The consumers of the online video collection, whether this includes TV episodes, news clips or online courses, first became acquainted with the download and watch later method. Now, they can opt to use the Internet in a way that more resembles watching media from a TV channel. The streaming video technology came a long way since the times of popping up progress bars or buffering statuses one after another on the user’s browser.

What did put the fun back to streaming videos online?

  • speedier internet connection
  • better equipped computer machines
  • advanced players with enhanced decoders and plugins
  • television network started streaming popular episodes online, legally and for free
  • a plethora of courses, seminars, webcasts and famous talks played online, live and for free
  • a video clip has now become a common part of all sites all over the web
  • holding meetings online with participants from different parts of the world is now a common practice
  • once you are used to not waiting, you simply don’t choose to wait

The end user needs a standalone player (such as QuickTime, Real Media, Windows Media Video, or the Adobe Flash player) depending on a selected file type (e.g. .mov, .rm, .wmv, .flv) and a web browser plugin to successfully stream videos.

A copy of a streamed video will never exist on the end user’s computer, and the streaming file that is loaded on the player differs from an ordinary file loaded from a computer system.

  • Streaming files are compressed raw video files (this is why low quality videos will look blurry when streamed)
  • Streaming files are usually played in a smaller frame and do not use up the whole screen, this is how the lowering of the quality is sometimes avoided
  • Streaming files will sometimes use lower frame rate, i.e. how quickly images move from one to the next, but shouldn’t be lowered to a rate that will cause them to flicker
  • Streaming files will use compression/decompression software (codec) to get rid of all the unnecessary data

Depending on the factors chosen to compress the quality of a streaming file and your internet connection, you will either enjoy or not, streaming the selected video file. Ideally, the video will look and sound good to users, but still be small enough.

How streaming works?

  • You choose a file from a web page to watch
  • The web server sends this information to the streaming server
  • The streaming server sends back the selected file directly to you
  • Data is sent to you in real time, this is why the streaming server uses real-time protocols, either a real-time protocol (RTP), a real-time streaming protocol (RTSP), or a real-time transport control protocol (RTCP) is used
  • This layer of real-time protocols can experience some imbalances if too many people try to access the streamed file at the same time
  • Your standalone player decodes and displays the streaming data as it arrives
  • Your computer discards the streaming file

Instead of buying and purchasing a streaming server, the user can choose to pay to a service provider to host the videos.

Types of streaming

  • Live streaming – requires an on-site computer that can compress, encode and stream the video feed in real time
  • On-demand streaming – same as live streaming, with an exception of an archive file saved on the web page that can be accessed later, or at any time
  • Unicast streaming – regular streaming with each user streaming the file receiving its own stream of data
  • Multicast streaming – regular streaming with one stream of data traveling to a router which copies the stream and then sends it to multiple viewers