As the bandwidth capabilities of the internet have expanded at an exponential rate over the past decade, people have started to use the web for a variety of data heavy purposes that have traditionally utilised dedicated systems. This has largely been facilitated by the emergence of content delivery networks and the associated speed gains that they bring. As such, the internet has become a highly versatile technology that meets many different needs for many different people.
One such technology is media video streaming. Traditionally delivered via television or analogue and digital media such as cassette tapes and DVDs, many companies are utilising the internet to deliver high quality video broadcasts. Delivered in real time, video data is compressed at host machines and sent, often via content delivery networks, to the end user where it is decoded. Compression can take place via many different codecs, depending on the precise requirements of each user and the type of data being delivered. End users can also access videos from a multitude of platforms, including through web browsers on PCs, applications on mobile devices and also through to their television sets via high end games consoles.
There are typically two methods for accessing streamed video online. The first is known as streaming media. This allows end users to access video data on demand and according to whenever is most convenient for them. This is typically used for videos such as films and television shows. The second is known as live streaming. This content is delivered live over the internet, with data being encoded at the video source and being sent to end users, often via a live streaming platform, who pick up the broadcast as it happens. This is particularly useful for sporting events and live cultural shows.
Both these methods can utilise several different technologies to optimise the data stream. The most useful technology is adaptive bitrate streaming. This allows the video to be available to end users at a variety of different bitrates, with the most appropriate bitrate being selected for the end user based on the speed of their internet connection and viewing device. Furthermore, this all happens in adaptable real time. If data speeds are slower at a given time, due to increased traffic, for example, bitrates will automatically be lowered to help the video stream smoothly. If traffic then decreases during the broadcast and internet speeds increase, the bitrate will also be increased, allowing high quality video to be displayed smoothly. Another useful technology is the integration of peer-to-peer (P2P) functionality into the delivery of video content. As with the use of P2P on content delivery networks, when used for video delivery P2P protocols allows end users to utilise other computer systems accessing the same data as virtual servers. This prevents bottlenecks from occurring at origin servers, helping to increase data speeds and bandwidth.
Given the proliferation of content delivery networks for use in delivering data swiftly around the globe, media video streaming has become one of the key purposes that people use the internet. As such, content delivery networks will continue to play an important role as the key driving force behind the increasingly multimedia based nature of the internet.