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Streaming is a method of data delivery and playback used on the World Wide Web. Prior to streaming, audio, video and multimedia files that were included in World Wide Web pages were downloaded from the server computer as part of the Web page and played by the client computer when the download was complete. For example, if a Web page included a large video file, the client computer would download the entire file before playing it. The download process could take a very long time, which of course, makes for a slow browsing experience.

Streaming, in contrast to downloading, allows the real-time playing of a work through a constant link maintained between the provider’s server and the client. A replay is not possible without streaming the work again.

Streaming technology

Streaming technology permits sequential downloading of the essential parts of a media file necessary to begin playback, followed by a stream of the data to permit the file to continue to completion. In the case of the video file mentioned above, playback could begin shortly after beginning the download, and the playback could continue for so long as the download process continues. The use of streaming permits media delivery on the World Wide Web that simulates radio or television broadcasts.

Almost all streaming technology formats require at least two components, special software to convert a standard video, audio or multimedia computer file into a streaming format and special software at the client computer to permit playback of the formatted file. Some streaming technology formats also require special software for the server computer to deliver the streaming data.

Licensing streaming technology

Licensing schemes for streaming technology formats vary. Almost all streaming software companies distribute the client computer software necessary to playback streaming data (the “player” software) without charge. Some companies license the software required to create the streaming files for a fixed fee, and other companies license the software necessary to enable the server computers to deliver streaming data for a usage based fee (based upon the number of simultaneous streams that the server may transmit to client computers).

See also