Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What is Streaming?

At the university where I work we have an ongoing conversation about what is a 'meeting'. In our course planning for teaching we have to specify how many meetings a student can expect to have with the lecturer during a course. For distance courses these meetings can take a number of forms; a video conference, a chat session, a Skype meeting and so on. Being a language studies department we bang on about what words mean all the time. What is a meeting if you do not share space? I think it is interesting and that's probably why I work there.

Today I read an article online from the Swedish Television 'Culture News' about how file sharing has decreased by fifty percent in two years. Sounds impressive. The article goes on to state that streaming has gone up a huge amount (well from five percent of traffic to twenty six percent). So the text makes the conclusion that those that were once file sharing in order to consume media are now streaming it. It seems logical, but then I came across this article:

One of the big downsides of BitTorrent is that you have to be patient. Streams from Hulu start after a few seconds of buffering. Download a file from a torrent site, on the other hand, and you’ll often have to wait hours before you can start watching. “It’s a painful experience for users,” admitted BitTorrent Inc. VP Simon Morris in a recent interview with NewTeeVee, adding that BitTorrent has been pretty much “point-click-wait” instead of the “point-click-watch” experience people now expect from web video.

BitTorrent Inc. is now trying to tackle this issue with a new streaming feature in its flagship uTorrent client. Of course, this isn’t the first attempt to make BitTorrent a little more of an instantaneous experience. In fact, there are a number of ways you can stream your torrents. We tested a number of them and compiled a quick list of five ways to get your streams on. Five Ways to Stream Your Torrents

So people who are using torrents are also streaming. With the recent announcement by the Pirate Bay that they are abandoning the torrent tracker all together in favor of magnetic torrents, it seems that the Culture News is just following the pattern that is pretty much established in relation to file sharing. Technical innovation remains ahead of both legal structure and social reality at large.

The boundaries between one form of information distribution and another over web protocols are difficult to set. The meaning of 'streaming' is based on technical characteristic that seem to be fast becoming obsolete. Streaming will be the new file sharing.

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