OwnCast (streaming video) - Software Review

by Wayne Smith

Note: there is a update to OwnCast and this review is based on the older version. Check OwnCast site for updated features. An new review will be created here fairly soon.

The Owncast streaming video on both GitHub and their site says it is fast and easy to install, and it is. The feed is supplied the same way as it is to Twitch, OBS and other programs that can be configured to send the feed to an IP address. The program is finding its way into 1-click website panels, which reduces the installation time down to a minute.

I gave the manual installation a try on a sandbox, Chromebook. If it will install on a Chromebook it will install on any host. Note I did need to install nodeJS and nvm (node version manager) onto the Chromebook. It appears to be a prerequisite, but I did not read the manual; And, the installation may install it on a normal host.

The Owncast installation puts Owncast into a directory under the directory where the installer was run. The binary is installed into the directory called Owncast. It can be started by running the program directly and they have the steps in the installation guide to set it up as a daemon that automatically starts.

The binary is compiled by Golang; There is no conf that needs to be set up. Instead, when the program is launched the setup is done under host/admin:8080 using the user name and password, which are the first things that need to be changed. And, the password needs to be secure as it is the same password used to manage the stream, which must be exposed to the internet, and could become a subject of a brute-force attack to expose the password.

If somebody cracks the password, they could stream a video of someone in a Guy Fawkes mask reading, "Remember Remember the 5th of November," poem or stream an ESPN event, which would make ESPN very angry at you. But would not expose user information or any data on the server.

IPtables can be used to allow only the owner's IP address/addresses to be able to upload a stream.

Owncast uses ffmpeg which can provide streams with reduced bandwidth for mobile browsers, which it seems to install automatically if it is not already installed.

Post 5-minute install

The website portion is kept in owncast/webroot but if an installation is made on an existing installation the webroot will be backed up and the default site will be restored.

The web server provided by owncast is http not https or http/2. The server on the host would need to proxy the owncast site, which is set up to be delivered from the root directory of the site and uses a serviceWorker.js; Using a subdomain is the exampled usage.

Owncast provides a simple solution for sending a stream from websites, but does not relay the RTSP stream to another server nor does it inherently work with multiple streams. Brands, Conferences, or Companies may need more customization than owncast was designed to provide. Enterprise sites may need security options that don't expose the admin.