What is Internet Streaming, and How Does it Work?

Today’s high-speed Internet connections make video calls, video conferencing, online gaming, and streaming of high-definition movies possible. Broadband lends itself particularly well to different types of streaming.

Streaming enables the uninterrupted transmission of multimedia content like music and video files in real-time. It allows the user to enjoy the material as it is being sent. You can compare it to a TV or radio broadcast transmission that you see or listen to live.

Back in the early days, downloading the whole file into your hard drive, like a video, for instance, was necessary. That was the only guaranteed way to play the video smoothly. Sometimes, while you’re watching a YouTube video, it would stop midstream because more data had to load before it could resume playing. If you wanted continuous play, YouTube forces you to watch it at a lower resolution your connection can handle.

Most Internet connections at the time were slow and couldn’t keep up showing high-quality content because of the large file sizes. That all changed with the advancements in hardware technologies, and when high-speed broadband access to the Internet became commonplace.

The Difference Between Progressive Downloads and Streaming

There are two prevalent types of content delivery. One is by streaming, and the other is through progressive downloads.

Progressive Downloads

With progressive downloads, as soon as you start a video, it begins downloading and is stored in a temporary location inside your computer. While you’re watching it, the data download continues in the background as the video is “progressively“ being completed.

This data is delivered through standard Http protocols like any other ordinary webpage content and uses more bandwidth since it requires downloading the entire video file. If you happen to skip the vid to a later part that still hasn’t finished downloading, you won’t be able to view it instantly.

It takes a little while until your player has buffered enough data to resume playing it again. Progressive downloading is not to be confused with regular downloading of content with the intent of storing it on your computer and viewing it later.


In the case of streaming, video delivery is handled more on the streamer’s server-side, than on the client-side. It takes up less bandwidth because the only data that you’re receiving at any point is the one that you’re seeing or listening to in real-time, and nothing is kept on your computer.

That means if you skip to another part, the video or music should resume from that point onwards without a hitch. All the server has to do is to stream from that segment of the file.

As you can see, it will all depend on the quality of your connection, while the server is streaming data via Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP).

What Does Streaming Require?

Some sites like Netflix deliver streaming content, while others provide a platform allowing users to share their creative content live. The speed and hardware requirements would vary from site to site.


For PCs, you should have at least a Core i5-4670 or an equivalent AMD CPU and a minimum 8GB of RAM. If you’re the one streaming content, it’s a general rule of thumb to have a more powerful rig than for viewing.

Some gameplay streamers would go to the extreme measure of having a dual computer set up, one for playing the games and the other to handle the streaming duties.

For devices, there are TVs with built-in streaming capabilities but are very expensive. There are devices like Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Cube, and Roku Streaming Stick, that can turn an ordinary TV into a streaming one.

For smartphones, you need at least a 4G one for a smoother experience.

Internet Connection

The minimum speed for even low quality is at least 500kbps, and you can bump it up to 700kbps for regular quality streams in some sites. At 2Mbps, you can stream good quality videos without any stuttering.

You will need at least 5Mbps for HD quality without any hiccups. 4K streaming will require at least 9Mbps, but that’s no problem for modern Wi-Fi routers that can reach more than 1Gbps on the 5GHz band. With those kinds of speeds, they can even handle streaming on multiple devices simultaneously with no sweat.

Audio Visual Equipment.

To share your content live online, you can’t neglect the quality of your audio and camera equipment. A lot of the success of individual content streamers ride on the quality of the sound and video, aside from their ability to provide engaging live content.

Browser and Apps

Two of the most popular browsers used today are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. However, you can use software like OB Studio, XSplit, Wirecast, or Nvidia Shadowplay, among many others, for streaming.

Emil S.

Emil is a Data & Design Specialist with a degree in BS Information System, specializes in Admin Support & Creative Design.

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