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What is Streaming Video?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 16, 2024
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A streaming video is an web video that plays on the monitor at the same time that its data arrives at the computer via the Internet. Unlike downloadable Internet video, streaming forms begin to play once the compressed data is received, and eliminates the concern of viruses that can accompany downloads. However, since the video plays as the data is received, the video can be interrupted by a slow connection and may pause and restart automatically in an attempt to “buffer” the data. Also unlike downloadable video, streaming video is not “kept” on one’s computer; access to it is only available so long as the host website decides to keep the video posted to the site.

A special player is required to play streaming video. The players use a program sometimes referred to as a “codec” to decompresses the video data and enable the video to play. The Internet’s most popular host website for streaming video, YouTube, features several million videos. Other popular host sites include Google Videos, MySpace, and Metacafe.

As computers have come to proliferate in homes, offices, and schools during the new millennium, the popularity and many purposes of streaming video has grown. In the classroom, it is often used as a part of education multimedia, shown to a class on a screen via a laptop and projector. Viral videos, which feature funny or compelling videos, are a popular form that is passed along to other users via email, text, or social media. Companies often post streaming videos to their corporate websites as well as video sharing sites to brand their business and advertise their products or services. “How-To” or instructional tutorials have become another popular use, due to their ability to depict live demonstrations in action, unlike the written tutorials or FAQs commonly found on websites.

Watching television episodes and major motion pictures is one of the most popular uses for streaming video; however, the entertainment industry has at times come into conflict as a result of this use. Television networks offering episodes of their programs online was one of the central causes of the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007-2008, as episode writers and networks were in dispute regarding compensation for episodes shown online. Major motion pictures are more difficult to find via streaming video than television shows, as they are most often hosted illegally on film sharing sites in violation of the film company’s copyright laws.

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Discussion Comments

By anon180004 — On May 25, 2011

I have at least 40 hours of vhs that I wish to edit, condense, rearrange, and then record on dvd. What products, methodology, and/or resources should I use?

By Babalaas — On Oct 02, 2010

@ parmnparsley & Fiorite- I could see how streaming video capture could be useful software, but it could also be a way to disseminate copyrighted materials. I am sure that the consumer who purchased the software is in all legal rights to own this type of software if it is being used for personal entertainment, but its commercial use could present new legal challenges in the future.

Companies are commercializing the use of streaming video, and with this, there are opportunities to steal intellectual property. Services like Netflix, DirecTv, Blockbuster, and others use streaming video as a way to sell their products and services. What would stop someone from renting a movie, capturing the streaming video, and selling hundreds of bootleg copies? If I were a betting person, I would say that there would be cases of this happening soon.

By Fiorite — On Oct 02, 2010

@ parmnparsley- There is software out there that can do exactly what you are talking about. I use a streaming video recorder called just that...Streaming Video Recorder from Wondershare Software. I bought the software for about $25 from cnet, and it works just fine. Not only does it record streaming video, it converts it to whatever file format your device uses. You can then add the recorded videos to your iPod, iPhone, iPad, cell phone, etc.

I use it to download tons of clips from my daughter’s favorite kid shows onto my wife’s cell phone and mine. Being able to play Dora or Blue’s Clues in a restaurant is the easiest way to divert a tantrum.

By parmnparsley — On Oct 02, 2010

Does anyone know if there is a way to record streaming video? It would be nice if I could record funny youtube videos, music videos and episodes of television shows to watch on my cell phone.

I always have the problem that I never have anything entertaining to do while I travel, and the dry movie that is often played on an airplane just doesn't cut it for me. Taking out my laptop while crammed like a sardine in coach is also not very comfortable. I have also had people spill their drinks on me in the plane, and I think I would freak if someone spilled their drink on my laptop.

I am not looking to record videos and burn them to dvd. I just want to be able to record streaming television and load it onto my HTC phone so I can be entertained when I am in airplane mode.

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