Streaming is something most of us now do, yet it is quite a recent form of technology. The first time it happened was September 5, 1995, when the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees baseball game was streamed by Progressive Networks to thousands of people the world over. Renaming themselves as RealNetworks several years later, they ended up in a huge legal battle with Microsoft, who wanted to dominate this market themselves.
Today, we all do it. Many series and TV shows are streamed by millions. If you’re hooked on series like Orphan Black, netflixupdate.com provide updates on when the show is available for streaming. Times have changed massively though. We forget that, not too long ago, we all had 56k modem lines, and it was impossible to even to consider a streaming possibility. Once broadband became more widely available, most traffic on the internet was HTTP-based, whereas media had to be streamed through UDP. Hence, it continued to be almost impossible. That is, until 2007 when HTTP-based adaptive streaming was developed by Move Networks. Since then, streaming has changed modern media.
HTTP-adaptive streaming was picked up by every technological giant. In 2008, Microsoft came up with Smooth Streaming technology. That same year, Netflix came up with the Watch Instantly service. In 2009, Apple launched HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). Soon, everybody was doing it, and high-profile events like Roland Garros, the Vancouver and London Olympics, Felix Baumgartner’s Stratos Jump, and Wimbledon were all being broadcast. However, while it worked, it was still a bit awkward and confusing.
The process needed to be improved. Hence, in 2010, 3GPP standardization work started to change, using ISO/IEC MPEG instead. Within two years, some 50 companies joined these efforts, including Apple, Netflix, and Microsoft. As a result, in 2012 MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) was developed. Companies that did not work on developing MPEG-DASH did immediately support it, helping to form the DASH Industry Forum, which still sets global implementation guidelines, setting interoperability constraints and improving the entire system.
Gaps still exist, however, and those have to be addressed. The DASH Industry Forum considers one of two options, or a combination, therefore, as the most likely to be successful:
- Increasing average bandwidth.
- Compressing bit rates.
Both options have their pros and cons. Compressing bit rates would be the most effective solution overall. However, if general bandwidth cannot accelerate, this system cannot accelerate either, unless experts develop new codec technologies, which they have. H.265 is the latest evolution in codec technology, created by ISO/IEC MPEG and ITU. ITU recently announced that they managed to develop a system that increased compression efficiency by 40% to 45%. This means that, if successfully implemented, movies could be streamed in full 1080p or HD. And considering mobile networks, developers have brought out 4G, and are even looking at 5G; the future is bright and beautiful. Gone are the days of buffering, waiting for something to work and being interrupted all the time. We now live in an era where we can watch things as they happen, when they happen, through the power of the internet.