What does streaming mean?


"Streaming" is a generic term. It basically means that the data being transferred can be used immediately, without having to download the "thing" in it's entirety before it can be used.

Streaming audio or video will be decoded and played back immediately -- or once enough data has been transferred in order to start playback.

There are basically two types of streaming:

1. Progressive Download

When a media file is located on a traditional web server, it is "served" like other web-based files such as images, HTML and so on. When a request is made for a file, the web server starts sending the entire file. Wimpy will play as soon as enough data has been downloaded to initiate playback. The file is delivered in it's entirety to the "client" (your browser/PC) and it is saved in the browser's cache.

If the same file is requested, the browser/PC will use the file in the cache (rather than downloading the entire file again -- unless of course the browser's cache is cleared.

2. "True" Streaming

"True" streaming actually means that the data is played, then discarded immediately after it is played. Rather than delivering an entire file, streaming servers deliver mini-chunks of the source media.

On the client side (your media player/PC) these little chunks of data are collected so that, perhaps 20 seconds of the media files can playback. This is refered to as "buffering". Once the part has been viewed (or listened to) the client emediately discards the data,.

This is nice because the client doesn't have to negotiate large files, nor does it need a large hard drive to store massive HD media files.

Services like youtube.com and vimeo.com have special servers designed for delivering small chunks of data at a high rate of speed. 

Unlike traditional web servers that use the "http" protocol to deliver entire files "real" streaming servers do not deliver files in their entirety, and the overall "file" is rarely stored by the client (your medai player/browser/PC).

If the same file is requested, the client will restart the stream "from scratch" -- meaning that the entire process begins a-new.

Wimpy Uses Progressive Download

This is becaues Wimpy is designed for use with standard web sites. It also means you don't need to deal with maintaining a seperate server, purchasing and installing server-based streaming software or paying extra for streaming-fees.

Using the "progressive download " method is the least expensive way to present audio/video on a website. Like "true" streaming, Wimpy's "progressive download " method allows a file to begin playing before it is fully downloaded.

A bit is a bit

Whether a bit is served through a "traditional" streaming server (e.g. Icecast, Shoutcast, Windows Media Systems, RealNetworks, Flash Media Server etc.) or served by a "standard" web server... the same bits are being transferred.

"True" streaming servers and "standard" web servers just uses a different transport methods. Shoutcast and other "true" streaming servers do not neccessarily transfer bits better than a "standard" web servers, they just transfer them differently.

Granted, "traditional" streaming servers are geared specifically for media, whereas "standard" web servers are geared toward serving a variety of other "things".  Streaming servers may be a little more efficient, but they are still transferring the same volume of bits.

Click here for a more in-depth explanation or the differences between a "traditional" streaming server and a "standard" web server.