After Hours

Getting started with streaming media

If you're interested in streaming media, here's some helpful introductory information.

By Joseph T. Sinclair

You've mastered HTML. You're a graphics guru. But now your clients want to add live broadcasts, music, and high-quality video to their Web sites. It's time to get moving with streaming media, a critical technology for providing rich information on the Web and corporate intranets.

According to RealNetworks, about 95 million unique Web users have downloaded the RealPlayer, the plug-in necessary to view streaming RealMedia (RMF files) on the Web. The RealPlayer upgrades automatically via the Internet, so the user doesn't have to download and install subsequent versions. As for QuickTime, according to Apple's site more than 20 million unique users have downloaded QuickTime Player. QuickTime Player provides similar functionality to RealPlayer, but plays QuickTime "movies" (MOV files), which can include sound or video. Both RealMedia and QuickTime are completely compatible with both Mac and PC platforms.

We'll focus on RealMedia, the technology that holds the lion's share of the streaming media market, and QuickTime, Apple's streaming media product. Because Microsoft offers parallel technology to RealMedia, featuring Media Player and matching RealNetworks feature for feature, the information provided on RealMedia is also useful to Microsoft users.

Joseph T. Sinclair developed the first gourmet food store on the Web in 1994 using Web database technology. He has written seven books about the Web.

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