The ‘What’ only matters when you understand the ‘Why’.
Swarmify was created to bring Netflix-level streaming to everyone.
My mission to create better video started with inspiration from a toddler…
A few years ago, my wife and I were just beginning to grow our family. We had a two-year-old daughter, Brylee, and my wife was in the late stages of pregnancy with my soon-to-be son, Bishop. For anyone that has been a parent of two young children, they know this is a time of frayed nerves, little sleep, and trying to create moments of contentment and quiet.
That sets the stage for what happened next which is pictured to the right. That is my daughter, and this is a photo of her reacting to an incident that sparked the beginnings of Swarmify. The terrible thing that caused this two-year-old to bawl hysterically was simple: She had been quietly watching Dora the Explorer on Netflix when the video playback stopped and started buffering. She was crying, my wife is looking at me to fix it, I am frantically restarting routers, the streaming box, the Netflix app, and nothing is working. Eventually, we were able to divert her attention to something else, but the feeling of frustration both hers, and mine at not being able to figure out “Why” formed the seeds of Swarmify.
I have been fascinated with computers since the early days of the Internet. I ran dial-up bulletin board systems from my house in high school and saw the Internet grow from a corner for similar-minded techies, to the global communication platform we see today. I even had early experience with working on Internet video. At the time in 1996, it was low resolution, black and white, but my high school senior research project was on improving compression in a project called CU-SeeMe out of Cornell University. It was one of the first video conferencing applications.
Yet there we were, decades later. The video had color and a higher resolution but buffering and stall outs were still a thing. And they weren’t due to my Internet speeds, Wi-Fi network, or any of the normal culprits that fingers get pointed at. Figuring out what was causing the problem and whether it could be fixed became what my wife would likely describe as an obsession. Our entire team at Swarmify has spent the past 3 years investigating and solving the causes of these problems so that video would never again cause some future father or mother to be in the same position I was that day.
For me, it may be a bit selfish as my daughter now explains when asked what my job is that I am “fixing YouTube for the world”. But it’s not just about my family being able to watch online video without issues. Video already makes up 73% of all Internet usage and is on track to grow to 90% soon. It plays an outsized role in how we entertain, inform, and share with each other. Yet the core way video works hasn’t been rethought since the beginnings of the Internet. Even with all of the improvements in speed and availability, video still doesn’t work reliably.
If video is going to be a building block of things to come, then it needs to be accessible, and resilient to failures. The techniques & solutions we have developed deliver on these goals and allow for video more than 8x more reliable than the largest content delivery networks, at prices that are affordable for any person, business, or organization with a message to share.
That is what drives each and every person here at Swarmify, that no matter what story you have to tell, to customers, friends, family, or even the world; video is an important part of that. We make sure that story is received with the same clarity you intended. Better video is now available to all.
Founder & CEO
nathan @ swarmify.com
Disruption is often created by outsiders.
I’ve always been a sucker for a great story. As a kid, I can remember gathering around the TV with my family to watch 60 Minutes every Sunday evening at 7pm. No one could captivate me like Mike Wallace with his pictures, interviews, and narration flying through the sky.
Today, our stories are told increasingly through a very different medium. We stream video to personal devices in the form of 1’s and 0’s pushed through infrastructure never built for the demands and voracious consumption of video.
At the office, we often joke about the days when things on the Internet “just worked” and how it no longer feels like that is the case. We now live in an era where video playback stalls-out 25% of the time, giving way to an industry term known as “buffer rage”. Buffer rage is defined as: “a state of uncontrollable fury or violent anger induced by the delayed or interrupted enjoyment of streaming video content.” Does this emotion resonate? We’ve all experienced this in some fashion, most likely quite often, but did you ever think the number was 1 out of every 4 instances? By the way, there’s no device, Internet speed, provider, or location bias whatsoever. The impact is felt across the board. As you know, stall-outs do not make for a great experience that cultivates engagement with one’s “story” or message. To the contrary, it sends visitors and viewers screaming for the exits!
Until recently, only titans like Netflix had the time, financial resources, and inclination to work out solutions so video played back with minimal interruption. But don’t we all deserve to tell our stories and have positive relationships with our viewers as well? Disruption is often created by outsiders who didn’t begin with a background in the field they wind up disrupting. The team at Swarmify is no exception. As outsiders to the video industry, we acquired unique and fresh perspectives that led us to view and tackle the failures of online video in new and innovative ways, ultimately reducing playback stall-out rates 8x, a feature I’m very proud of. Better video has big revenue impacts for our customers.
I wake up every day intent on helping publishers and businesses of all sizes deliver their stories loud and clear!
philip @ swarmify.com
If the video isn’t going to take fifteen minutes to load, it had better take zero minutes.
I’ve always been interested in optimization. In college, I wanted to extract more from my PC, so I installed Linux, which ran noticeably faster than Windows for many things on the hardware of the era. At one point, I even overclocked my AMD K6 233 MHz processor to 300 MHz. I’m pretty sure even my toaster is faster than that now!
In graduate school for neuroscience, I was faced with computational problems far exceeding our hardware’s abilities. A typical analysis of fMRI data could take hours, or even overnight; my longest was an EEG connectivity analysis that would require 3 weeks(!) to complete. At that point, you use every optimization trick you can, from knowing when to use smaller data types, to bypassing Matlab’s naive vectorization in favor of more memory-efficient structures.
With the need to burn less fossil fuels to deal with global warming, optimization has started to become almost like a moral imperative: we shouldn’t waste electricity when it comes from burning fuels, and computers waste plenty while waiting for video to come down the pipeline.
But really, the issue with video isn’t the wait, it’s that it’s NOT LONG ENOUGH. Crazy, I know. See, if I could just do something else with my time, like get a coffee or check email, it wouldn’t be so bad. With modern video I can’t do any of those things, I can only twiddle my thumbs while waiting. At this point, if the video isn’t going to take fifteen minutes to load, it had better take zero minutes.
Director of Engineering
matthew @ swarmify.com
The Internet is about connecting people.
As a millennial, I grew up in the days of dial-up. Waiting 30 seconds for my computer to connect to the Internet so I could browse at 56kbit/s speeds was just par for the course. Online video was far from mainstream and I mostly got online for school research, some gaming, and chatting with my friends.
Although the Internet has been around for as long as I can remember, it has transformed significantly since my days on Xanga. I used to hog the phone line and yell at my mom when she tried to place a call, just so I could spend a small portion of my day connected to the Internet. Now, I have to consciously decide to “disconnect” on multiple devices in order to spend any amount of time away from it.
The Internet has evolved greatly, but the underlying force that made the Internet great has stayed the same: connecting people. Since its conception, the Internet has only gotten better at connecting people. However, to allow it to continue to do so, its foundations must evolve and grow as well. Video making its way online has been a major catalyst to education, entertainment, and personal connection. Streaming videos and even more resource intensive formats is the future of connecting and educating people. But even with fast internet speeds, content delivery networks, and advanced compression techniques, video is oftentimes still a crapshoot. With mediums far more taxing on the horizon, the Internet’s delivery problem must be solved. Someone has to build better video, and it might as well be us!
Swarmify’s mission is to make online video the best it can be for everyone. Why do I care? Because it is critical for the continual growth and evolution of our global society, the health and bonds of our local communities, and the advancement and invention of meaningful, life-altering technologies.
james @ swarmify.com
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