Streaming is the transmission of an audio or video file from a server to a client over the internet. Media files that are streamed are being consumed while they are being sent.
Streaming can be either live or prerecorded content like podcasts, webinars, movies, or TV shows. To successfully stream content all that is required is a fast speed internet connection, a streaming service or application, and a device that can access the internet.
Media files that are sent over the internet are big and take a long time to download. Streaming breaks these files up into smaller pieces, called data packets. Each data packet contains a small piece of the file that is being transmitted. When streaming a media file, each tiny packet of the file is downloaded individually and presented to the viewer immediately in sequential order.
The key differences between streaming and downloading are:
Streaming occurs in real-time and is a more efficient way to share and view content. Downloading takes longer because the entire media file has to download before it can be accessed and consumed. Downloading also takes up space on a hard drive of the client whereas media that can be streamed is hosted elsewhere.