Streaming is what enables you to consume online content without having to wait for it to download. Are you listening to some tunes while you surf the internet? Or catching up on Friends reruns in another tab? That means you’re streaming right now!
Back then, when you had to spend hours downloading songs. With the rise of music platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and movie and TV repositories like Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu, and Disney +, streaming is more popular than ever.
But how exactly does streaming work? Are there streaming faults? (Tip: Yes.) Read all the details on how the Transfer works, what to look out for, and what innovations you can expect to see in the Transfer-in the near future.
Table of Contents
- How does streaming work?
- What type of content can be downloaded?
- How does live streaming work?
- Why should you stream content?
- Are there any drawbacks?
- What about security risks?
- Be secure and anonymous while streaming
How does streaming work?
Streaming gives us the ultimate benefit of media consumption – press a button, and your song, show or movie will start right away. But how does the streaming work?
Streaming is a way to send and receive data (such as audio or video) continuously over a network. Allows you to start playback while other data is being sent. For example, immediately your computer or phone receives the start of a movie, you can start watching it. As the film continues to play, the rest of the data is transferred.
Since you have a reliable internet connection, your device will be able to play the entire movie smoothly and without interruption. Anytime you used music services like Spotify or Apple Music, video devices like YouTube or Netflix, or some game and app, you used live streaming.
For businesses to be able to stream content, they will need servers or cloud storage platforms. Big players like Netflix possess content delivery networks that store the most famous content in the cache and close to where it will be streamed to reduce latency and bandwidth costs.
As a consumer of streaming content, you will need a reliable internet connection with sufficient speed. It should have at least 2 Mbps (megabits per second) to ensure a good streaming experience (i.e. no lag or drop in quality).
Data is sent to a clipboard that stores the next few seconds or minutes in a song or show during content delivery. If your connection is too slow, you’ll continuously see pauses while your device is on the clipboard.
If you desire to watch in HD or 4K, you need to have an even faster connection of at least 5 Mbps.
How is streaming different from downloads?
Note that streaming and downloading is not the same. When you want to download a song or movie, the file is saved to your hard drive. In most cases, you cannot start watching or listening until the download is complete.
And once you have the file, it will take up space on your hard drive. If you want to use many large media (like HD movies), this will quickly fill up all the available space. In contrast, streaming streams media without downloading a file, so it doesn’t consume valuable hardware space.
What type of content can be downloaded?
In today’s multimedia environment, there is a wide range of content that you can stream. Music and video are more traditional forms, but new streaming options are increasingly available, including games, apps, and even live events.
Music and other audio
Audio streaming, which includes music and podcasts, has become incredibly popular. Streaming music lets you play tons of songs from different artists without having to download a single file.
Services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora provide millions of songs available for streaming at the push of a button.
Some, like Pandora, pick a genre or mood, and they pick lists for you. Like Spotify, others precisely play what you choose, although playlists are an essential part of the platform. Apple Music offers a combination of the two options.
Podcasts can be streamed or downloaded for later listening and available through iTunes and Stitcher services. You can also stream audio files that you own to other devices (for example, have your phone play audio files through Bluetooth speakers) in your home.
Video was the first success in mass streaming, starting with services like YouTube. Instead of downloading large media files, video streaming involves compressing data into small packets and sending it to your device, decompressed and displayed.
During a streaming session, video is continuously stored in the buffer; while watching one data packet, the next one is being decompressed so that you can watch the entire movie or TV show without interruption.
Today, some of the most popular video streaming services are YouTube (again!), Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Google Play, and the latest major release on the scene: Disney +.
Video streaming saves you a bunch of time and hassle. Rather than downloading large files which would take up a lot of storage space on your device, you can browse whatever you want without storing anything.
Despite, you may run into a problem if you try to stream your favourite content from abroad. Many sites are blocked, which means that they restrict certain content to certain areas. If you’re on the go and still want to access your favourite content from home, you can always do that, but you’ll need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
A VPN hides your connection and lets you pick where your device will hide by masking its IP address. This enables you to set your location to appear as if you are in another country, successfully bypassing content blocks.
How does live streaming work?
Live streaming works the same as streaming other content types, but it is primarily used for special events such as sporting events or political debates.
When watching a live broadcast, visit a website (such as a news site). It connects to a media server that transmits content to your device using Real-Time Protocol (RTP) and Real-Time Broadcast Protocol (RTSP).
This allows you to send video files in a smaller format (compressed) and then watch them in a higher quality format (decompressed) on your device.
While viewing, the stream temporarily stores and displays small amounts of data on your device, then deletes it as you go. This way, you will never get the actual file; only the parts needed to deliver your viewing experience at any given time.
Recently, social media platforms have started to include live streaming elements like Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
Why should you stream content?
Why worry about online streaming? In short, the practical aspect!
- Get instant replay: no need to wait for content to download. Streaming lets you hear or see what you want almost instantaneously.
- Avoid High Costs & Piracy: It would be costly to buy a CD or digitally download all the bands you want. And downloading albums from torrent websites is illegal. Streaming provides you with the best of both worlds – a low monthly streaming fee replaces the need to buy or steal all the content you want to access.
- Save Space Save Space: Unlike downloads, streaming will not store large files on your device.
- Access Live Content Access Live Content: Want to watch major events live, such as political debates or major sporting events, but don’t have a TV? Live streaming gives you access through a laptop or other device.
- Access content from abroad: Traveling abroad but still want to watch your favourite TV shows from home? (Who likes browsing anyway, right?) You can stream your desired content from your country on the go if you have a VPN.
Are there any drawbacks?
Although streaming these days is very convenient and furious, there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of.
It is essential that if you do not have a fast and stable internet connection and sufficient bandwidth, streaming will be quite tricky. Media content may pause or pause when you try to end the clipboard, creating an enjoyable listening or viewing experience.
Also, depending on the streaming service you are using, the quality may be inconsistent. If your Internet connection is on and off, the TV program may start and stop, appear blurry, or may not synchronize the picture and sound. If you are used to high-quality Blu-ray, you will notice a drop in quality.
Since you have a good internet connection, streaming should work fine. But with such numerous streaming services offering their proprietary content, you can quickly increase costs with multiple subscriptions at the same time. You may be concerned about data collection and the amount of personal data that can be inferred when businesses know your listening and viewing metrics.
Streaming services have also emerged under fire from artists who say platforms prevent them from getting adequate compensation for their work. Tidal, a music streaming platform held by Jay-Z, is a service that attempts to pass more of their profits to artists.
What about security risks?
Not all streaming sites are reputable. While big names like Netflix and Spotify are safe, there are plenty of shady streaming sites out there. How do you know if you accept an unsecured streaming site?
If the site is not well known, but somehow has a wide range of popular movies and TV shows, you can stream them illegally (i.e. pirate). Another red flag is if the website has the latest titles, like movies in theatres.
If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to search for “[streaming page] + reviews” or “whether [streaming page] is legitimate”. It would if you also looked for these other warning signs of unsafe websites.
Ensure you protect yourself against malicious downloads, viruses, and other malware with a strong antivirus program.
Be secure and anonymous while streaming
Just because you don’t download files to devices while streaming doesn’t mean there is no risk. As mentioned above, it is vital to make sure that you are using a legitimate website with the proper license for its content.
You can also use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your connection and maintain online privacy. Some VPNs allow you almost to change your location, preventing streaming services (and advertisers) from targeting you based on your location.
Whether you are travelling and want to access shows from your home or want to be safe on a public Wi-Fi network, VPN will protect you and keep you private.