Web Radio

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Web Radio Instant global radio, or Web radio, is the latest manifestation of the Internet's multimedia successor, the World Wide Web. Improved technology and content are turning Web radio into a mass medium. (Hickman 30) The Web radio concept is mainly underlined by the concept of Webcasting, or broadcasting station content over the Internet. Online users who visit the Web pages of Webcasting stations can find archived and live audio covering news, business, sports, and many different types of music. (Thomas 38) Although the most prominent reason for the increase in Web radio activity is advancement in related technology, there are multiple other reasons. The key has been the development of software that allows a digital recording stored on a computer to be transmitted over the Internet and played instantly and continuously as it is received by the listener's computer. (Your Very Own 516) This technique is known as streaming, and was pioneered by RealNetworks. In the streaming process, the digitized clips are sent over the Internet as a stream of compressed data packets. (O'Malley 64) Free audio-player software that works with Web browsers then decompresses and assembles these packets at the user's computer and automatically plays them back as they are received. Streaming systems typically use a buffering system that stores an extra few seconds worth of data to prevent Internet "hiccups" from disrupting the steady flow of audio – not unlike the shock-protection systems on portable compact disc players. (O'Malley 64) As reported in 1995, listening to broadcasts on your computer is akin to dialing in a tinny transistor radio on the fringes of reception area – even with hotshot multimedia speakers. (Silverthorne A1) Advancements have made it so Web-based audio now offers near-CD quality, even over a modem of average speed. (Hickman 30) The broadcast quality depends largely on the amount of traffic on the Internet. (Your Very Own 516) Sites will have varying degrees of quality, and the only way to ensure pure transmission is a fast connection from a fast site. On September 5, 1995, the first broadcast of a Major League Baseball game was made over the Internet on ESPN's Web site. The next week, ABC Radio Net became the first organization to provide live Internet newscasts, with coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. (Silverthorne A1) These early firsts by big-name network stations sparked the initial interest in Web radio, and the networks have been the biggest contributors towards the widening spectrum of quality content, as well as setting professional standards for content.
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