What does streaming mean?

You may have seen the word streaming in various places. Streaming often has to do with audio and video formats, so if you deal a lot with music or video in your daily computing activities, you may run across streaming quite a bit.

Basically, streaming is when a multimedia file is able to be played back on your computer without it being fully downloaded. It takes quite a bit of time to download media files, so streaming comes in to help display the data before the full file is transmitted onto your computer.

For streaming to run smoothly, the data must be able to be sent as a steady stream while converting it to either sound or picture. If the data goes too fast for what your system can handle, that’s when buffering comes into play. On the other hand, if the data is not processed quickly enough, the stream will not run smoothly and it may be choppy while you listen to it or view it.

An example of streaming is when you go to one of your favorite music artist’s Web sites and they have a sample of their new song for you to listen to. This would be a streaming file, because you never actually downloaded the song. The option on the Web site is just a way for you to hear part of the song, so you will be interested in getting the whole thing later on.

Files from Real Audio or QuickTime are often streaming documents as well. But, if you use shareware software from the Internet or if you often download software updates, those are not streaming data, because you went through the complete download process of them for extended use.

~ Erin