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.