There comes a time where everyone needs to eventually call it in, and give up the ghost when it comes to chasing a project and chasing the high that completing features is giving. It’s not an easy thing to do, but at a point you’ve gained the experience and the most you’ve got to give now is something for the users. What if you have no users? Well that’s what we’re going to discuss.
For those that are unaware, I’ve been chasing this idea on Twitch for some time now. A simple bot that would update your twitch stream whenever you changed application. It started off as a simple C# console application and morphed into StreamUpdater.com, due to legacy code, various bad handling of how I did previous Twitch API stuff and just an abundance of new knowledge, I hated going back into that codebase and decided to reinvent StreamBit.tv. I’m consolidating nearly 4 years of development into a couple lines, but that’s the jist of it. StreamUpdater is a massive project, I just wanted to do it over and do it correctly this time
I had an idea, and that’s the most that we need as developers. So I set off, I already had a decent chunk of experience with this. I built StreamBit where it was previously just a YouTube-esque VOD site that linked in with various RTMP proxies for streaming. It was pretty cool but I couldn’t really make it different. There wasn’t anything innovative that I could have done that would have set me apart. YouTube has more money, better CDNs and thousands of employees, taking on that juggernaut is a risk, and so is becoming the haven for alternative politic nut jobs. I wanted a clean website, and actually modelled the terms of service after the UK’s Ofcom rules. One thing I think digital publishers should take a look at more!
Anyway, I had StreamBit, an aging VOD platform, with streaming bolted on. I wanted to reinvigorate it. If I created a one-stop shop for all creators. Where they could upload their videos, stream to StreamBit.tv and have all that managed by our systems so they don’t need to lift a finger… well that would be pretty awesome right?
So I set to building. I built the core parts of StreamUpdater into StreamBit first, and revamped the UI using Vue with InertiaJS. It was FLYING. The performance and reinvigoration alone from just the UI swap was enough to ship it as a contender. But I wanted to keep pushing features and keep setting myself apart. That’s when it dawned on me. There’s a reason StreamBit went without updates for two years. Cost.
It came one evening as I was starting to consider pricing for StreamBit. Who would I charge? What would I charge? What am I even considering costs wise. And that’s when it dawned on me. Any business has to plan for the worst. And If I did that I’d be potless by not even the first day if a creator came to my platform. Asmongold a popular twitch streamer has stated on his channel before that when he was streaming on an alt account (Which rarely got ads, never had a partnership, never made money) it was costing Twitch Thousands of dollars just to keep it running.
Imagine I just ran into the same scenario. And there’s no way around that. You need video to be quick and responsive on everyones connection, whether they are in Cali or whether they are in Seoul. You can imagine that streaming video costs around $0.07 per 1000 minutes.
The average stream, 8 hours a day would be 14880 minutes. Presume you’ve got 100 viewers and that’s around $100 a month you are paying. For one person to stream. And this is the same story with most streaming providers from AWS which Kick.com are using (RIP their wallets) and Cloudflare which I am using. I used to use Wowza in the past, but same issue.
So now, who pays the cost? Do I charge users to watch content? Netflix charges what, $7.99 a month for a subscription, can I say I have more value than they do? Of course not. So I need to put it to the creator, but why would a creator pay for all this, we’re talking $100 a month for 100 viewers, what if they have 14,000 viewers? It now makes sense that Floatplanes model is that you pay for a subscription to watch a certain creator. That likely makes the most sense in this scenario.
It quickly, starts to get out of control. So it can’t be done. I’ve came to that conclusion and I’m going to stop banging my head against the wall. You cannot, in this day and age rely on a third party to provide VOD and Streaming Services to your customer base without either your business being extremely small, or your wallet being extremely scalable and your ready to lose money for years before eventually seeing a profit. You’ll need to run ads, and you’ll need to find a way to charge viewers.
And that’s the thing. I could go the floatplane model, but there’s already a website doing that, I want to solve a problem that exists and for me that was the automation side of streaming. Unfortuntely there are SEVERAL sites dedicated to this. From StreamElements to StreamLabs to Repurpose, they all do what my site does, sure you need to pay them money, but it’s not like I’d have been charging any less. Ironically, the nuclear option I could do is just release the streambit source code and everyone could have their own stream elements if they wanted to. If there is enough support for it I might. But I’m still trying to decide myself what I should do.
Why give it up?
The truth is StreamBit.tv was a passion project from a guy that really wanted to make it in Streaming. However, I also loved programming so I decided to combine the two. The issue is now I don’t stream at all, haven’t in over 2 years, and I’m a full time web developer now. It is sucking a lot of my time, but at the same time it’s responsible for so much of my learning and understanding around this industry and what it entails. It’s allowed me to see the pitfalls and create things I never thought I could. Stay up late figuring out problems, trust me, there are many in this space. But I think I’m done. I’ve done all the big things. I know what I need to do to scale, it’s not an issue of Scale it’s an issue of funds at this point. It’s an issue of not being able to hire people to help me. It’s an issue of whether this project even needs to exist. In all my time of creating StreamBit and StreamUpdater there hasn’t ever been that massive community outreach that it’s something they’d want or something they’d even pay for.
I think they’re both really useful features. But at the same time I think they’d be just as good if there was an open source project that I contributed to instead of trying to make a business on my own.
Although I’m forever thankful to what it has taught me. I need to get my head in the game. Literally. The time I’ve spent on this while not completely wasted hasn’t furthered my career goal of entering the game dev space. Perhaps that’s what I need to do. Exit this project and go in hard on doing what I actually want to do for the next 10-20 years.
Let me know what you think. I’m always reachable on anything, it’s been a ramble for sure.