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The word webcast is derived from "web" and "broadcast". Its use has varied over the past decade by different types of organisation and as the nature of the medium came into public use.
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 live 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; from the mundane to the bizarre. Webcasts relating to computers, technology, and news are particularly popular and many new shows are added regularly.
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 London concert at Wembley Stadium featuring the likes of Robbie Williams, George Michael; a New York concert featuring Bono of U2 and Wyclef Jean; a Geneva 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 it directly linked to broadband penetration.
On July 26-29, 2004, the Democratic National Convention in Boston gave 40,000 potential voters the chance to interact with and ask questions of politicians, convention delegates, and media personalities.
- BrightTALK (Webcasting, Web Conferencing, Webinars & Online Events)
- IWA (The International Webcasting Association, founded 1996)
- Webcasting Exchange - Short articles on webcasting
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