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A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is “broadcasting” over the Internet.

The generally accepted use of the term webcast is the "transmission of linear audio or video content over the Internet".

A webcast uses streaming media technology to take a single content source and distribute it to many simultaneous listeners/viewers.

The largest "webcasters" include existing radio and TV stations who "simulcast" their output, as well as a multitude of Internet only "stations". The term webcasting is usually reserved for referring to non-interactive linear streams or events.

Rights and licensing bodies offer specific "webcasting licenses" to those wishing to carry out Internet broadcasting using copyright material.

Webcasting is also used extensively in the commercial sector for investor relations presentations (such as Annual General Meetings), in E-learning (to transmit seminars), and for related communications activities. However, webcasting does not bear much, if any, relationship to the idea of web conferencing which is designed for many-to-many interaction.

The ability to webcast using cheap/accessible technology has allowed independent media to flourish. There are many notable independent shows that broadcast regularly online. Often produced by average citizens in their homes they cover many interests and topics. Webcasts relating to computers, technology, and news are particularly popular and many new shows are added regularly.

Origins

"Webcasting" was first publicly described and presented by Brian Raila of GTE Laboratories at InterTainment '89, 1989, held in New York City, USA. Raila recognized that a viewer/listener need not download the entirety of a program to view/listen to a portion thereof, so long as the receiving device ("client computer") could, over time, receive and present data more rapidly than the user could digest same. Raila used the term "buffered media" to describe this concept.

Raila was joined by James Paschetto of GTE Laboratories to further demonstrate the concept. Paschetto was singularly responsible for the first workable prototype of streaming media, which Raila presented and demonstrated at the Voice Mail Association of Europe 1995 Fall Meeting of October, 1995, in Montreux, Switzerland. Alan Saperstein (Visual Data, now known as Onstream Media (Nasdaq:ONSM), was the first company to feature video webcasting in June 1993 with HotelView, a travel library of 2 minute videos featuring thousands of hotel properties worldwide.

On November 7, 1994, WXYC, the college radio station of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillmarker became the first radio station in the world to broadcast its signal over the internet.

The term webcasting was coined (in the early/mid 1990s) when webcast/streaming pioneers Mark Cuban (Audionet), Howard Gordon (Xing Technologies), William Mutual (ITV.net), Craig Schmieder (Applied Media Resources) and Peggy Miles (InterVox Communications) got together with a community of webcasters to pick a term to describe the technology of sending audio and video on the Net...that might make sense to people. The term netcasting was a consideration, but one of the early webcast community members owned a company called NetCast, so that term was not used, seeking a name that would not be branded to one company. Discussions were also conducted about the term with the National Association of Broadcasters for their books - Internet Age Broadcaster I and II, written by Peggy Miles and Dean Sakai.

The actual word "webcast" was coined by Daniel Keys Moran in his 1988 novel The Armageddon Blues:

Translated versions including Subtitling are now possible using SMIL Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language.

Examples

Virtually all the major broadcasters have a webcast of their output, from the BBC to CNN to Al Jazeera to UNTV Webcast in television to Radio China, Vatican Radio, United Nations Radio and the World Service in radio.

One of the earliest examples of a webcast occurred on August 13, 1998 in what is generally believed to be the first webcasted wedding, between Alan K'necht and Carrie Silverman in Torontomarker Canadamarker.

The earliest webcast equivalent of an online concert was by Glasgowmarker band Travis who on May 28, 1999 performed a setlist from their recent album The Man Who in a local internet cafe on Sauchiehall Streetmarker.

A notable webcast took place in September 1999 to launch NetAid, a project to promote Internet use in the world's poorest countries. Three high profile concerts were to be broadcast simultaneously on the BBC, MTV and over the Internet; a Londonmarker concert at Wembley Stadiummarker featuring the likes of Robbie Williams, George Michael; a New Yorkmarker concert featuring Bono of U2 and Wyclef Jean; a Genevamarker concert.

More recently, Live8 (AOL) claimed around 170,000 concurrent viewers (up to 400 Kbit/s) and the BBC received about the same (10 Gbit/s) on the day of the 7 July 2005 bombings in London. The growth of webcast traffic has roughly doubled, year on year, since 1995 and is directly linked to broadband penetration.

Connecting Media was one of the first companies to do live webcasting using a special IFP Van (Internet Field Production) dedicated to webcasting.

Today, webcasts are being used more frequently and by novice users. Live webcasts are allowing viewing of presentations, business meetings, and seminars etc. for those that telecommute rather than attend. Such sites offer live broadcasting as an affordable solution to public speaking events that expands the viewing audience to anyone that has an internet connection.

Live sporting events, both local and national, have also quickly become frequent webcast subjects. With regard to smaller events such as Little League, amateur sports, small college sports, and high school sports, webcasting allows these events to have full audio or video coverage online when they may not be able to book standard radio or TV time. Websites like Meridix Webcast Network, Texas Sports Radio Network, SportsJuice, and others allow local schools, teams, and broadcasters to produce their own webcasts, which also have the advantage of being accessible to anyone with an internet connection (i.e. relatives several states away), unlike the range and market limitations of terrestrial radio and TV.

Wedcast

A wedcast is a webcast of a wedding. It allows family and friends of the couple to watch the wedding in real time on the Internet. It is sometimes used for weddings in exotic locations, such as Hawaiimarker or the Caribbeanmarker, for which it is very expensive or difficult for people to travel to see the wedding in person.

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