How Does Video Streaming Work?


Technology has greatly developed over the past decade, and video streaming is now one of the most common usages of the internet. In the beginning, watching videos or listening to music on the internet resulted in more time waiting for it to buffer. If you had a slow computer or dial up connection, the process would go even slower.


Image Credits geralt, CC0 1.0

Thankfully, things have changed. Streaming media has increased greatly in the last five years. Millions of people watch videos from websites like YouTube every single day. The basic idea of streaming has been around for over a century. It began with the telephone; you could have a conversation with to a friend across the state. Now, the same concept is being used to stream videos to your computer and TV screen.

How Streaming Happens

Most people, when asked, have no idea how to define streaming a video and how it works.

  • Downloading vs. Streaming

While some people simply download videos onto their computers, streaming doesn’t require a download. When you download media onto your computer, it’s permanently saved there unless you delete it later. With streaming, the data will just appears on your screen, and you are able to watch it instantly. The data flows continuously; it isn’t saved on your device.

  • Streaming Media

The media you want to stream begins as raw data, which is high quality digital data. It is compressed and quickly sent across the internet. From here, it can be played without being downloaded or saved. A decoded, or plugin, receives the data and generates watchable media.

  • Compression can be an issue sometimes. It can often reduce quality; frames can be left out, and the video will look pixilated. Compression is why sound clips might skip when being played. It is an unfortunate part of streaming at high speeds; quality has to be sacrificed so the viewer receives immediately.
  • Streaming through a Web Server: Streaming servers deliver the media to you with help from a web server
    • You visit a web page, which is on a web server.
    • You click on the video that you want to watch.
    • The web server sends a message to the streaming server.
    • The streaming server’s software breaks the desired file into multiple pieces and sends them to the viewer in real time.
    • The plugin, streaming device, or application decodes and displays the media.
    • Your device discards of the data.

Benefits of Video Streaming

Streaming video has revolutionized how we watch videos online. Here are some reasons that streaming videos is changing the internet.

  • Instant Playback: The days of completely downloading media prior to viewing is long gone. There is no more waiting.
  • Piracy Protection: Downloading files opened up the possibly for pirating copyrighted material. Streaming media is much harder to copy, and users aren’t able to save to their device.
  • Connects People: Streaming connects people from totally different geographical locations. There are no physical restrictions. For business owners, this gives them a much larger audience.

Selecting a Streaming Player

If you want to use a device to stream videos to your TV, there are a few options to consider when searching for the best streaming media player.

  • Smart TV: This is an awesome option for the best streaming media player. It gives you universal access to online content. You can watch TV shows, movies, play games and even more. You don’t even need a cable TV subscription. All of this is built right into the TV!
  • Streaming Media Boxes: These give you plenty of options if you don’t want to get a new TV. They are a bit faster than streaming sticks, but are more expensive.
  • Streaming Sticks: Sticks plug into your TV’s HDMI port and allow you to access tons of streaming media. They are a cheaper option, but the quality can lack.

Depending on what you are needing, there are multiple options for video streaming. Video streaming can replace the need for cable television and is growing in popularity.