Streaming video delivers video content to computer desktops via an Internet connection. A host (server) delivers the file to the receiving computer (client). Settings at the host’s end determine whether access is available to multiple simultaneous users or limited to a single user. Unlike video downloads, which must transfer to the viewer’s desktop, streamed video plays almost immediately after the viewer hits the “play” button; some content must buffer before streaming begins. Streaming video also differs from video downloads in that no copy of the file is stored on the end-user’s computer, so files remain relatively secure.
Playback of streamed video requires that the client’s computer has appropriate player software installed. Commonly used streaming frameworks include Windows Media, RealPlayer, QuickTime, and Flash. Some streaming services provide files in the end-user’s choice of formats.
Because of the large size of moving image data files, streaming videos usually employ file compression, a programming strategy that greatly reduces the size of the file through frame sampling and other means of reducing image redundancy. This can negatively affect image quality when compressed videos are played full-screen or projected. A robust, high-speed Internet connection is required to use streaming video.