SHOUTcast vs. Icecast: Which streaming media server software should I use?
Most radio web streams are powered by SHOUTcast and Icecast.
And in this post, you'll learn more about them, plus Steamcast, a radio server software that we also offer at CloudRadio.
Let’s get started:
Before we compare Icecast vs. SHOUTcast, let’s learn what a streaming media server is and the core functions it provides.
But you can skip to the comparison.
Still here? Great:
What is a streaming media server software and how does it work?
It’s a set of instructions (or lines of code) that instructs a computer on how to receive content from a source client (e.g., an encoder program) and relay this information to clients.
Clients are devices or programs that access the services of a server, e.g., a Mozilla browser or the Tune-in mobile app streaming audio content from a radio server.
What is a server? Is it any different from a regular PC?
They are both electronic devices that process data following instructions.
Both have the same hardware components like the motherboard, processor/CPU, hard drives, power supply, etc.
One key difference is that a server’s main job is to receive and fulfill requests from other devices.
Servers are also deployed in data centers and accessed remotely. They generally don’t need graphical or sound capabilities like personal computers.
What’s more, most servers have to be online throughout, especially radio servers. Uptime is the measure of the time a server has been online and available.
That’s why you might have encountered terms like 99.9% availability.
3 Basic streaming media server software features
What features should you get from a streaming media software?
The list of functions a particular server software like Icecast can perform are varied and complex.
But I won’t boggle you down with all the technical stuff, only expound on the core features you need to broadcast online.
And before looking at SHOUTcast vs. Icecast, it’s worth stating that the server software we’ll discuss, have all the basic features you would need.
The latest versions of Icecast, Steamcast, and Shoutcast allow you to have multiple streams in one radio server.
Your radio can have two streams; a high-quality stream (e.g., at a bitrate of 320 Kbps). And a low-quality stream for listeners on limited data plans or slow connections.
“Mountpoint” is the name assigned to each stream.
In the following radio stream URL,http://10351.cloudrad.io:9058/live, the mount point name is "/live."
You can even create multiple streams with different content.
Just one thing to note:
Some radio servers have a maximum limit on the number of listeners allowed to connect simultaneously.
If the maximum listener count is 1,000 for a radio server with three mountpoints, the server will only accommodate a maximum of 1,000 listeners across all mountpoints, and not 3,000.
2. Stream statistics
Server statistics are essential to any broadcaster.
Streaming server software collects two types of stats.
Active connection data like the number of current listeners.
Cumulative stats like the total number of listeners for the past 30 days.
3. Yellow Pages/YP Directory
A YP directory is a web catalog that lists registered radio streams.
Listeners who visit the YP can discover and listen to stations.
When you create a public stream using Icecast and Steamcast, it's automatically added in the respective YP.
SHOUTcast has a more lengthy procedure that requires you first to register your stream on their website.
SHOUTcast was released in 1998 by Nullsoft. Inc founded in 1997 by Tom Pepper and Justin Frankel.
AOL acquired Nullsoft in 1999, after which, Pepper became the SHOUTcast manager, and continued working on SHOUTcast with Frankel and Stephen ‘Tag Loomis.
In 2014, AOL sold Shoutcast and Winamp to Radionomy.
SHOUTcast has had two major versions:
- DNAS 1.x– the last stable release was 1.9.8., and it's no longer updated. Chrome and Safari browsers are no longer supporting it. If you plan on using an HTML5 player, you should think of Upgrading from SHOUTcast 1 to SHOUTcast 2.
- DNAS 2.x – the first non-beta released was in 2011. One significant improvement was the ability to create mountpoints.
There have been several DNAS 2 releases. I'll briefly mention the new changes brought about by Shoutcast DNAS 2.6 (Build 750) release available from 7th December 2018.
The Introduction of Premium Features
SHOUTcast now offers a free server software version that you can download and run on your machine. The premium software version currently costs $9.90 per month for each server instance.
One major limitation in the Freemium is that you can stream at bitrate of than 128 kbps.
SHOUTcast also introduced a new authhash system for v2.6 and later versions.
So if you want to register a SHOUTcast server in their YP, it needs to be running on version 2.6 or higher.
Formats supported by SHOUTcast:
MP3, AAC, AAC+, Nullsoft Video or NSV.
Created by Jack Moffitt and Barath Raghavan, Icecast was released in 1999.
It’s published under the General Public License and managed by the Xiph open source community.
Not only is Icecast free to use, but you can also get involved by donating or contributing code.
Like SHOUTcast, Icecast has had two versions; Version 1 and Version 2 that first released in 2004.
For all the latest Icecast documentation, you can check out the docs page.
Formats supported by Icecast:
MP3, AAC, AAC+, Ogg, Opus, WebM.
Steamcast is a less known server technology with both audio and video streaming capabilities.
The project began in 2004, with an aim to create a streaming server software that combined the features of ShoutcastV1 and Icecast2.
The latest version, Steamcast 1.0.2 decennium, was released in 2015.
We started supporting Steamcast after a request by a customer.
Steamcast has the same core capabilities of SHOUTcast and Icecast.
It’s also free, and you can install it on Windows, Linux or FreeBSD machines.
Its YP directory was based off the Icecast yellow pages, so it’s possible for Icecast radios to get listed on the Steamcast directory.
Few radios run on Steamcast as indicated by its YP that had about 573 active streams on Feb 15, 2019.
If you want to dig a little deeper into it, you can check out the Steamcast community forum.
Formats supported by Steamcast:
Mp3, OGG(Vorbis and Opus), NSV, NSA(AAC), aacPlus
Icecast vs. SHOUTcast Comparison
Which one should I choose?
Let's go over the differences so you can select the right server for your radio.
According to website data estimates from Alexa rank, shoutcast.com had a global rank of 48,621 as of February 11, 2019.
But its popularity is declining. Here is a graph from Google Trends on the keyword "SHOUTcast."
According to Alexa rank, the Icecast YP had a global rank of 70,627.
And as of February 11, 2019, there were a total of 13,755 streams with 11,376 broadcasting in the Mp3 format.
Icecast is also updated regularly, and you can submit bug fixes and feature requests.
Have the final say: SHOUTcast vs. Icecast
We strongly believe that radio stations should have the final say over the technology they use.
So at CloudRadio, you can choose between SHOUTcast version 1 or 2, Icecast or Steamcast.
Later, you may change the server type from the server page in your console.
When you switch to a different server type, all your server settings including the stream URL remain the same.
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