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Deciphering HLS vs. Low-Latency HLS: A Comparative Overview

Achieving low latency is crucial for delivering a seamless viewing experience during video broadcasts. Thus, the choice of a competent streaming protocol is vital to diminish such delays. Although HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) is celebrated for its dependability, it doesn't quite meet the mark for scenarios demanding immediate content delivery, like live sports broadcasts or interactive webinars. Enter Low-Latency HLS (LL-HLS), an enhancement of the traditional HLS protocol crafted to reduce streaming delays significantly. In this exploration, we will compare HLS and LL-HLS, guiding you towards choosing the technology that best fits your streaming needs. Let's explore the differences!

Exploring HLS and LL-HLS

HLS, or HTTP Live Streaming, is a streaming protocol pioneered by Apple, renowned for its widespread adoption. It delivers video content seamlessly over various internet connections and devices by dividing a video stream into shorter segments, available at multiple quality levels. This adaptability allows your device to choose the optimal quality automatically, ensuring an uninterrupted viewing experience.

However, while HLS is known for its robustness, it inherently features higher latency – the delay between the live action being captured and displayed on your screen. Enter LL-HLS (Low-Latency HLS), a refinement of the original HLS protocol, crafted to address this very issue of latency, aiming to achieve near-instantaneous video delivery.

LL-HLS enhances streaming in the following ways:

  • Reduced segment size: LL-HLS minimizes the latency by sending out smaller video fragments as soon as they are processed instead of waiting for a larger segment to complete.
  • Accelerated delivery: By transmitting these reduced segments more rapidly, LL-HLS significantly shortens the delay and enhances the streaming experience.

LL-HLS is an advancement on HLS, engineered to support streaming experiences that demand minimal delay. This adaptation is particularly beneficial for interactive live streams, sports broadcasts, or any situation where a delay can detract from the viewer experience.

Contrasting HLS with LL-HLS

While HLS and LL-HLS serve the foundational purpose of streaming video content online, distinct differences set them apart:

Latency (delay)

HLS: Traditional HLS prioritises streaming stability, which can result in delays ranging from 10 to 30 seconds or even more. This level of latency is manageable for on-demand content but proves suboptimal for live interactions.

LL-HLS: Tailored for streaming that's as close to real-time as possible, LL-HLS dramatically reduces latency to about 2-3 seconds, catering well to dynamic and interactive online events.

Segment sizes

HLS: Relies on larger video chunks (typically between 6 to 10 seconds) to maintain uninterrupted playback despite varying internet speeds.

LL-HLS: Utilises smaller "partial segments," often less than a second long, which are dispatched to the viewer as soon as they're ready, significantly cutting down delay.


HLS: Boasts extensive compatibility across a wide range of browsers, devices, and operating systems, offering flexibility in content delivery.

LL-HLS: While its adoption is on the rise, LL-HLS is still largely driven by Apple's ecosystem and may face compatibility issues on some non-Apple devices.

Application scenarios

HLS: Ideal for traditional video-on-demand services and live streams where a slight delay is not detrimental to the viewer's experience.

LL-HLS: Best suited for live events requiring immediate viewer interaction, including sports broadcasts, live auctions, online gaming, and other scenarios where even a small delay matters.

In essence, LL-HLS enhances the HLS framework by significantly reducing the latency associated with video streaming. If minimizing delay is crucial for your application, LL-HLS is the preferred choice. Conversely, for scenarios where universal compatibility is paramount and some level of latency is acceptable, HLS remains a robust and dependable choice.

Surpass HLS and LL-HLS for instantaneous video streaming with Digital Samba

Seeking a dependable, scalable, and straightforward video conferencing integration for your app or website? Digital Samba is your answer. While HLS and LL-HLS are notable for their contributions, they fall short in delivering the immediacy required for real-time interactions. Digital Samba steps in to bridge this gap, harnessing the robustness of WebRTC technology to ensure fluid, real-time streaming capabilities.

Why opt for Digital Samba's SDK/API for your live video conferencing needs?

  • Simplified integration: Embedding video conferencing into your digital environment is made effortless with our SDK and API.
  • Unparalleled quality: Enjoy the clarity and richness of seamless video and audio, enabling genuine, lifelike conversations.
  • Scalable reliability: Designed to accommodate extensive user bases efficiently, our platform guarantees an uninterrupted experience for all participants.
  • Developer centric: With comprehensive documentation, our tools are designed to facilitate a hassle-free implementation experience for developers.

For those valuing instantaneous engagement with negligible latency, Digital Samba presents an intuitive solution to incorporate real-time video conferencing into your applications.

Choosing the right streaming protocol: a summary

Selecting the appropriate streaming protocol hinges on your particular requirements. HLS provides reliability and broad device compatibility, ideal for standard video streaming needs. For those seeking near-instantaneous engagement, LL-HLS reduces delays significantly, suited for live broadcasts or situations necessitating quick user reactions.

However, for the ultimate in low-latency performance, Digital Samba stands out. Leveraging WebRTC technology, we offer premier real-time video conferencing solutions characterised by exceptional quality and straightforward integration.

Digital Samba is your go-to for environments where every second counts, from live sports to real-time interactive auctions. Begin with Digital Samba to unlock a premium streaming experience, inclusive of 10,000 free HD video call minutes to get you started.

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