How Does Online Streaming Work

Charlotte Miller

How Does Online Streaming Work: What You Need To Know


Video streaming is a technique that allows users to see online video content without first downloading the media assets. 

Video streaming explicitly refers to online video material such as movies, TV series, live event broadcasts, and internet videos created by general content developers. 

However, streaming can include audio material such as music, podcasts, and more.

Streaming helps reduce storage resources, time spent loading or buffering the video and assures a nice watching experience for consumers because the user does not have to download the media assets to consume the information.

But, torrenting sites such as The Pirate Bay offers a lot of free content and don’t allow you to stream video, so streaming works differently than downloading.

How Does Online Streaming Work?

Streaming works by breaking down the data packets that make up the video or audio data and interpreting each one to play as a video or audio on the user’s device’s player.

This was in contrast to the past when an audio or video file had to be entirely downloaded onto the user’s device before it could be played. 

While this was fine in the early days of the internet when site content consisted of simple pages of text and static graphics, the situation has changed dramatically.

High-speed internet connectivity has enabled anybody with access to the internet to generate massive amounts of high-quality video and audio content. At the same time, the demand for watching such content has also increased.

Users are also consuming material on the go through their smartphones. As a result, they may be turned away from the creator’s competition if they are unable to get the video or audio they are looking for or are forced to wait for the video or music to buffer.

Streaming allows consumers to watch such content indefinitely and have a consistent viewing experience. Instead of downloading the complete media file at once, the material is delivered in data packets a few seconds at a time and saved on the user’s device, where it may be played remotely.

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Examples Of Streaming

  • Movie streaming: This is an effective video-on-demand capability, and streaming media services such as Hulu, Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and others are leading the way.
  • Live streaming: Streaming video or audio material in real-time as an event occurs via social media platforms such as Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others.
  • OTT streaming: This refers to “over the top” streaming, in which consumers receive material through particular devices such as mobile devices, desktop computers, smart TVs, or gaming consoles. 
  • Video Game streaming: On sites such as Twitch and YouTube, live broadcasts of individuals playing games are streamed to a live audience.
  • Music streaming: People listen to music through streaming audio files via SoundCloud, Spotify, and Tidal services.

Why Is Online Streaming So Popular?

Streaming as a technology has been present since the 1990s when it began as a proof of concept. However, it began to rise between 2000 and 2010 due to the usage of Flash, YouTube, and the iPhone.

Streaming technology gained off in 2012 with the development of the MPEG-DASH standard. This standard enabled YouTube and other video streaming providers to transition away from Flash to HTML5. As a result, the video streaming market has risen by leaps and bounds since then.

Three additional particular causes have contributed to the surge in popularity of video streaming this decade. First, the increasing number of platforms and providers, the emergence of live streaming, and the rise of gaming significantly prove the popularity of streaming. 

Downloading Vs. Streaming

Streaming is fundamentally different from downloading. When a video is streamed to a user’s device for playback, the actual file is not downloaded to the device. 

Instead, the video data packets are sent one at a time, allowing the movie to load in segments rather than all at once. 

When consumers download a video to their device, the entire file is duplicated. Therefore, the video will not start playing until the complete file has been downloaded.

When a video is downloaded, a copy of the complete file is retained on the device’s hard drive, and the video cannot be played until the entire file is downloaded. 

On the other hand, the browser plays the video instead of copying and storing it while streaming. Here, the video is downloaded in segments rather than in the complete file format, and the information that the browser loads is not retained on the device.

The Bottom Line

Streamed material does necessitate some type of payment. For example, if you want to watch movies or TV episodes online, you’ll need a fast internet connection and a streaming device. 

Apart from that, you will usually have to pay a monthly membership fee to use one of the popular streaming sites. 

Each platform will have its own prices and accessibility, so read over their specific plans before subscribing to one of them.

If you want to know more about it, ask us in the comment box.

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