The success of streaming media is pretty recent, but the idea behind it has been around as long as people have. When someone talks to you, information travels toward you in the form of a sound wave. Your ears and brain decode this information, allowing you to understand it. This is also what happens when you watch TV or listen to the radio. Information travels to an electronic device in the form of a cable signal, a satellite signal or radio waves. The device decodes and displays the signal.
In streaming video and audio, the traveling information is a stream of data from a server. The decoder is a stand-alone player or a plugin that works as part of a Web browser. The server, information stream and decoder work together to let people watch live or prerecorded broadcasts.