Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a provider. The verb "to stream" refers to the process of delivering or obtaining media in this manner; the term refers to the delivery method of the medium, rather than the medium itself, and is an alternative to file downloading, a process in which the end-user obtains the entire file for the content before watching or listening to it.
As of 2016, streaming is generally taken to refer to cases where a user watches digital video content and/or listens to digital audio content on a computer screen and speakers (ranging from a desktop computer to a smartphone) over the Internet. With streaming content, the user does not have to download the entire digital video or digital audio file before they start to watch/listen to it. There are challenges with streaming content on the Internet. If the user does not have enough bandwidth in their Internet connection, they may experience stops in the content and some users may not be able to stream certain content due to not having compatible computer or software systems. As of 2016, two popular streaming services are the video sharing website YouTube, which contains video and audio files on a huge range of topics and Netflix, which streams movies and TV shows.
Live streaming refers to Internet content delivered in real-time, as events happen, much as live television broadcasts its contents over the airwaves via a television signal. An example of live streaming is Metropolitan Opera Live in HD, 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. Live internet streaming requires a form of source media (e.g. a video camera, an audio interface, screen capture software), an encoder to digitize the content, a media publisher, and a content delivery network to distribute and deliver the content. Live streaming does not need to be recorded at the origination point, although it frequently is.