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Update on Status of Twitch App Development

May 17 2013

Over the last several weeks, we’ve rolled out some major modifications to our applications. iOS got an overhaul, Android development began anew, and our Xbox app was launched. Many of you took notice and told us loudly and clearly that these applications still leave a lot to be desired.

This 2-star rating in the iOS app store sums up the general sentiment:

As does this comment on the Xbox application:

The choices we make are always informed first and foremost by delivering the best possible experience for the community. When we’re forced to make sacrifices, we try to be as honest as possible with you and work even harder to meet your expectations. We want all of your favorite broadcasters to be watchable on every platform. We want every application to have all the functionality that you expect from Twitch. We all watch Twitch everyday and we feel the same pains and frustrations you do. We still have a lot of work to do but I’d like to spend some time explaining several of the recent choices we’ve made.

First, some background: There are two common protocols to serve live video: RTMP and HLS. Twitch has utilized RTMP for years, but we’ve finally reached its limits. About 4 months ago we set out to convert our entire video system to HLS. Why? First and foremost because all of the places we want your video to be accessible don’t really support RTMP. That means we couldn’t easily deliver video to your iOS, Android or other device. You may have noticed time-skipping or black-screens, for example, which were symptoms of this reality. Additionally, without making the change we’d have a lot of difficulty supporting next-generation features like DVR and adaptive quality switching.

Now, let’s take some of the most frequent criticisms one at a time:

Why only 300 channels? We want to build stable apps that offer excellent video quality while controlling our costs so we don’t disappear. Right now the number of channels we can reliably serve via HLS at a quality we’re proud of is 300 — whether you’re on iOS, Android or Xbox. We’ve found that this results in access to channels with a low-end between 50 and 60 viewers. We will be adding more channel availability as fast as we can.

Why no search? Given the limitations of our current video backend, we needed to move away from it quickly. The development required to properly restrict search to supported channels fell out of the timeframe we were attempting to meet. We know how important search is and we intend to add it back in an improved state as soon as we possibly can.

Why can’t I log in? When we set out to build applications on platforms we’d never worked with, we didn’t have the awesome api we have today. We didn’t support oauth and had to build one-off authentication schemes for each application that didn’t offer the level of security or functionality we wanted to provide. So we set out to build minimal applications that at least let you watch video. Further work was delayed when we decided that we weren’t living up to expectations of high-quality, reliable video delivery. You should start seeing feature improvements soon.

Why are you including ads? We provide a service on which many of your fellow gamers earn their living. To ensure your favorite broadcasters can continue to stream we need to find ways to increase their revenue — the more money we make across the platform, the more we can give back to these partners. It also allows us to invest in the infrastructure and product development required to support new platforms.

On Xbox Many of you told us you were disappointed that the application is only available for US users and Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers. Subsequent updates will include translations necessary for internationalization. Additionally, we will explore options that will give Silver members access to Twitch content.

To sum up We hope this gives you some insight into why our apps are the way they are, and where they are headed. We also hope you’ll be patient as our platforms team marches on and does the hard work of overcoming the unique challenges presented by the scale of our live video platform.

Sincerely, Jacob Woodsey Designer

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