Ex-Apple execs take on Twitch with launch of new social broadcasting platform Caffeine


A team of ex-Apple engineers and execs is taking on Amazon-owned Twitch and Google’s YouTube Gaming with today’s official launch of a new social broadcasting platform, Caffeine. Backed by $46 million from Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, Caffeine was co-founded by former Product Design Lead for Apple TV and Chomp co-founder Ben Keighran, along with Senior User Experience Designer at Apple, Sam Roberts.

Keighran joined Apple when he sold his search startup Chomp to the company back in 2012, where it became the basis for an App Store redesign. He later spent several years working on the look-and-feel for the Apple TV, before leaving Apple in 2016 to start his own company.

Roberts, meanwhile, spent six years leading user interface and user experience design on photo, video and TV products at Apple, before leaving to build Caffeine.

Of course, it’s no small matter to take on incumbents like Twitch and YouTube, and to a lesser extent, Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live, and Microsoft’s Mixer. You can’t simply build yet another live streaming service and hope for the best – you have to create something original and differentiated.

For Caffeine, that’s a suite of technology products and new experiences that existing rivals don’t have.

For starters, Caffeine has developed its own publication tool, in the form of a free 10 MB download, that makes getting started with streaming easier for the casual gamer.

“There’s about 800 million gamers out there, but there’s roughly 2 million content creators a month on Twitch. We think a lot of people would like to create a broadcast of their video game, but it’s a bit of a pain to do right now,” explains Keighran. “You’ve got to download third-party software; you have to set bitrates, IP addresses, stream keys. You have to have an elaborate set-up with potentially multiple screens,” he says.

With the Caffeine software, gamers can start streaming from their Windows PC with a single click.

In addition to the PC software, users can also live stream their vlog-type content from their web browser or their iPhone.

What’s more, they don’t need a multi-monitor setup because of how Caffeine incorporates viewers’ comments into the experience.

Caffeine has developed custom technology that can detect when a game launches on the PC (by watching the system’s processes), then is able to use the Windows DLL file to inject viewers’ comments as an overlay onto the game itself.

That means your game and your viewers’ comments are all in the same window on your screen.

Finally, and perhaps most notably, is what’s under the hood of Caffeine.

The company built out its own real-time distribution video network that leverages WebRTC – the same technology that powers things like Google Hangouts and other peer-to-peer communications. That means everything on Caffeine is taking place in real-time with zero delays.