stream or streaming

a.k.a. streaming media, streaming audio, streaming video, a stream, online feed, real-time Web, YouTuber, video on-demand

To "stream" something over the Internet means to transmit a media clip (which could be audio, video or both), over a network, for immediate playback. "Streaming" is a data transfer technique that allows users to see video and hear audio files without lengthy download times (even though it may take time to buffer).

A stream is the live flow of digital information. Here's how it works: A host streams small packets of information over the Internet to the user, who accesses the content as it is received but 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.

Examples of streaming media include live tickers (like you see on Wall Street), net radio broadcasts, podcasts, webcasts and Internet video. As a flow of data, a stream is measured in kilobits per second (Kbps). Before YouTube, users needed a media player or plugin to view most video streams, not anymore. See video for a historical perspective on YouTube.

Historical perspective: John Borthwick, a VC from Betaworks, 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.

And RealNetworks, founded in 1995 and based in Seattle, was a pioneer in streaming media. Because the Internet was initially built to handle text-based information only, RealNetworks created the technology that would enable end-user to create, send, and receive audio, video, and other multimedia services via the net. RealNetworks provided a universal platform for the delivery of any rich media-from any point of origin, across virtually any network, to any person on any Internet-enabled device, anywhere in the world.

One of RealNetworks' flagship products, RealPlayer, was the second most widely-used Internet-based software application in the world in 2002. RealPlayer was installed on 92 percent of all home PCs in the U.S., and its user base grew by hundreds of thousands of new users per day. In general, RealNetworks technology was used to broadcast more than 350,000 hours of live sports, music, news, and entertainment over the Internet every week, and hundreds of thousands of hours of on-demand content. Rob Glaser is the founder and CEO. He worked for Microsoft for ten years before leaving to found RealNetworks. The first RealPlayer was released in 1995, and the company registered its 50 millionth user in January 1999. Formerly known as Progressive Networks, RealNetworks was recognized as the leader in the streaming media market until Netflix came along.

NetLingo Classification: Net Technology

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