Monday, April 05, 2010

Wowza: Smart, very smart

Streaming Media Magazine has an article about everyone's favorite semi-obscene new site, Chatroulette. According to the article, the developer of the site, Andrey Ternovsky, a 17-year old Russian high schooler, built the site as an experiment. It uses the peer-to-peer connection feature in Adobe's Flash Player 10 to make a direct connection between compatible clients, but that feature only works when both clients are running Flash 10 or above, so he needed a media server to provide a fallback option.

Ternovsky ruled out Adobe's Flash Media Server because of cost and complexity, as well as the open-source Red5 server because of its complexity. He settled on Wowza's Media Server, but because he was a high school student without money, he installed a bootleg copy with a cracked serial number. However, it kept crashing, so he decided to contact Wowza tech support. An engineer by the name of Charlie sent him a patch to get the server running, but then something else crashed, and Charlie provided another patch--four in all, until Chatroulette was good to go.

Note two very important things here: First, Wowza didn't ask Ternovsky for his serial number, and second, Charlie wasn't just any tech support engineer; he was Charlie Good, Wowza's CTO and co-founder. Good must have figured out fairly early on that Ternovsky was using a pirated version of Media Server, but he helped him because he was intrigued by the project. Between 200 and 300 emails were passed between Ternovsky and Good before everything was working.

Chatroulette now gets one million visitors a day, and the Wowza Media Server is handling approximately half of those sessions. As a result of Good's decision to help out Ternovsky, Wowza improved its server, proved that it can stand up to heavy loads, and is getting priceless publicity. None of this would have happened if someone at Wowza had said "We won't support you unless you buy the server." That would have been the end of it. For those companies that require a support contract before they'll answer the telephone, they'd do well to learn a lesson from this.
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