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The Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) is a network control protocol designed for use in entertainment and communications systems to control streaming media servers. The protocol is used for establishing and controlling media sessions between end points. Clients of media servers issue VCR-style commands, such as play and pause, to facilitate real-time control of playback of media files from the server.

The transmission of streaming data itself is not a task of RTSP. Most RTSP servers use the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) in conjunction with Real-time Control Protocol (RTCP) for media stream delivery. However, some vendors implement proprietary transport protocols.
RTSP was developed by RealNetworks, Netscape[1] and Columbia University, with the first draft submitted to IETF in 1996. It was standardized by the Multiparty Multimedia Session Control Working Group (MMUSIC WG) of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 1998.  RTSP 2.0 is currently under development as a replacement of RTSP 1.0. RTSP 2.0 is based on RTSP 1.0 but is not backwards compatible other than in the basic version negotiation mechanism. RTSP using RTP and RTCP allows for the implementation of rate adaptation.

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