What is Internet Radio?

Jodee Redmond

Internet radio is very similar to broadcast radio. It allows listeners to tune in to shows from their computer. Since it is streamed, listeners don't need to download anything to access the broadcast. Instead, they log onto a particular web site to listen in.

Listerners can tune into radio shows via their computers with internet radio.
Listerners can tune into radio shows via their computers with internet radio.

This form of communication is sometimes known as webcasting. It is not the same medium as podcasting, since a podcast must be downloaded to the listener's computer or MP3 player before it can be listened to. The broadcast is sent out over the network and listeners will experience a lag time of up to 10 seconds depending on the server when listening to a broadcast. The lag time occurs because the data is sent out over a TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) connection and then reassembled before the user can listen to it.

Internet radio shows are not accessible with traditional radios.
Internet radio shows are not accessible with traditional radios.

Many Internet radio broadcasts are produced by existing broadcast stations that share their programming with Internet users. They may choose to offer a simulcast of the live broadcast or change their programming somewhat to give those who listen online a different experience. Listeners appreciate the fact that they can get news, information and music with an international flavor anywhere they can a get access to the Internet.

A broadband connection is recommended if you want to listen to Internet radio. You will need a good connection to the Internet with a large bandwidth. An advantage of choosing a broadband connection is that it is always on, as opposed to having to dial in whenever you want to use this service.

You will also need streaming audio software to listen to an Internet radio broadcast. Windows Media Player® is one package you can use for this purpose. Use it to find and listen to Internet radio stations. If you already know the URL for the radio station you are interested in listening to, simply type or copy and paste this information into the program's "Open" box to get the station to start playing.

Another software option for people interested in listening to radio broadcasts through the Internet is to download Real's RealPlayer®. This software package gives users access to over 2,300 Internet radio stations, and a number of these broadcast in an advertising-free format.

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Discussion Comments


I've always thought this would be a great hobby. I've got an extensive collection of music and would love the chance to inflict it on people.

How would one get started in that hobby, though? What are the software and hardware requirements and what costs are involved?

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