A crucial step in delivering media using the HTTP Live Streaming or HLS protocol is to test your m3u8 streams and playlists using an m3u8 player (also referred to as an HLS player). These players are typically hosted in a webpage (HTML) and you can generally go to these websites, enter the URL of your m3u8 file/playlist and press play. If everything goes well, the video will playback and if not, you can inspect the error messages to debug your HLS m3u8 files.
In this article, we list some of the most popular and free online m3u8 players (or for testing your HLS streams). They include HLSPlayer.net, Castr.io, Akamai, Bitmovin, THEOPlayer, NexPlayer, JWPlayer, and our favorite of them all – the hls.js demo player.
Note: if you are new to HTTP Live streaming or HLS, then do read our beginner’s articles on HLS, ABR, and use our repository of free HLS streams (m3u8) to brush up your knowledge.
- What is ABR Video Streaming?
- What is HLS or HTTP Live Streaming?
- Free HLS m3u8 resources
- How to create HLS streams (m3u8 files) using FFmpeg?
If you know of any other HLS/m3u8 players that we should add to this list, then let us know and we’ll get in touch!
Without further ado, here is our list of free m3u8/HLS players to test your HLS streams online. And note, that this list is in no particular order!
1. hls.js online m3u8 player for HLS streaming
The HLS.js demo app is one of the best HLS online players to play your m3u8 streams for free, in my opinion. It comes with a very simple-to-use interface and provides you with a ton of handy and critical information to debug your streams.
It provides handy information such as buffer levels, tells you which renditions are being used, gives you a timeline of all the statistics, and much more! It is powered by the open-source hls.js player and is continually updated so that you can always use the latest to debug your m3u8 streams.
2. Akamai’s online m3u8 player
Akamai is a very popular and famous CDN provider and they also provide a free HLS video player for stream validation and testing. This also ranks as one of the best free m3u8 testing players online.
You can access Akamai’s m3u8 player by going here.
Below is a screenshot of their interface. Right off the bat, you have two options. You can provide your own m3u8 stream URL, or choose from one of Akamai’s HLS m3u8 streams.
When you hit “Play Stream”, the video begins to playback and and Akamai’s player provides you with a bunch of useful information. You can see the segment information and the bitrates in the HLS m3u8 files next to the video player.
Advanced information provided by the Akamai video player
All of this information and statistics makes the Akamai player one of our favorite players to use for testing m3u8 streams online.
3. Bitmovin’s player for testing HLS streams
Another excellent option to test your HLS m3u8 streams is Bitmovin’s free test player. Bitmovin is a media company that powers the world’s largest OTT online video providers with their suite of Encoding, Player, and Analytics products. Their video players are top-rated and robust across HTML, Android, iOS, and other streaming platforms. They also won a Technology and Engineering Emmy award in 2020!
To test m3u8 streams, Bitmovin provides a free m3u8 testing player here. This is what the settings panel in Bitmovin’s free online player looks like –
The really nice part about Bitmovin’s testing player is that you can test four different protocols using the same player – HLS, MPEG-DASH, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and even Progressive files (not using ABR video streaming).
The really cool part is that you can schedule up to 3 ads in your playback. The ad-insertion feature is fantastic because most video playback is monetized using advertising these days (also known as AVOD. Read more about AVOD in our explainer post).
They also provide statistics on the player’s buffer levels and bitrates requested over the playback period. Very useful data to debug your m3u8 streams.
4. JWPlayer’s demo m3u8 player
JWPlayer is a top-rated video streaming platform that also provides stand-alone video players across a wide range of streaming platforms. They, too, provide a free HLS m3u8 online player (or stream tester) that uses the JWPlayer underneath.
One thing I like about the JWPlayer’s free HLS player is that they allow you to test different DRMs such as Widevine, PlayReady, Fairplay, and ClearKey DRM.
All you need to do is enter the URL of your m3u8 playlist and you can start testing your HLS/m3u8 file.
5. NexPlayer’s m3u8 stream player
NexPlayer is a provider of video playback technology and has over 15 years of experience in video streaming and playback of HLS and MPEG-DASH across all devices!
NexPlayer has a brilliant testing HLS player with a whole bunch of pre-filled options. You can test your streams with DRM, Ad Insertion. You can also test Low-Latency streams and 360/VR streams!
The user interface is very simple to use and is packed with options! All you need to do is enter the URL of your stream and then choose either the DRM or Ad Insertion options (if you want to) and then go!
Here are the different ad insertion options that NexPlayer let’s you choose from in their online m3u8 testing player. All these options, for free? Great stuff!
6. THEOPlayer’s free m3u8 player
THEOPlayer is another popular video player software company that’s won several awards for its video playback technology. They have excellent video players (HLS, DASH, MSS, etc.) for the web (HTML), Android, iOS, and other streaming platforms.
They’ve hosted an HTML player that uses their technology underneath and you can use it for free to either review their technology or test your m3u8 files for free!
Here is what the interface looks like. You simply have to enter the URL of your HLS stream and click on the big, yellow button for the player to play it back.
THEOPlayer’s demo player provides a bunch of useful information next to the video itself that is useful in keep track of the playback and debugging issues if they arise. There is also some information below the player that talks about the different player events being sent, and the active audio and video tracks (i.e., what is being played back).
Another cool feature of THEOPlayer’s demo HLS Player is the option to use DRM while testing. This is very useful, indeed, as DRM is a critical part of the video delivery pipeline.
7. HLSPlayer.net m3u8 player
HLSPlayer.net has a fully-hosted free online HLS player that you can access at this URL. It has a very simple interface, and all you need to do is to enter the URL of your HLS m3u8 file in the text-box and press “Play”. That’s it – nothing more, nothing less.
The drawback here is that there is no information about the bitrates, buffer levels, options to insert ad-breaks, etc. But, this is as simple and efficient as it gets! If you want to get more details on the playback, you can use the browser’s developer tools.
8. Castr.io m3u8/HLS player
Castr.io describes itself as a “Powerful and easy-to-use streaming platform to Live Stream Anywhere and Everywhere“. It provides live video streaming solution for businesses, broadcasters, gamers, educational and religious organizations.
They also host an HLS player to play/test your m3u8 streams online for free. The drawback, here again, is that there is no information about the bitrates, buffer levels, options to insert ad-breaks, etc. But, you can always use the Developer tools in your browser or Chrome’s Media Panel to debug the media playback.
That’s it, folks!
With that, we come to the end of our round-up of the best free m3u8 online players to test your HLS or m3u8 streams.
Do you have a favorite that you prefer? Which one is it? Do let us know in the comments section and until next time, take care and happy streaming!
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