What is the Difference Between Streaming Video, Live webcasting and Progressive Download?

How do you choose whether to deliver a video using progressive download, streaming or broadcasting? It’s an important question for you, and since GravityLab’s business is delivering your content to your audience with the best possible user experience in mind, it’s an important question for us, too.


All all of the major streaming media codecs, both audio and video, can be delivered as progressive downloads. Streaming delivery is limited to audio, video, and text. Broadcasting, or live webcasting, is further limited to compression schemes and quality settings compatible with real-time capture and compression.


Progressive download works even when the bandwidth is not sufficient for real-time playback; it simply buffers incoming data and delivers delayed playback. However, since it is simply a web server delivering your content through the HTTP protocol, many simultaneous demands for that media can result in a poor audience experience with significant buffering while the player waits for the content from the server. The back end infrastructure of the GravityLab content delivery network provides client / server negotiation for delivering the content in a timely, efficient manner for the best possible audience experience. This is important, since your online user’s patience, speaking in statistical averages, is about 4 seconds before they move on.


Streaming movies do not store a copy of the movie on the client computer, making them inherently more difficult to copy without the consent of the movie’s owner. This can be an important consideration, and is one reason why people choose streaming over progressive download.


Streams take up a specified amount of bandwidth, whereas HTTP file downloads, or progressive download, proceed as quickly as the connection allows. It is, therefore, easier to manage the bandwidth usage of a streaming server as opposed to a web server, delivering progressive-download movies. With the proliferation of high-speed internet connections at home, and because the vast majority of the US workforce has high-speed access at work, delivering video content at predefined multiple bit rates (streaming) makes sense.


Broadcasting allows you to deliver coverage of live events as they happen, or to provide real time “chat” between computers. GravityLab provides live video broadcasts that can scale up as your audience grows.


To sum up the reasons you might want to use streaming, live broadcasting, or progressive download:


  • If your video project includes live coverage, you must use broadcasting, or live webcasting.
  • If bandwidth management, DRM and copy discouragement (e.g. preventing download) are paramount considerations, streaming video or token authentication is the way to go.
  • If bandwidth is not a paramount concern, you want users to be able to receive you media regardless of connection speed, and you don’t mind if users obtain the actual downloaded copies of your audio and video content on their computers and portable devices, progressive download may be viable.


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