Streaming and How We Got from 'There' to 'Here'

In Chapter 15, "Embedding and Streaming Video in Flash MX 2004," we introduced you to the concept of streaming video using the Flash Communication Server MX. What we didn't do was explain how we got to the point where you can connect a digital camera to your computer and actually stream a video signal across the Internet.

Right now, the major streaming media players are the RealOne player from Real Networks, Windows Media Player, and Apple's QuickTime player. All these players use proprietary technologies and act as clients to deliver synchronized pre-recorded or live video and audio streams to computers connected to the Internet in real time. One thing you may not have noticed in Chapter 15 was that the video playing from the server didn't appear to use any of those three players as the client. In fact, you built your own.

The fascination with streaming media really got underway in 1994. That was the year the Rolling Stones used the Internet to deliver a VooDoo Lounge Tour Concert to 1,000 computers connected to the Internet. The technology was very primitive, but it sparked some serious "buzz."

The following year saw the rollout of the Real Player from a company named Progressive Networks, which, today, is known as Real Networks. They decided, quite correctly, that the HTTP protocol just didn't work, and they developed their own standard?Real Time Streaming Protocol?to broadcast content to the Internet. As long as you had a copy of the Real Player or owned or had access to a Real Media server, you could connect to a host of video and audio streams using their proprietary client.

Naturally, Microsoft, seeing an opportunity, also got involved and introduced a streaming server that used the Windows Media Player as its client. In between this and Apple's streaming QuickTime rollout, a new web standard appeared in the market. It was named SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Interface Language) and, being based on XML, was used to manage multiple streams of audio and video data.

Which brings us back to the "here" part of the subhead for this section. The "Big Three," with their focus on promoting their standard, have been "blind-sided" by Macromedia. You don't need to use their servers or client software to create dynamic video and audio applications. You only need access to a Flash Communication Server if you are a developer. If you are a user, you only need Jeremy Allaire's "Trojan Horse." It goes by the name of Flash Player, and there is hardly a computer connected to the Internet that doesn't have it.