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Chapter 35. Internet Radio and TV > Understanding Streaming Media

Understanding Streaming Media

There are two basic ways to play audio and video from the Internet. The first requires the complete download of an audio or video file, which is then loaded into a media player program and played from start to finish. The second enables you to start playing a file (via a media player program) before it is completely finished downloading. This second method— called streaming media—is also used for playing back live radio or television broadcasts over the Web. (These Web broadcasts are often called Webcasts or Netcasts.)

How Streaming Media Works

When you want to listen to something from the Internet without waiting several minutes for a large audio or video file to download, you need streaming media. Streaming media works by enabling access to the first part of the file before the last part is fully downloaded. (The technical process involves downloading the large file as multiple smaller packets; the first packets can be played as soon as they’re downloaded, before the later packets are even received by your PC.) This process eliminates the long wait associated with typical media file downloads, because streaming audio and video files begin playing almost immediately. In the case of live broadcasts—so-called Internet radio and television—the streaming is continuous, as there isn’t a complete “file” to download.


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