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Audio-video streaming — the only way to go

By Jean-Claude Elias - Jan 24,2019 - Last updated at Jan 24,2019

Streaming music online, instead of taking a CD from a bookshelf or drawer and inserting it in the player to listen to it, is the way to go today. For most of the population, it has been the primary way to enjoy music for more than three or four years now, especially for the younger generation. The less-young generation still has a sentimental and understandable relationship with the physical media.

Indeed, despite shortcomings like sometimes-average sound quality and random Internet hiccups (i.e. interruptions), streaming audio is clearly winning. Suffice it to see the number of the excellent music services available on the web like Deezer, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc. Moreover, the average subscription price is more than reasonable, since it is about the equivalent cost of buying one CD a month, whereas with a streaming service you have literally millions of titles available, with a daily update of most of the new releases.

There is something even more interesting. It all seems like the trend is not limited to audio streams, and that video is now following in its footsteps. In less than a year, the most popular such service, Netflix, has gained a massive 50 million subscribers. The number has steadily progressed from 22 million in 2011 to 150 million just recently. Amazon Prime Video, Vevo and Hulu are also doing fine, though Netflix’s base remains significantly larger at this point.

Netflix’s huge network allows it to stream top quality image and sound, combined with excellent subtitles for the country where you are streaming to. This kind of smart customisation makes a noticeable difference, though at the same time a certain form of automatic “censorship” (by country, apparently…) comes as a rather negative point. Recently, my relatives in Greece recommended that I watch a specific movie they had enjoyed on Netflix. When I searched for it on my Netflix app I could not find it, for the service apparently has not made it available for its subscribers who are in Jordan.

It is technology again! With the good, and the bad.

The good is the streaming concept in itself. It is by any measure a great technological achievement. Also on the positive side is the speed, the high Internet bandwidth that is now largely available in Jordan, mainly thanks to the excellent fibre optic network cabling. With it, audio-video streaming comes to you in high definition, and without the (in)famous hiccups. The upcoming 5G wireless Internet technology will accentuate the trend even more.

The bad is that technology at the same time reveals your Internet IP address to the service that is casting the audio-video stream. With it they know exactly where in the world you are, and consequently they sometimes customise (it is a euphemism) the stream accordingly.

Naturally, tech-savvy friends will tell you that there are ways to get around this limitation and to hide your IP, with a private VPN and the like. However this would involve complex technical settings, which defeats the purpose of having an easy and simple to use streaming setup. Besides, some services would simply cut the stream to you if they are unable to locate the country where you are or to get your IP address with certainty.

Whether audio-only or audio-video, streaming is becoming so popular that it is already used in cars that are Internet-enabled. Instead of listening to traditional FM radio stations, for examples, you would simply stream the music you like to your car stereo system.

Music, cars, social habits, everything is being drastically changed by the combination of digital technology and fast Internet.

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