I was reminded today of the Top Ten Abominations of Web Video Lingo. This biggest one that bothers me is #6, where Jackson West says:


6. Streaming
: Once, this defined a very specific method by which to guarantee the reliable delivery of packets in real time over the Internet. But now the line between ’streaming,’ ‘progressive downloads’ and ‘downloads’ is all screwed up (and the various licensing terms and DRM further muddle it, since ‘download’ once meant ‘own’). You can keep using it, but please be specific — and this includes you, survey question writers.

This really pisses me off as well, because there is a clear technical difference. My biggest complaint when working at Macromedia, was when they developed the Flash 6 component, by default they said that it was streaming regardless if it was Progressive or Streaming in Macromedia Flash MX components that were preinstalled.

One of our recent releases of the viddler player we give the viewer the option to choose what works best for him using lingo that makes sense.

Viddler's new player!

Switching between Streaming and Progressive gives the power to the viewer. For most business folk, this is often mishmashed together, which really upsets me, as technical differences are significant.

Talk to me: Am I taking the difference between the two methods of playing back video too seriously?

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11 Responses to Streaming vs Progressive Download – PLEASE RECOGNIZE

  1. I don't know much of anything about flash video delivery, but I've never been a fan of the progressive/streaming option on Viddler if not simply because it seems too technical an option to be displayed so prominently. Maybe as a preference in a user's account or an an option in the play-head popup menu.

  2. Rob says:

    @Justin, it’s great to hear your thoughts, it’s definately an option that I feel for most could be disregarded.

    Does anyone else feel this way?

  3. Kyle says:

    Sometimes I think we have to step back and think about what matters to the user. The greatest achievement YouTube did for online video was present a big play button that you clicked and the video played. That may seem pretty rediculous… but that’s all that matters to most people.

    Streaming? Progressive? They’re great options for people like me (streaming never did work right), and great for troubleshooting — but the general public could care less, and rightly so.

    What some lawyer or marketing guy coins a term as doesn’t really matter, because it will always differ from truth. Streaming, AJAX, Band Aids, or even Stainless Steel.

  4. Herve says:

    I think it makes a lot of sense to give viewers a choice between streaming or progressive download. However, only a minority of them will understand the value of this feature. In my opinion, the best solution is to detect the user's bandwidth and let the player automatically select the best bitrate. Auto-adjusting to the user's connection speed makes it possible to offer true streaming video even with limited bandwidth, thus permitting instant access to any point in videos of any sizes. That's the way Streamlike works. Here's an axample:http://streamlike.yacast.net/secure/Splayer.php?s… . If the detected bandwidth is sufficient, a higher bitrate movie will be displayed when watching in full screen mode.

    BTW, this sample video is an encoder's nightmare!

  5. Peter Weiss says:

    Bravo, for just attempting to explain the difference. I am an old school video compressionist for the dot com dayz and learned very early on that progressive download is far best for short (upto 10 minute videos) since it justpushes as much data down the pipe, depending on your colo. Alot of hosting sites will throttle their bandwidth, so pick a good one.

  6. michelle says:

    Well although I agree with you in some ways, I think byte-range addressing kind of blurs the distinction. We develop apps for the apple iphone, and some servers support streaming and some don’t.

    I’ve had to literally use a sniffer to determine if the video is streaming over http or just progressive download. its hard to tell the difference.

    Look at our video

    http://mooncatventures.blogspot.com

  7. laura says:

    michelle, I thought progressive download was streaming over http…??
    And true streaming was using special “streaming server” software which determined each user’s bandwidth and send them the appropriate bit rate, discarding the video after it played.
    I’ve seen the terms “streaming” and “progressive streaming” and “progressive download” and “download” used interchangeably until no one really understand their true meaning.

  8. Mike says:

    I would have to argue that it’s not up to the viewer, but up to the publisher.

    The real differences between the two forms are these:

    Streaming: Content is streamed to a player from a streaming server (WM, Flash, QT, Real etc). The content is not cached locally on the hard drive of the browser computer. Also, the content is sent only a few seconds ahead of real time. Essentially, you don’t download more than you use.

    If someone stops playing a video at 50% you only pay for 50% of the delivery of that video. You can also skip forward ahead of where you are currently in a video and the player will begin playing at that point.

    HTTP/Progressive Download: Starts downloading and plays after some buffering. The content will download at whatever the max bandwidth is available on the browser computers end.

    Chances are, in a 10 minute video, you will download the whole video in a just a few minutes. So you will pay for the entire download whether or not it’s viewed in its entirety. Also, the object is cached locally on the browser computer. You essentially maintain LESS control of your content. You also CAN NOT skip forward ahead of where the download is. If it hasn’t downloaded that part yet, you can’t view it.

    HTTP/Progressive is also a TCP (connection oriented) delivery, you will get 100% of that file once it’s done downloading. Whereas streaming is a UDP (connectionless oriented) delivery. So the viewer may not see 100% of the original content if packets are lost in transit, usually just fine in a video delivery.

    So really it’s up to the publisher to choose what to use. For Flash, there is typically a premium since Adobe charges licensing fees that others don’t.

    Typically speaking… Short form content (less than 10 mins) it’s good to use HTTP Progressive Download. Longer form content 30min+ use streaming since most people will either skip around and not watch the entire video, this will save you money on the delivery.

  9. tim says:

    All of the above comments are helpful but what I want to know is how can I go in and delete these various video files AFTER I’ve viewed them. My understanding is these files are placed in caches on the computer but I can’t retrieve them without sophisticated software and search techniques. Doing a basic search for videos does NOT find them… Basically how do I locate these pre-viewed video files and delete them?

  10. Shemeka says:

    Just delete your temporary internet files

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