a.k.a. streaming media, streaming audio, streaming video, a stream, online feed, real-time Web
To "stream" something over the Internet means to transmit a media clip (which could be audio or video or both), over a network, so that it begins to play back as quickly as possible. "Streaming" is an Internet data transfer technique that allows users to see video and hear audio files without lengthy download times. Having said that, with streaming and progressive downloads, either can be fast or slow.
In other words, "a stream" is the live flow of digital information. Here's how it works: An Internet host streams small packets of information over the Internet to the user, who accesses the content as it is received. This indicates that the data resides on the server. Content creators like streaming video because unlike downloads, it never resides on a viewer's computer and therefore, usually cannot be replayed as a downloaded file.
However a shift is taking place. John Borthwick, a VC from Betaworks, has identified streams as the "real-time Web" and likens it to a new metaphor -- think streams vs. pages. "In the initial design of the Web, reading and writing were given equal consideration yet the primary metaphor of the Web has been pages and reading. The metaphors we used to circumscribe this possibility set were mostly drawn from books and architecture (pages, browser, sites etc.). Most of these metaphors were static and one way. The steam metaphor is fundamentally different. It's dynamic, like a river or a stream. A real time, flowing, dynamic stream of information -- that we as users and participants can dip in and out of and whether we participate in them or simply observe we are a part of this flow."
Some examples of streaming media include live tickers (like you see on
Wall Street), Net radio broadcasts, and Internet video webcasts
(also known as slivercasts), as well as content streams such as the constant
conversation stream of users on Twitter. As a flow of
data, a stream is measured in kilobits per second (Kbps). For most
video streams, users need a media player or plugin
(such as Flash) in order to hear or view the streaming media (you
can download Flash below).