June 23 2010 // Education

Video on the Web - Streaming vs Progressive Download

ProsVideo on the web is becoming increasingly more important. Video has endless potential and offers an intimacy beyond what words and photos can convey. For example video can -

  • Let prospects and customers get to know you better through video in your About Us section
  • Allow you to easily demonstrate a complex product or idea using animation
  • Clearly communicate your expertise in a more entertaining way

The purpose of this post is to discuss, in layman's terms, some of the pros, cons, and considerations of the two main ways video can be hosted and played back on the web.
Progressive Download

This is the most common way of delivering video on the web. YouTube videos are presented in this style. The telltale sign is the load bar - this pic showcases a red load bar with the faint red showing how much of the video has downloaded to your computer and the bright red showing how much has already played. Click beyond that faint red bar, and you'll be waiting awhile for your video to continue playing.

  • All users will experience the same quality of video
  • No special server software or setup required - the server you host your website on should be able to handle a progressive download video


  • Be sure to ask your service provider about the amount of bandwidth allowed under your current plan because if your video downloads go over that alloted bandwidth - you will be paying more
  • While all users will experience the same quality - those with a slower connection will wait longer for that experience (and it may be an unacceptably long time)

Streaming Video

If you've ever watched a show on Hulu - you've watched streaming video. You can spot streaming video if you are easily able to click way ahead on the load bar and within a couple of seconds - your video plays from where you've clicked.


  • Quicker start up time for the viewer
  • Detects user connection speed and adjusts the quality of the video its sending out accordingly
  • You can "fast forward" quickly on the load bar


  • Does require special software on your server
  • All users may not experience the same quality of video


If you answer "Yes" to any of the questions below - we recommend you look further into streaming. If not - we highly recommend progressive download:

  • Is your event live?
  • Do you expect a wide range of connection speeds to access your video? (i.e. your video will be viewed in great numbers in rural or remote areas)
  • Is it necessary to maintain strict control of your video? (i.e. you do not want to allow your viewer the ability to save the video to his or her computer)

  • Is your video very long? (most experts say if it's over 10 minutes)

  • Is it absolutely necessary to allow the ability for your viewer to immediately jump around in the timeline of your video? (i.e. may be an important option with educational materials)

  • Are you expecting a large number of viewers to view your video at one time? (i.e. you are sending a mass email with a link to your video to thousands of recipients)

If you would like more information regarding video on the web contact Applied Art & Technology at 515-331-7400.

Written By

Mark Wilke

Published In


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