Sounds, voices, and music are an everyday part of the Internet. Through the Internet, you can listen to radio stations, interviews, music, sound clips, and much more.
You can listen to all this music and sound by downloading audio filesfiles that have been digitized so that a computer can play them. You'll find many music files and sound clips in a variety of sound formats online. Each of these formats has a different extension associated with it, such as .wav, .mp3, or .au. To play these files, you first have to download them and also download audio-player software to play them on your computer. Every new computer sold has this software already built in, such as Windows Media Player, iTunes, RealPlayer, or Musicmatch Jukebox.
You can also listen to music from the Internet without first downloading the music files to your PC. You do this via what is called streaming audio. With streaming audio you don't have to wait until the entire audio file is downloaded to play it. Instead, you listen to the audio while it downloads to your computer. A variety of technologies allow for streaming audio. For all of them, you'll need to have the proper audio player for each specific kind of streaming audio. This chapter looks at one of the most popular audio streaming technologies, called RealPlayer. Other kinds of streaming technologies exist, such as that used by the Windows Media Player. However, all streaming technologies work similarly.
One problem with streaming audio is that the sound quality generally isn't as good as a music CD, although the quality is being improved all the time. However, MP3, a popular kind of audio file type, offers CD-quality audio. Furthermore, the MP3 files themselves aren't that largeusually less than 4MB or 5MB per song. With other kinds of computer music technology, these songs can take up 20MB and more. Technologies have been developed that enable MP3 files to be streamed so that you can listen to them as they download to your computer. This technology gives you the best of both worldshigh-quality sound without having to wait for the whole file to download.
One of the more intriguing new audio uses of the Internet is the capability to listen to radio stations from all across the world. An increasing number of radio stations stream their live broadcasts over the Internet, and you can listen right from your browser or use software such as RealPlayer or the Windows Media Player. Entirely new radio stations have sprung up that broadcast only over the Internet.