Streaming media

A streaming video about the Crab Nebula created by NASA

Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end user while being delivered by a provider over the Internet. The verb to stream refers to the process of delivering or obtaining media in a continuous manner from a particular source. Streaming refers to the delivery method of the medium, rather than the medium itself. Distinguishing delivery method from the media distributed applies specifically to telecommunications networks, as most of the traditional media delivery systems are either inherently streaming (e.g. radio, television) or inherently non-streaming (e.g. books, videotape, audio CDs). There are challenges with streaming content on the Internet. For example, users whose Internet connection lacks sufficient bandwidth may experience stops, lags, or slow buffering of the content. And users lacking compatible hardware or software systems may be unable to stream certain content. With the use of buffering content just a few seconds in advance, the quality can get much better.

Livestreaming is the delivery of Internet content in real-time much as live television broadcasts content over the airwaves via a television signal. Livestreaming requires a form of source media (e.g. a video camera, an audio interface, screen capture software), an encoder to digitize the content, a media publisher, and a content delivery network to distribute and deliver the content. Livestreaming does not need to be recorded at the origination point, although it frequently is.

Streaming is an alternative to file downloading, a process in which the end-user obtains the entire file for the content before watching or listening to it. Through streaming, an end-user can use their media player to start playing digital video or digital audio content before the entire file has been transmitted. The term "streaming media" can apply to media other than video and audio, such as live closed captioning, ticker tape, and real-time text, which are all considered "streaming text".

Nowadays streaming is most prevalent in many video on demand and streaming television services. Some popular streaming services include Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, Prime Video, YouTube, and other sites which stream films and television shows; Apple Music, YouTube Music and Spotify, which stream music; and video game live streaming services such as Twitch.