Live streaming as a content format has seen a steep rise in demand over the past few years, with internet users demanding more engaging ways to connect with their favorite creators. As a part of this shift, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok have become home to a variety of creators hosting their own live content. This includes everything from live-recorded podcasts to commentary shows, coaching sessions, Q&A’s, and more.
For creators looking to get started livestreaming and are researching software options, one tool tends to pop up most frequently due to its open-source nature and popularity with Twitch streamers: OBS.
In this guide, we will review OBS, explain which types of streamers it’s good for, and share the top 10 free OBS alternatives for creators, whether you are using Macbook, PC or Chromebook, and whether you use it for live streaming or video recording.
What is OBS?
OBS, which stands for Open Broadcast Software, is a free and open source livestreaming studio launched in 2012. Thanks to its over 10 years on the market, the software benefits from a large support community and volunteer Github contributors that have amassed overtime. And its familiar “layers-style” interface, similar to Photoshop, makes it the first option for many creators in niches like gaming and tech. Furthermore, as a not-for-profit organization, OBS benefits from the support of a number of sponsors including YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and Nvidia.
Despite its massive open-source support and reliable basic features, OBS often falls short for creators used to the expansive features on TikTok, YouTube Creator Studio, and other modern streaming platforms. Read on to learn more about where OBS succeeds, where it is lacking, and which OBS alternatives free in 2023 are being adopted by creators.
What makes OBS different from other livestreaming software?
While many describe OBS as difficult to learn and lacking in more innovative features, it does come equipped with certain core functionality that makes it better than streaming natively through certain social apps. These strengths include:
- Layer-style interface
For anyone tech-savvy who has used creative tools like Adobe Photoshop, the OBS Sources interface will come naturally. With OBS, you can insert different elements including new video or audio sources, images from your computer’s filesystem, text layers, and screenshare windows. These appear in the Sources panel, and like Photoshop, appear from front to back on your livestream preview depending on their top-to-bottom ordering in the panel.
- Built-in screen recording feature
Want to record a game clip while streaming, or capture your reaction to something mid-stream? OBS gives users the ability to start and stop recording, similar to video conferencing tools like Zoom.
- OBS virtual camera for use in other video applications
You can use OBS for more than just generating a livestream output. With OBS’ virtual camera feature, you can turn the output of your stream preview into a video source, to use in other applications like Zoom and Google Meet just as you would a webcam. This is a feature you won’t find in most free OBS alternatives.
- Support for all major operating systems
Are you someone flexible who likes to go back and forth between operating systems? OBS has support on Mac, Windows, and Linux, so if you ever switch from PC to Mac (or vice versa), you can still use OBS.
Unfortunately, OBS’ old age combined with its non-commercial business model comes at a price. Here are some of the ways in which the software is lacking compared to more modern OBS alternatives free to use in 2023:
- Lacking in audience engagement features
If you are serious about live streaming and want to grow your viewership, one of your top priorities should be focusing on audience engagement. Nowadays, viewers expect an engaging experience complete with polls, onscreen elements like memes, and dynamic stream overlays. OBS offers none of these without the help of costly plugins and external software. For this reason, many creators are turning to AI-assisted livestream studios like Opus, which has easy-to-use features like polls, emoji rain, and magic memes.
- Can’t invite guests or co-hosts
Right out of the box, OBS is just fine for solo streamers. But if you want to invite guests or co-hosts to your livestream, you are out of luck. Bringing a guest onto your stream requires extra software like OBS Ninja, as well as painful configuration and troubleshooting.
- Hard to control your stream elements in real-time
Start running your very first livestream with OBS and you will quickly realize: with OBS, it’s hard to make changes on the fly and host a dynamic stream. Necessary functions like adding and removing sources, rearranging elements, adding text, and more are all tedious and error-prone given OBS’ interface. Software like Opus, that has automatic presets, templates, and AI-assistance, is designed for streamers who want to host a dynamic show without getting flustered.
The Top 10 OBS Alternatives Free to Use in 2023
1. Opus - Free for the next year
At Opus, we are in beta with a new, browser-based livestream studio that is pioneering a new way to create live streams. A magical way.
Our studio comes complete with AI-assisted production features, audience engagement features like polls and magic memes, and the ability to simulcast (multistream) to platforms like YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. It’s both easy to use and powerful, plus radically creative, making it the best option for new livestream hosts in 2023.
- All in the browser, no software or downloads necessary
- The most AI-driven livestreaming product on the market
- Invite guests and co-hosts to your stream in just a few clicks
- Easily embed YouTube videos and other sources directly into your stream
- Easily adapt aspect ratio for landscape platforms like YouTube and vertical platforms like TikTok and Instagram
- Currently in beta, with a public launch slated for Q2 of this year - Request beta access here
2. Restream - Plans range from free to $49 per month
Restream, founded in 2015, is most widely known in the market for its multistreaming capabilities. Through Restream, users have over 30 different multistream destinations to choose from. Aside from their multistreaming features, Restream also has a studio product and an “Upload and Stream” feature for livestream-releasing pre-recorded video.
- Browser-based like Opus, with no downloads needed
- Free plan includes basic features like screen sharing, background music, and more than one video source
- Provides analytics like number of viewers and chatters
- Some multistream destinations offered are lesser known
- Free plan does not allow for 1080p HD streaming
- Can only multistream to 2 platforms on the free plan
3. Riverside.fm - Plans range from free to $29 per month
Riverside was launched in 2020 to make it easier to record podcasts and video hosts. While the product still focuses primarily on podcasters, some creators who host live interview shows find that it is the right tool for them.
- Has a mobile app in addition to browser-based version
- Multistream to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, or a custom RTMP key
- Very co-host friendly compared to other free OBS alternatives. Riverside is designed for inviting guests who have never done a live show before
- No 1080p - The free plan limits your livestream video quality to 720p
- Free plan does not include multistreaming to social media. Multistreaming is only included in the “Standard” plans and above starting at $19 per month
- Lacks unique production features to give your livestream more visual appeal
4. Onestream - Plans range from free to $79 per month
OneStream, a Finnish company, is fourth on our list. Similar to Restream, Onestream touts itself as one of the best tools for multistreaming specifically, with over 40 multistream destinations available to choose from. And similar to Restream, OneStream also offers additional products including a broswer-based studio and “Live Spaces” for hosting streams on a dedicated webpage.
- Paid plans include some interesting features, like the ability to stream from 360 degree cameras
- Can add certain stream elements, like clickable calls to action
- The free plan allows you to invite up to 6 guests to your stream
- On the free plan, users can only multistream to two destinations at once
- Background music, asset uploads, and overlays are only available on the “Basic” plan and up, starting at $10 per month
5. xsplit.com - Plans range from free to $7.50 per month
For those who want a lightweight streaming studio made for simply broadcasting, XSplit is worth a look. The company, founded in 2009, has two main products: Xsplit Broadcaster and XSplit VCam, each of which have a free tier and a couple of different paid plans. With a minimalist approach focused on the basics, XSplit Broadcaster allows for simple livestreaming and multistreaming.
- XSplit’s Simplicity could a good fit for less tech-savvy creators
- Premium plan is only $7.50 per month
- Has an add-on store with dozens of plugins and extensions for XSplit
- Multistreaming is only accessible through Premium plan
- Feature set is limited compared to other free OBS alternatives
- Less support and documentation than other software
Post one clip every day for free
Enjoy 90 free minutes for new users, plus 60 free minutes every month for everyone to create and post daily.
6. Melon - Plans range from free to $17 per month
Melon, a favorite amongst online event professionals and webinar hosts, is a potential solution for creators who want customization and don’t mind a stripped-down free tier. Melon, like Riverside, was founded in 2020 after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had begun. While feature availability varies depending on the pricing plan Melon offers multistreaming, multiple guests, screen share, and overlay customization.
- Allows for automatic recording, similar to Zoom
- Multistream to core platforms like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitch
- Ability to invite guests without them needing a Melon account
- Like many others on this list, the free tier only includes the basics and does not come with multistreaming, 720p resolution, or multiple cameras
- 1080p resolution is only available on “Pro” plan at $17 per month
7. StreamYard - Plans range from free to $49 per month
Owned by online event SaaS (and startup unicorn) Hopin, Streamyard is a livestreaming tool made primarily for the professional crowd. While their Free plan is limited, it still allows for hosts to run a simple and reliable livestream, with the option to unlock more advanced features through Streamyard’s “Basic” or “Professional”
- Guest invitations are as easy as can be
- Free plan comes with 2 hours of local recording — Enough for most livestreams
- Regarded as one of the more reliable companies in the space, with customers including Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce
- Audience engagement features are limited to showing viewer chats onscreen and a basic giveaway function
- Paid plans are more expensive than any other free OBS alternative on our list: Streamyard’s “Basic” plan is $25 per month, and their “Professional” plan is $49 per month
8. Streamlabs - Plans range from free to $19 per month
Streamlabs, the parent company behind Melon, maintains a suite of products including their own livestream studio called Streamlabs Desktop. As expected, Streamlabs offers both a free plan as well as a paid plan named “Streamlabs Ultra”.
- Streamlabs’ free plan has a relatively generous feature set, including access to Streamlabs Desktop, access to a library of overlays, the ability to add one guest, and tipping
- Streamlabs Desktop is exactly as the name describes - a desktop app. Unlike most of the other software on our list, they do not have a browser-based web app. For gaming streamers, this likely isn’t an issue. But depending on your needs as a creator, this may be less than optimal.
9. PRISM Live Studio - Completely free
Another desktop-only streaming studio, PRISM Live Studio equips users with a number of key livestreaming features for free, like multistreaming, chat management, guest invitations, and stream overlays.
- PRISM Live Studio is 100% free!
- Reliability is likely lower than other free OBS alternatives; PRISM has fewer support options and documentation in place
- Limited multistreaming destinations, as the only mainstream platforms offered are YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook
- Available on Windows only, no Mac or Linux
10. Wave.video - Plans range from free to $60 per month
Wave.video provides a full suite of video-related creative tools, similar to a platform like Veed or Canva. While the majority of their users are drawn to Wave’s non-live features like their video editor and design tools, Wave has recently launched a livestreaming product with a reasonable feature set, including managed chat, co-streaming, and basic multistreaming.
- Their livestreaming product enjoys overlap with their other creative tools, as you can take advantage of features like their overlay editor and video hosting
- Free plan is extremely limited, with none of their multistream or branding features, and providing only 1 camera per guest and livestream durations capped at one hour
- Livestreaming feature is newer and is not their roadmap focus, so it’s hard to say what the future holds for the product
Choosing the right livestreaming platform for you
Thankfully, as a content creator, you have plenty of OBS alternatives free at your fingertips. Some however, are better than others depending on your niche. Here are our final recommendations for which livestream platform to choose, based on your niche and the type of live stream you are looking to start hosting.
- For gamers and Twitch streamers: Simply put, if you are a gaming livestreamer, we recommend using OBS or Streamlabs. OBS isn’t perfect, but given that it is a desktop application, you will find that streaming using OBS will impact your computer’s performance the least while gaming. In addition, Streamlabs comes with a number of features specifically for Twitch streamers, so their tools are worth exploring if Twitch is your number one channel.
- For podcasters who don’t need visual production features: We recommend sticking with Riverside. Their product was built just for podcasters, and their roadmap will always prioritize you. Until you feel that you need more advanced visual and engagement features, Riverside should meet your needs.
- For any content creator ready to livestream: Opus is the best live streaming tool available for your needs. Whether you host live interviews, commentary-based streams, live tutorial shows, coaching content, or even live podcasts, Opus has the best combination of power and ease of use.
Have you decided on the right live stream software, but don’t know where to go next to start streaming? Check out our ultimate guide on how to start livestreaming in 2023.
Create and post one short video every day for free, and grow faster.Try OpusClip
About the Author
Rebecca Xu is the Product Marketing Manager at Opus, and a professional simultaneous interpreter. She is a story teller, food lover, globe trotter, and sarcasm connoisseur. She loves learning new things through reading, traveling, and exploring. Most of the time, you can find her either in an ice-cream shop, or on her way to an ice-cream shop.