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Twilio Video Alternatives for A Conscious Decision Maker


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Video Communication & Modern Businesses


In an era defined by rapid technological advancement and shifting business landscapes, video communication has emerged as a pivotal tool for modern enterprises. Platforms like Twilio, Zoom, Google Meet, and Jitsi have revolutionized the way businesses operate, enabling seamless collaboration and communication regardless of physical distance. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the critical importance of these tools, as companies around the world were forced to quickly adapt to remote work environments.


During the height of the pandemic, these video communication platforms played a crucial role in maintaining business continuity. Zoom, for instance, saw a massive surge in users as companies turned to its platform for virtual meetings, webinars, and conferences. Similarly, Twilio's cloud communication solutions enabled businesses to quickly implement and scale their communication strategies, ensuring that employees remained connected and productive. Google Meet and Jitsi provided secure and reliable video conferencing capabilities, allowing teams to collaborate effectively in a virtual setting. These platforms not only kept businesses running but also paved the way for a new era of remote work and digital collaboration.


The current Video communication providers can be categorized into 2 broad categories. One category has those who provide ready-to-use video meeting solutions like Gmeet & Zoom, and another category has those who provide all the tools and technologies like Twilio & Jitsi for building custom video meeting solutions. The second category who provide tools to build video solutions can further be categorized into 2 sub categories. One subcategory is Jitsi which provides ready to use self-hosted video meeting solutions including the frontend, backend, media server, horizontal scaling, etc and the other subcategory is the CPAAS/ Video SDK providers like Twilio which provides a scalable backend service along with frontend APIs to build video applications.


All the above-mentioned categories and subcategories have their strengths and weaknesses for a specific business use case. But in general, a requirement can be divided into the abovementioned categories / sub-categories. Accordingly, an option can be chosen from all the available options in that category/sub-category. To keep this post clear and crisp, we are going to discuss more on the second subcategory of the second category, i.e. Twilio as a Video SDK provider and the impact of its EOL (End Of Life) on its existing customers as well as the sub-category/category as a whole.


Twilio Video Discontinuation & Changing Landscapes


The recent announcement by Twilio regarding the discontinuation of its Twilio Video service marks a significant shift in the landscape of video communication platforms. This decision comes amidst a rapidly evolving market, with new players entering the field and existing ones constantly innovating to meet the growing demands of users. While this change may initially cause concern for businesses relying on Twilio Video, it also presents an opportunity to reassess and adapt to the evolving needs of modern communication.


As businesses navigate this transition, it's important to recognize that the discontinuation of Twilio Video does not signify the end of innovative video communication solutions. Instead, it signals a dynamic market where companies must remain agile and open to exploring new technologies. This shift also underscores the importance of choosing a video communication platform that aligns with the long-term goals and requirements of the organization. By carefully evaluating the available options and selecting a platform that offers both stability and scalability, businesses can continue to leverage the power of video communication to drive growth and success in an ever-changing landscape.


Possible reasons that could have led to Twilio Video Sunset


People who understand how Video technologies work and how complex it is to build a stable enterprise-ready video application, can't ignore the importance of correct decisions early on related to the core components of the video application. If one goes wrong here at the early stages, there is a good chance of negative impacts in the later stages related to stability, scaling, future feature enhancements, etc. I assume something like this, i.e. some incorrect decisions in the early stages of the Twilio video, would have happened with them as well. I wish to share a short story from my own experience before moving on.

We who followed WebRTC from its early days i.e. from 2012-13 time, can't forget the promise made by an open-source WebRTC media server named Kurento to the developer community at that time. It was the leading media server at those times with a promise of media forwarding(SFU), merging(MCU), and real-time post processing(with OpenCV) all combined into one package. It was theoretically the perfect media server that could change the world of media scaling and real-time processing forever. I had used Kurento for some of my personal/commercial projects in 2014-15 and I was also super excited about its prospects and possibilities. It was developed by some students and professors at a Spanish University and this open-source package was maintained by them as well along with other contributors.

But in the year 2016-17, after using this media server for 1 -2 years in some commercial projects, I realized that it is hard to manage and scale this media server. It is resource-guzzling as well as slow and less capable of handling concurrent meeting rooms

in larger numbers. It had some core features like ICERestarts were missing as well which are a necessity if wish to deal with bad networks. Therefore, a realization came to us in the year 2019 that we need to move our commercial project to a better media server if we wish to scale it to larger numbers.

The interesting part here is that Twilio bought Kurento for its promises in the year 2017 and built Twilio video on top of it. They bought it for $ 40 million (I read it somewhere back in 2017!) and spent a good amount of money afterward to make it Twilio Video. I think they realized something similar in 2023 which we realized in 2019 and thought of moving on.

I am not sure if this was the primary reason or not as I can only assume what could have happened. But I think the decision to buy Kurento 2017 and deciding to build a Twilio video on top of it may have some role to play in the decision to Twilio video Sunset.


Key learning from this incident

Anybody planning to build a video application should take a learning from it. The key learning is to avoid doing the fundamentally wrong things early on which may have catastrophic impacts later. Therefore it is critical to have good video application professionals (like us!) on your side who have sufficient experience with your kind of use cases early on, to make the right decisions that is beneficial for you and your application both in the shortest as well as in the longest term.


The Beginning of Search for a Twilio Video Alternative


In the realm of real-time communication, Twilio Video has established itself as a go-to solution for many businesses. However, as it is sun-setting its service for some reasons, we need to consider various factors when exploring alternatives. The importance of reliability, scalability, security, and ease of integration cannot be overstated in this context.


Reliability is paramount in any communication system. Look for alternatives with a proven track record of uptime and minimal disruptions. The best way to check reliability is by building a POC to check the performance of the provider with some edge cases like how the audio/video connection performs when the network degrades OR does the video freezes for a user when switching between 5g / Wifi. These scenarios tell about the depth of the provider concerning building video applications.


Scalability is not a deal breaker if your use case doesn't require 1000s of users in 1 room or 1000s of rooms concurrently running with 10s / 100s of users in each room. But if you have a use case that needs either 1000s of users in 1 room or 1000s of concurrent rooms, then do check the scalability aspects well. A good practice is to as for load test reports which was done by the provider. The best option is to run the load tests yourselves with a POC application to check the scalability for yourself.


Security is non-negotiable, especially when dealing with sensitive information. Look for alternatives that offer end-to-end encryption and comply with relevant regulations like GDPR and HIPAA. Are they providing E2E encryption in case it is a need for your application Or can they store the recordings in an encrypted format in case of a need? These are some of the questions that need to be asked to the provider before deciding on the security aspects of it.


Ease of integration is another important aspect that can make or break your video application. If it takes too many API calls to achieve a small thing or there are important APIs that are not available for your use case then it is not worth considering the solution even if it offers the above 3.


Based on the above parameters, we can consider 2 types of solutions that can become a Twilio video alternative. One is an open-source media server-based solution and another is a proprietary solution provided by a commercial vendor. In this post, we are going to explore both alternatives in a detailed manner.


Open Source Twilio Video Alternatives:


Open-source video communication solutions are software platforms that enable users to communicate through video conferencing, messaging, and collaboration tools. Unlike proprietary solutions, open-source solutions provide the underlying code for free, allowing users to modify, customize, and distribute the software according to their needs. This openness fosters innovation, as developers worldwide can contribute to improving the software, leading to rapid advancements and feature enhancements.


One of the key benefits of open-source video communication solutions is their flexibility and scalability. Organizations can tailor the software to meet their specific requirements, integrating it into their existing infrastructure seamlessly. Additionally, open-source solutions are often more cost-effective than proprietary alternatives, as they eliminate licensing fees and allow users to leverage a global community of developers for support and development.


In recent years, open-source video communication solutions have gained popularity due to their reliability, security, and privacy features. These solutions prioritize user data protection, offering end-to-end encryption and other security measures to safeguard sensitive information. As businesses and individuals increasingly rely on video communication for work, education, and social interactions, open-source solutions provide a reliable and accessible platform for connecting people around the world.


Primarily open source solutions can be divided into 2 categories. One is a ready solution with both frontend(UI) and backend ready to be deployed on the server and used. The downside of this is that the front end (UI) may not be suitable for your use case. A great example in this category is Jitsi. Jitsi is a ready to be used open source video conferencing solution with a pre-built UI with a scalable backend. The only issue is that we can use the default UI as an IFrame inside our solution but can't modify it easily according to our use case. Also, it may not be a great Twilio video alternative as Twilio video is used to provide the APIs to build a custom video solution according to our exact needs.


Therefore let's explore the second alternative,i.e. a media server-based solution that provides a set of APIs to build custom video conferencing/ Interactive live streaming solutions like Twilio video currently provides. Though there are a good number of open-source Twilio alternatives, we are going to mention the top 2 alternatives that can be worthy of replacing Twilio video APIs. One great example is the mediasoup-demo project which can be considered as a real Twilio video alternative. It has all the ingredients for building a production-grade video conferencing/ Interactive live streaming system. The only downside of this project is that it is a raw tech that has been built to demonstrate the capabilities of the mediasoup media server. Hence it lacks the polish of a production-grade video application. This can be considered as a great base/starting point on top of which a production-grade video conferencing / Interactive live streaming application can be built. Please note that the APIs provided by the mediasoup-demo project are not the same as Twilio and they need a separate integration effort than the existing Twilio implementation. Another very good project is liveKit, built using PION, the Go lang version of WebRTC. If you have a Go lang backend, then this project can be worth the consideration.


Open source Twilio Video Alternatives, Pros and Cons

Pros:

  1. Cost-Effective: Open-source WebRTC projects eliminate licensing fees, reducing overall development costs.

  2. Customization: Developers can tailor the solution to meet specific enterprise needs, ensuring flexibility and scalability.

  3. Community Support: Access to a large community of developers can provide assistance, bug fixes, and ongoing updates.

  4. Security: Regular updates and scrutiny by the community can enhance security, ensuring vulnerabilities are quickly identified and patched.

  5. Interoperability: WebRTC's standardization enables interoperability with various platforms and devices, ensuring seamless communication.

Cons:

  1. Complexity: Integrating and managing an open-source WebRTC project can be complex, requiring specialized knowledge and resources.

  2. Maintenance: While community support can be beneficial, it also requires active management to ensure compatibility and security updates are implemented.

  3. Scalability: While WebRTC itself is scalable, managing the infrastructure to support enterprise-grade usage can be challenging without dedicated resources.

  4. Quality Control: Open source projects may lack the same level of rigorous testing and quality control as commercial solutions, potentially leading to reliability issues.

  5. Legal Considerations: Open source licenses may have implications for proprietary use, requiring careful consideration of licensing terms and compliance.


Open Source Considerations, Building from Scratch vs. Using a Vendor

Building from Scratch:

Building from scratch can be considered an option if you have

  1. At least 3-5 Highly Skilled people in the core Audio/Video technologies like WebRTC, SIP, FFMPEG, GStreamer, WebSockets

  2. Peripheral skill sets like JavaScript, HTML, Android, iOS, etc. for building Web and mobile clients

  3. If you have at least 12 months and enough financial resources to maintain a team of 8-10 available. It may go to 18-24 months if your requirement is too complex and it needs a very specialized approach.

  4. You will get the benefits of the above-mentioned pros but also you need to deal with the above-mentioned cons on your own.

Using a Vendor:

Using a vendor is beneficial as well as recommended if

  1. You don't have a team with the above-mentioned skill sets who can understand and modify an open-source package according to your use case.

  2. You don't have at least 8 - 12 months available for implementing your use case using an open-source package.

  3. You would get the pros of open source as mentioned above without having to deal with many of the cons as mentioned above. The vendor would provide you with much-needed support, scalability, and quality control capabilities.

  4. The financial resources needed would be similar to building it from scratch with the difference that you would get the results faster with better predictability and control of the outcome.


Commercial Twilio Video Alternative:

Nothing much needs to be written about commercial alternatives for the Twilio video. As the header suggests, this category has commercial vendors who provide audio/video SDK software similar to Twilio. The SDKs may not be the exactly same but they do the job effectively i.e. providing audio/ video capabilities in your application without you having to go through the pain of building the audio/video SDK for yourself.


These are some of the providers of audio/Video SDKs that offer similar audio/video capabilities as Twilio.


There are many others as well who provide video/audio SDKs. Please google and you will find others.


Pros

  1. Faster time to market: If you are not sure about the prospect of the product or service and you wish to test your product or service really quick

  2. No need to maintain a team of audio/video experts

  3. Easy to start with a lesser amount of cost when utilization is low


Cons

  1. Cost becomes prohibitive as usage grows with time

  2. Complex to forecast monthly costs with pay-per-minute/user billing techniques

  3. Chance of getting stuck with a vendor with a huge switch cost,( Vendor lock-in)

  4. Lesser control over the actual media streams of your users

  5. The fear of if Twilio can decide to shut down the video service, then your current vendor may also decide to shut it down next year!

  6. Sometimes your video SDK provider may not be flexible enough to customize according to your requirements.


The simple formula to choose between using a commercial vendor vs not using a commercial vendor is below.

If the audio/video capabilities are mission-critical to your business for some reason and are deeply coupled to the core workflows of your business, then it's best not to choose a commercial vendor. In this case, it is better to look for alternatives that would provide you with better control over the entire stack of your audio/video capability requirement.


If you wish to know more about a possible Twilio video alternative that can be tailored to your specific use case, please feel free to drop an email at hello@centedge.io to kickstart a conversation with us. If you wish to schedule a discussion with one of our principal engineers to discuss your use case in detail, feel free to use the Meetnow button available at the top of this page to schedule it.

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