Broadband, Streaming Media and Web Radio Glossary of Terms

By mike
27 October 2011
Glossary of Terms Used in Streaming Media
AAC: (Advanced Audio Coding) one of several audio coding systems specified in the MPEG2 standard (ISO/IEC 13818-7), AAC can be used for streaming and downloading music via the Internet.  See MPEG4-AAC.
.AIFF: (Audio Interchange File Format) a high-quality uncompressed (raw) audio format developed by Apple, and most commonly used on the Macintosh operating system.
.ASF: a streaming media file format used by Windows Media for encoded files
ATH: (Aggregate Tuning Hour) total hours of programming that the Licensee has transmitted during the relevant period to all listeners within the United States from all channels and stations that provide audio programming consisting, in whole or in part, of eligible nonsubscription transmissions or noninteractive digital audio transmissions.
Authoring: process of choosing audio content and digitizing, encoding, and delivering the content (in any variety of streaming formats) to the streaming server for delivery to your audience.
Bandwidth: 1. width of a channel in telecommunications, typically measured in bits per second (bps) for digital communications, cycles per second or Hz for analog.  2. In the realm of data transmission, the amount of data that can be sent through any digital connection.  Used to measure the speed of a connection to the Internet.
Broadband: transmission facility that has a bandwidth (capacity) greater than a voice grade line of 3 kHz, generally used to refer to coaxial cable and DSL Internet connections.
Buffer: temporary storage location for data or information being sent and received.  Usually located between two devices that have different abilities or speeds for handling the data.
Buffering: the process of storing the data commonly transmitted during streaming so that the transmission will  “play” continuously during a real time stream.
CARP: (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel) three-person panel convened under direction of the Librarian of Congress for the purpose of determining the rates and terms for the statutory licenses required by DMCA.
CBR: (Constant Bit Rate) the bit rate remains fairly constant and close to the target bit rate over the course of the stream, designed to work effectively with streaming scenarios.  Disadvantage is that the quality of the content is not constant, as some portions are more difficult to compress.
Client/server:  a model for structuring a distributed system that consists of two types of processes: clients, which generate requests for service, and servers which receive requests, execute one or more operations and send a result back to each client.
Client: computer that requests information or services from another computer.
CODEC: 1. used in PC technology to mean COmpression/DECompression.  Using techniques for representing repeated bit patterns reduces the amount of data to be transmitted or stored.  When data is received or accessed, it is decompressed into its original form. 2. Radically shrinks multimedia files for storage or transfer before either returning them to their normal size or restructuring them to an approximation of their original state.
Download: either the act of transferring a multi-media or other data file from a remote source such as a web server to a local hard drive or other storage device where it can be played or viewed by associated software/hardware at the users discretion (verb), or the actual content itself after it has been stored. (noun)
Decoder: Software or hardware that turns encoded information back into its original pre-encoded form or a close approximation.
Digital Audio Broadcasting: (DAB) both a generic term and the proprietary name given to a transmission system for radio that uses part of the upper end of the VHF spectrum.  Around eight stations are bundled together into “multiplexes” of simultaneous transmission on a given receiving frequency.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act: (DMCA) 1998 US law that implemented two international treaties addressing copyright issues, containing provisions pertinent to online service providers, Webcasting and distance learning among others. (see WIPO)
Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995: (DPRA): created for the first time in US copyright law, a limited public performance right in sound recordings (as distinguished from musical works).  Forerunner of the DMCA.
DSP: Digital Signal Processor
Ephemeral recordings: recordings made in order to facilitate a transmission, allows radio stations to record a set of songs rather than rely solely on original CDs or other source media.  Term used in the context of the DMCA and other statutes.
Encoder: software or hardware designed to convert raw, uncompressed audio into a highly compressed format for quick transfer over a network.
Encoding: process of converting data into code or analog signals (voice, music etc.) into digital signals.
Format: technology to encode and stream audio over the Internet.  Major formats include MP3, Windows Media, RealMedia, QuickTime, Ogg Vorbis, and Beatnik
Fair use:  long standing legal privilege to make unauthorized use of a copyrighted work for a good reason.  A benefit extended to the purchaser of copyrighted materials, and to researchers and libraries as well.
Hint tracks: files (movies) that are intended for streaming via QuickTime Streaming Server must be hinted—that is, they need a hint track for every streamable media track.  The hint tracks tell the server exactly how to package the media data for the network.
HTTP: Hyper Text Transfer Protocol is the actual protocol used by a web server (including streaming media servers) and the client browser (or media player) to communicate over an Internet connection.
HTTP streaming:  see progressive streaming
Icecast: a project that encompasses several programs enabling a streaming server system that streams audio content in the Ogg Vorbis format, available under the terms of the GNU GPL.
icecast: a program that provides streaming media server capability and is one of the programs encompassed by the Icecast project.  The current version, icecast2, supports streaming in the Ogg Vorbis and MP3 formats.  As with other streaming media server technologies it requires a streaming application to input the stream to the server.
IP: The Internet Protocol is a standard describing software that keeps track of the Internet addresses for different nodes, routes outgoing messages, and recognizes incoming messages.  The protocol works in conjunction with TCP and is usually identified as TCP/IP.
LAME: the source code developed through an the open source model to improve the psycho acoustics, noise shaping and speed of MP3, now considered an effective MP3 encoding engine.
Live stream: (live content) source audio enters an authoring computer (authoring software/encoder) and exits as an encoded live stream.  The live stream is forwarded by the server directly to listener’s client software over the Internet. Used for applications such as live concerts, radio simulcasts, web radio transmissions in real-time, or live sporting events.  See on-demand stream.
Media Player: client software device capable of interacting with a streaming media or web server for the purpose of providing playback and control capabilities for multi-media content
Media Server: file server that contains files containing voice, images, pictures, video, audio etc.  They provide storage, network interfaces, and memory. (Newton)
Metadata: information included with a file that describes the files contents, such as artist, title, and other CD information
Metafile: a file that contains a pointer to the actual streaming content
Multicast: media server transmits only one stream that is picked up by all the clients on the network, therefore has less stringent network demands but requires more complex networking.
MPEG: (Motion Pictures Expert Group) commonly known as a series of hardware and software standards to reduce the storage requirements of digital video and audio.
MPEG1: standard is a three-part compression standard that addresses video and audio compression techniques for synchronized video and audio at a total bit rate of about 1.5 Mbit/s.
MPEG2: ISO standard for the compression of video and audio assets that builds on MPEG1 and extends it to handle the highest-quality video applications.  Now a common standard for digital video transmission used in all parts of the distribution chain, including broadcast, Cable TV, satellite, and streaming media applications.
MP3: MPEG1, Layer III, an open standard CODEC that provides the greatest audio quality and greatest compression, and not specifically a streaming audio format.  Although an ISO standard, MP3 requires royalty payments to Fraunhofer, Coding Technologies and Thomson.  Streams effectively down to speeds of 28.8 kbps, and is an almost universal audio format.
MP3PRO: enables broadcasters/Webcasters to deliver CD quality audio using half the bandwidth of standard MP3 files.  MP3PRO is a combination of MP3 and Coding Technologies proprietary SBR (Spectral Band Replication) technology and provides backward compatibility with standard MP3 files.  SBR enable the CODEC to deliver the same quality at half the bit rate, thus reducing bandwidth requirements.
MPEG4: standard designed to cover the entire digital media workflow, including authoring, editing, encoding, transmission, distribution, playback, and archiving using the QuickTime file format as the container to hold the various media types.  Represents the new frontier of media services, with many different vendor implementations that will need to be integrated in the future.
MPEG4 ACC: standard incorporates MPEG2 AAC, forming the basis of the MPEG4 audio compression technology for data rates above 32 kbps per channel.  Additional tools increase the effectiveness of MPEG2 AAC at lower bit rates, and add scalability or error resilience characteristics.  Compresses more effectively than older standards, including MP3, while offering quality rivaling uncompressed CD audio.
.MOV:  original Apple QuickTime file format for video, now used for audio files as well.
Multi-Media: combination of multiple forms of media in the communication of information.  Current use implies combination and integration of digital technologies of video, audio, images, with PC processing over telecommunications networks.
Multimedia Information System: one which supports a variety of media types into a single system framework thus enabling users to share, communicate and process a variety of forms of information in an integrated manner.
MBR: (Multiple Bit Rate) provides users with better quality content during times of network congestion.  Content is encoded at several specified bit rates and then is delivered to player (client) based on available bandwidth.
Narrowcast: programming developed and/or delivered to a “niche” audience, a specific set of recipients, rather than broadcast to many recipients.
Narrowband: connection over a computer or telephone network with a relatively low bit rate, e.g., 64 kBps.
Nullsoft: private company that is the driving force behind streaming using the MP3 format by developing and supporting the SHOUTcast server technology as well as media players, WINamp, Audion (for Macintosh listeners) and XMMS for UNIX, or MusicMatch for all three platforms.
Ogg Vorbis: new audio compression format.  Ogg Vorbis is a fully open, non-proprietary, patent-and-royalty-free, general-purpose compressed audio format for mid to high quality (8kHz-48.0kHz, 16+ bit, polyphonic) audio and music at fixed and variable bit rates from 16 to 128 kbps/channel.  This places Vorbis in the same competitive class as audio representations such as MPEG4 (AAC), and similar to, but higher performance than MPEG1/2 audio layer 3, MPEG4 audio (TwinVQ), WMA and PAC. (
.        For a more complete description of Ogg Vorbis, refer to
On-demand stream: (on-demand content) streaming audio files are authored and then up loaded to a streaming server for redistribution to multiple listeners.  Allows use of third-party software tools such as encoders or DJ automation tools that export to the desired audio streaming format and offer advanced processing features.  Web radio stations accessing archived MP3 or other formatted files are considered on-demand.  See live stream.
Open Source: Open source promotes software reliability and quality by supporting independent peer review and rapid evolution of source code.  To be OSI certified, the software must be distributed under a license that guarantees the right to read, redistribute, modify, and use the software freely.  (
Performance: (“per performance’) each instance in which any portion of a sound performance is publicly performed to a listener via an Internet-only transmission or an AM/FM retransmission
Progressive Streaming: An on-demand file or live broadcast that will play in the user’s player application during the download process instead of waiting for the entire file to download in order to play.  Commonly served by a Web Server via HTTP.  Also called progressive download and FastStart.
QuickTime: streaming software originally developed by Apple as a software toolset that allowed MAC OS 6.0 to transfer large media files, but has become an effective tool for creating and listening to multimedia across platforms.
Real Time: no perceived delay in the transmission of a message or file, the receiver acts upon the transmitted file immediately.  A voice telephone conversation is conducted in real time, and similarly a multimedia transmission can be conducted in real time.
Real Time Transfer Protocol/Real Time Streaming Protocol: RTP/RTSP. 1. Developed by IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) to address problems when real-time interactive exchanges such as video or audio are transported over LANs designed for data by adding a layer to the Internet Protocol. (Newton).
2. a standard non-proprietary protocol for real-time streaming of multimedia on a network, the RTP protocol is used for the outgoing stream, and RTSP is used for the interactive requests from the client (receiver or media player).
Real Time Streaming: two-way conversation between streaming audio player and server that provides additional stability and features.
Scalable: Something can be made larger or smaller with relative ease.
Scalability: has the ability to be upgraded or possibly downgraded to meet actual system requirements with less operational and economic impacts than a replacement of the system or process would incur.
Server: computer on a network that supplies information to a client computer on request.  Also refers to the software that performs these functions.  Also, see Web server.
SHOUTcast: Nullsoft’s Free WINamp based distributed streaming audio system
SimpleCast: encoding software offered by SpacialAudio that encodes in multiple formats (MP3, MP3PRO, OGG) and streams to multiple servers (SHOUTcast, Live365, Windows Media, Icecast)
Simulcast: distribution of radio/TV content over more than one outlet simultaneously (at the same time), now applied to terrestrial broadcasts, which are also Webcast.
Statute: a legislative enactment, established law, or regulation
Statutory license: automatically granted by operation of law to all parties that meet the conditions of the license (which are set forth in the DMCA).  Parties operating under a statutory license are required to pay royalties rates that are established by law or regulation and comply with reporting requirements, restrictions and various other terms established by law.
Stream: either the process of transmitting digitized audio or video over the internet so that it can be used in real time (verb), or the actual content that is received (noun)
Streaming Audio: 1. Similar to traditional radio broadcasting except that the Internet is used to send and receive audio instead of just using the airwaves, streaming audio is listened to in real-time.  2. Transferring audio between hardware devices across a network in which the audio data causes the audio to start playing on the client computer or device as the data begins to arrive at the client computer or device
Streaming Media: simultaneous transfer of digital media (video, voice and data) so that it is received as a continuous real-time stream.
Streaming Server: media server that takes the audio from either a static pre-processed file or a continuous live feed (such as an ongoing Internet “radio” station, and begins sending the audio over the Internet connection to the user’s media player or other client device.  This type of server maintains a constant connection with the client or player in order to send data at predictable rates.
Subscription transmission: transmission that is sold, controlled and limited to particular recipients, those who have subscribed to the service in question
3G: (third generation) generic wireless industry term for high-speed mobile data delivery over cellular networks. 3G networks allow users to send and receive bandwidth-intensive information such as video, video conferencing, high quality audio and web data on-demand, virtually anytime and anywhere.
3GPP/3GPP2: complete set of globally applicable Technical Specifications for a Third Generation Mobile System based on the evolved GSM (3GPP) or CDMA (3GPP2) core networks and the radio access technologies supported by partners of both wireless formats.
Unicast: one to one Webcasting where each listener requests his or her own single stream from the server for the duration of the transmission.
VBR: (Variable Bit Rate) encoding method where fewer bits are automatically allocated to less complex portions of the content, leaving enough bits available to produce good quality for more complicated ones.  Useful for downloading for CD or DVD playback, or when working with a mixed media file.
.WAV: high-quality audio format developed by Microsoft and the most common raw audio format used on the Windows platform
Waveform audio: 1. digital representation of actual sound waves created by sampling the analog sound waveform at regular intervals.  2. graphic representation of the shape of a sound.
Waveform editor: software that allows the editing of sound, much like a word processor does.  Software allows user to edit (i.e. change, replace, amplify, echo, fade in or out, cut out noise, cut/paste from other files, etc.) sound.
Web server:  Similar to network server except transmission is via the Internet, and transmissions are done as quickly as possible in order to handle the next request, data is sent in chunks in order to minimize delay.
WINamp:  Free media player offered by Nullsoft that allows streaming to SHOUTcast server with proper plug-ins
WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization): United Nations organization responsible for two international treaties used as models for international copyright agreements
WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT): applies broadly to songwriting and the authorship of music and other content.
WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty: (WPPT) applies broadly to the performers, performance rights, record companies, and musical content.
.WMA: high quality audio format developed by Microsoft and used on the Windows operating system
.WMV: collection of open source, multimedia related projects. The most aggressive Xiph.Org effort, the Ogg project, works to put the foundation standards of Internet audio into the public domain.  (

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