation, smart TVs, and Blu-ray players. With this in mind, programs for all of these platforms can be developed at the same time as a multi-platform project with changes only in the areas where there is some device-specific setting or limit.
Now I will focus on the HTML5 app only because other platforms would most likely need an article of their own. To develop an HTML5 program you have to decide first if you want to use an existing framework or to go with a more custom solution using vanilla HTML, Web GL and JS with the help of React, for example. Both of these options have their positives and negatives, so let me go through them.
The main plus of frameworks is that they provide a structure of your app; this way you don’t have to worry that much about architecture when creating the app.
This is great, but it also limits you because the framework you have chosen can do only as much as its general functionality provides. This means that when you run into some app-specific problems you will need to do some workarounds outside the framework which undermines the whole idea of it, or you will have to make some structural sacrifices.
This is a problem that is bigger when using closed source frameworks such as Nautilus than open-source ones like Lightning, in which problems can be addressed more easily with the developers of the framework.
On the other hand, frameworks can speed up development a great deal. If you need your app quickly, this might be the way to go. At REMOTE ORIGIN, we have experience working in frameworks such as Lightning as well.
This means development takes longer than when using a framework but as a reward for this fact, you are not limited in any way. This means that you can fully optimize and customize your application in a structural way as well as in the way of rendering components.
This is a style of development on which REMOTE ORIGIN focuses. We use our experience and prepared codebase to create fully customized and optimized cross-platform apps.
So now you should have some idea what the options for the development of a Netflix-like app are. Now I’d like to talk about some parts of the app you should not underestimate.
Probably the most obvious one is playback, as the app depends on it. You need to put time and effort into creating a robust player which won’t have problems playing any of the common types of streams such as DASH and HLS. Also, if you intend to have live streaming in your app, you need to manage it. That will most likely require an additional player. So, in the end, it is a lot of work to have a simple-looking player that works smoothly all the time.
The second most important thing is navigation inside your app. The composition of components must be natural and most importantly switching between them must be fast and snappy. If navigation is laggy, the overall experience of the user will decrease greatly.
Maybe not so obvious is long-term quality control. As time progresses devices get new firmware upgrades, your application has new features, etc. all of this can mean that the performance of your app might change.
To make sure everything works well, the app should be evaluated on the devices on which it is supposed to run. A great way to do this consistently is to leverage automatic testing but this might be problematic to do on TVs and other devices because you need to simulate remote control events.
REMOTE ORIGIN has an in-house developed framework and device that can do this for you. So don’t hesitate to contact us.