After a month of surprises and upsets, the 2018 FIFA World just finished last Sunday, with France winning the tournament against Croatia 4-2. More than 20 million people watched the Final on TF1 (the largest private-sector broadcaster in France and leading European media group). I have never seen Paris in such a fury, millions of people in the streets dancing, crying, screaming and hugging anyone who crossed their path.
The last time France went so completely nuts, it was for the 1998 World Cup hosted in France. I was 9 years old, and Zinedine Zidane scored two goals in the Final against Brazil. I remember watching the competition with my brothers in the living room of my grandparents’ house in a little town in the South of France. We watched all of the games on our old-school CRT TV (remember those?) with a low resolution broadband signal that was received on the antenna on our roof and was emitted from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Little did I know that twenty years later, I’d be actively involved in delivering this experience to millions of football fans in France and across the world.
Times have changed and video is going online. The OTT (Over-The-Top) revolution is rapidly disrupting the way we consume sports content. We have dozens of options to watch the World Cup: at home, at work or on-the-go on your phones, tablets, set-top boxes, laptops, Roku, Chromecast, connected TVs, and more… Most of us have high resolution screens that require much higher bitrates, and OTT is how this industry hopes to bring better user experience and quality. As 4K inches towards widespread market adoption, the videos from the 1998 games look like they happened 60 years ago. But some things never change. French people still go completely insane when they win the World Cup and the pictures from the Champs Elysees on Sunday look exactly the same as the ones from July 1998.
Five years ago, with Axel Delmas and Nikolay Rodionov — two friends of mine from engineering school — we had the crazy idea that we could be part of this technology revolution. We were convinced that we could find a better way to deliver video content over the internet. If our industry hopes to ensure that OTT delivery one day replaces cable television or satellite distribution, it will need to provide a TV-like experience with even better quality. The internet wasn’t built to deliver video at scale, and even if the existing infrastructure such as CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) have been doing a great job for 20 years, there is no way networks will be able to deliver a TV-grade experience to billions of people without rethinking the architecture of the web. This is why we created Streamroot, a hybrid mesh network delivery technology based on the WebRTC protocol that would allow broadcasters better route their traffic, scale to the colossal audience growth we’ve seen in the past few years, and do away with that dreaded buffering symbol.
It was a bit crazy to believe that three students who knew nothing about video architecture could one day have an impact on an industry dominated by billion-dollar companies and tech giants, but somewhere in our minds we were convinced that in time our technology would power the biggest events in the world — perhaps even the FIFA World Cup.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, and we’ve never taken the easy way out. Our focus since the very first day was on quality of service, being able to deliver to the multitude of devices modern consumers own, and build the most performant delivery technology on the market. We assembled a team that could change paradigms, take on industry megaliths, overcome adversity, and rise to every challenge.
Today I am so proud of what we have achieved. We built not only the first but the most efficient and reliable peer-accelerated technology on the market; we have powered the 2018 FIFA World Cup for national broadcasters around the globe, and have brought France’s victory to the screens of millions of viewers.
This World Cup, our technology was able to deliver 70% of our customers’ traffic and decrease buffering on their platforms by 10 to 30% — all at an unprecedented scale. Our friends at Akamai reported in early July that their World Cup traffic peaked at 23.59 terabits per second (vs. 6.99 Tbps in the 2014 tournament). Without a single caching server deployed on a data center — just by optimizing the existing architecture with our distributed CDN — we pushed 1.26 terabits per second. 5% of Akamai’s total traffic with a team of 25 engineers. And best of all, Streamroot will never have to worry about multiplying our capacity by four or six or ten in 2020.
I’d like to thank all of those who have trusted us from day one, and to the broadcasters who entrusted their biggest event of the year to Streamroot. This is just the beginning. Our technology can bring immense value to so many industries and our amazing team is capable of the impossible. So get ready for the next chapter!
This time around I was 29 years old. I watched the World Cup Final on a stream powered by our own technology. I walked up the Champs Elysées with my friends, my co-founders and my brothers. And M’Bappé is the new Zidane.