In the early 1920s, George O. Squier was granted patents for a system for the transmission and distribution of signals over electrical lines which was the technical basis for what later became Muzak, a technology streaming continuous music to commercial customers without the use of radio. Attempts to display media on computers date back to the earliest days of computing in the mid-20th century. However, little progress was made for several decades, primarily due to the high cost and limited capabilities of computer hardware. From the late 1980s through the 1990s, consumer-grade personal computers became powerful enough to display various media. The primary technical issues related to streaming were: having enough CPU power and bus bandwidth to support the required data rates and creating low-latency interrupt paths in the operating system to prevent buffer underrun and thus enable skip-free streaming of the content. However, computer networks were still limited in the mid-1990s, and audio and video media were usually delivered over non-streaming channels, such as by downloading a digital file from a remote server and then saving it to a local drive on the end user's computer or storing it as a digital file and playing it back from CD-ROMs. In 1991 the first commercial Ethernet Switch (see Network Switch) was introduced which enabled more powerful computer networks leading to the first streaming video solutions (see Business developments below) used by schools and corporations such as expanding Bloomberg Television worldwide. In the mid 1990s the World Wide Web was born but only could only support streaming audio until years later.
Late 1990s – early 2000s
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, users had increased access to computer networks, especially the Internet, and especially during the early 2000s, users had access to increased network bandwidth, especially in the "last mile". These technological improvements facilitated the streaming of audio and video content to computer users in their homes and workplaces. As well, there was an increasing use of standard protocols and formats, such as TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML and the Internet became increasingly commercialized, which led to an infusion of investment into the sector. The band Severe Tire Damage was the first group to perform live on the Internet. On June 24, 1993, the band was playing a gig at Xerox PARC while elsewhere in the building, scientists were discussing new technology (the Mbone) for broadcasting on the Internet using multicasting. As proof of PARC's technology, the band's performance was broadcast and could be seen live in Australia and elsewhere. In a March 2017 interview, band member Russ Haines stated that the band had used approximately "half of the total bandwidth of the internet" to stream the performance, which was a 152-by-76 pixel video, updated eight to twelve times per second, with audio quality that was "at best, a bad telephone connection".
Microsoft Research developed a Microsoft TV application which was compiled under MS Windows Studio Suite and tested in conjunction with Connectix QuickCam. RealNetworks was also a pioneer in the streaming media markets, when it broadcast a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners over the Internet in 1995. The first symphonic concert on the Internet took place at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington on November 10, 1995. The concert was a collaboration between The Seattle Symphony and various guest musicians such as Slash (Guns 'n Roses, Velvet Revolver), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam), and Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees). When Word Magazine launched in 1995, they featured the first-ever streaming soundtracks on the Internet.
Metropolitan Opera Live in HD is a program in which the Metropolitan Opera streams an opera performance "live", as the performance is taking place. In 2013–2014, 10 operas were transmitted via satellite into at least 2,000 theaters in 66 countries.
The term "streaming" was first used for tape drives made by Data Electronics Inc. for drives meant to slowly ramp up and run for the entire track; the slow ramp times resulted in lower drive costs, making a more competitive product. "Streaming" was applied in the early 1990s as a better description for video on demand and later live video on IP networks first by Starlight Networks for video streaming and Real Networks for audio streaming; at the time such video was usually referred to as "store and forward video", which was misleading nomenclature.
The first commercial streaming product appeared in late 1992 and was named StarWorks and enabled on demand MPEG-1 full motion videos to be randomly accessed on corporate Ethernet networks. Starworks was from Starlight Networks, who also pioneered live video streaming on Ethernet and via Internet Protocol over satellites with Hughes Network Systems. Other early companies who created streaming media technology include RealNetworks (then known as Progressive Networks) and Protocomm both prior to wide spread World Wide Web usage and once the web became popular in the late 90s, streaming video on the internet blossomed from startups such as VDOnet, acquired by RealNetworks, and Precept, acquired by Cisco.
Microsoft developed a media player known as ActiveMovie in 1995 that allowed streaming media and included a proprietary streaming format, which was the precursor to the streaming feature later in Windows Media Player 6.4 in 1999. In June 1999 Apple also introduced a streaming media format in its QuickTime 4 application. It was later also widely adopted on websites along with RealPlayer and Windows Media streaming formats. The competing formats on websites required each user to download the respective applications for streaming and resulted in many users having to have all three applications on their computer for general compatibility.
In 2000 Industryview.com launched its "world's largest streaming video archive" website to help businesses promote themselves. Webcasting became an emerging tool for business marketing and advertising that combined the immersive nature of television with the interactivity of the Web. The ability to collect data and feedback from potential customers caused this technology to gain momentum quickly.
Around 2002, the interest in a single, unified, streaming format and the widespread adoption of Adobe Flash prompted the development of a video streaming format through Flash, which was the format used in Flash-based players on many popular video hosting sites, such as YouTube, now defaulting to HTML5 video. Increasing consumer demand for live streaming has prompted YouTube to implement a new live streaming service to users. Presently the company also offers a (secured) link returning the available connection speed of the user.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) revealed through its 2015 earnings report that streaming services were responsible for 34.3 percent of the year's total music industry's revenue, growing 29 percent from the previous year and becoming the largest source of income, pulling in around $2.4 billion. US streaming revenue grew 57 percent to $1.6 billion in the first half of 2016 and accounted for almost half of industry sales.