Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a streaming provider.[note 1] The name refers to the delivery method of the medium rather than to the medium itself. The distinction is usually applied to media that are distributed over telecommunications networks, as most other delivery systems are either inherently streaming (e.g., radio, television) or inherently non-streaming (e.g., books, video cassettes, audio CDs). The verb 'to stream' is also derived from this term, meaning to deliver media in this manner. Internet television is a commonly streamed medium.
Live streaming, more specifically, means taking the media and broadcasting it live over the Internet. The process involves a camera for the media, an encoder to digitize the content, a media publisher where the streams are made available to potential end-users and a content delivery network to distribute and deliver the content. The media can then be viewed by end-users live.
Security remains one of the main challenges with this new methodology. Digital rights management (DRM) systems are an example of a solution to keep this content secure.
Attempts to display media on computers date back to the earliest days of computing in the mid-20th century. However, little progress was made for several decades, primarily due to the high cost and limited capabilities of computer hardware.
From the late 1980s through the 1990s, consumer-grade personal computers became powerful enough to display various media. The primary technical issues related to streaming were:
However, computer networks were still limited, and media was usually delivered over non-streaming channels, such as by downloading a digital file from a remote server and then saving it to a local drive on the end user's computer or storing it as a digital file and playing it back from CD-ROMs.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Internet users saw:
- greater network bandwidth, especially in the last mile
- increased access to networks, especially the Internet
- use of standard protocols and formats, such as TCP/IP, HTTP, and HTML
- commercialization of the Internet.
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