first streaming station available on iPhone/iPod Touch

November 05, 2007
WFMU's Live Streams Finally Come to the iPhone

We are pleased to announce that WFMU's live streams are finally
available on the iPhone. iPhone listeners can point their browsers at and listen to our live mp3 streams at either 128k or 32k
and also choose from a selection of our archived content and podcasts.

Based on our initial testing it will come as no surprise that tuning in
over Wifi will get you the best results however we've also had reports
of listeners with strong EDGE reception tuning in at 128k without issue.
Since the Quicktime player in the iPhone has somewhat poor buffering
compared with thick client-side players like Winamp and iTunes, we
recommend listening to the 32k stream while connected over EDGE.

For the time being we are only offering a small subset of our archived
content and podcasts on the iPhone but will be adding more content as
time goes by.

A Missing Feature

It's a bit ironic that the iPhone, a somewhat sophisticated piece of
technology (tapped as "Invention of the Year" recently by Time) still
lacks the basic live radio functionality that was available on the
Walkman back in the 80s and the transistor radio as far back as the 50s.
It's safe to say that providing this kind of functionality has never
been a technical issue for Apple but has probably been more of a
business decision.

A few weeks after the iPhone launched, some people discovered references
to "mobile radio" in the iPhone firmware and this past Friday there were
further hints that some sort of iPhone radio offering may be on its way
but so far Apple is still holding back on this feature.

Perhaps Apple wants to drive mp3 sales in the iTunes store or perhaps a
decision not to include a streaming player was made to placate AT&T to
cut down on bandwith. Other theories floated include that Apple might
feel that EDGE is not the right platform on which to launch live
streaming (too slow) or perhaps they simply didn't want to launch with
all their features up front thus depriving Steve Jobs of yet another
"one more thing" marketing opportunity.

Our Path to Live Streaming

We've been looking at all kinds of options to provide a live iPhone
stream since the product launched in June.

Embedded Quicktime: Right at launch we were very excited to see that the
iPhone had what we thought was a fully functional Quicktime player. In
Safari on Mac, it's easy to embed a Quicktime player into an HTML page
and play live mp3 streams. Here's a working example. Unfortunately we
found that while this approach works on Safari on Mac it does not work
on Safari on iPhone. While there might be some good technical reasons
for why this is the case I suspect Apple simply crippled Quicktime's
streaming radio functionality on the iPhone on purpose.

Flash: At one point rumors were strong that Safari on iPhone would
support Adobe's Flash which would have provided a relatively simple way
to provide live streaming to the iPhone but so far this has not come to
pass. Apple probably realizes that once they allow the iPhone to load
flash content that they will lose their tight grip over what
applications can be delivered to users. While Apple's recent
announcement that it will be making an SDK available to developers in
February does suggest that they are at least somewhat open to loosening
their grip over what can appear on the iPhone it remains to be seen what
kind of restrictions developers will have to work with in order to
develop apps for the iPhone.

On the geekier side of things, some people are hard at work on getting
gnash, an open source Flash plugin, working on iPhone but this will
likely have limited appeal and would only be a viable solution for
people already hacking their phones.

Tversity: A month or so ago, Tversity, a New Jersey based software
company, announced that they had figured out a way to stream to the
iPhone. Tversity's main product offering is a media server that allows
you to stream all your audio and video content from your home computer
to various web enabled devices (including many mobile devices and game
consoles). I tend to think of TVersity as a variation on Sling Player or
something similar to DotTunes but with many more features.

After contacting Tversity we learned that they also have some products
aimed at enterprise level clients and they do a lot of work providing
media delivery solutions to various wireless carriers. Over time we've
been able to do some minor tweaking with their product and we're very
pleased with the results.

We'd like to thank Tversity for helping us deliver what we believe is
the first live streaming offering for the iPhone.

Please let us know how this is working for you in the comments.