A Radio Station that is on the Internet.

Okay, this is really a misnomer. It's not really radio, it's really streaming audio over the net. We say 'radio' because thats what we've been used to for the last century, and so the name does work to describe what it does.

Internet radio in a wide capacity can be traced in large part back to a company called "Progressive Networks" (now "Real") and their product "RealAudio". Their technology was way ahead of it's time and the first beta release in 1994 finally allowed (however low fidelity) audio to be sent live via the internet over a 28.8kbps modem link. Due to the slow processors of the time it was limited to roughly 8- to 11-kHz, but that would soon change as as the speeds of the encodong and decoding machines increased.

However, due to the interest of money and platform compatibility, a large majority of internet radio is now going to streamed Mpeg audio, aka MP3. THis has a lot to do with the fact that there are many Streaming MP3 servers that are free (versus Realmedia Server which goes for something like $8,000 right now), and almost every MP3 player on every platform now supports streaming Mpeg. Microsoft has tried to get a foothold in audio but due to limited platforms and requirements of a dedicated machine, it Windows Media Audio hasn't really caught on in the internet radio world.

Internet radio is a fairly new technology. Only around since the early 90's. It is used in a variety of ways and is free and easily accessible to most users. In the beginning it was primarily used for radio stations to broadcast their programming in another way. Another away to reach more listeners which is what all radio stations want to do. Now it has evolved into internet radio stations that only broadcast on the internet. Music and talk is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all over the world with just a click of a mouse. Not only can you access internet radio on your computer, but also on new technologies coming out that put internet radio in your home stereo, PDA, cell phone, and probably many other devices. Probably one of the greatest things about internet radio is anybody with a internet connection can start some sort of internet radio station. The whole concept is actually rather simple.

How internet radio works:

  • The first thing that happens is that whoever is broadcasting send the sound/audio to their sound card so that is may be encoded.
  • The sound card uses its encoding system to turn the sound into streaming format. The encoder samples the audio and compresses so that it can be sent over the internet.
  • Your computer then sends the compressed audio to a server. Or in some cases directly to the user if your computer is the broadcaster and the server. If you send it to a server the server will usually be connected to a high bandwidth connection. A server that is connected to a high bandwidth can usually handle more requests then a normal home computer. More bandwidth = more power = more listeners. Also streaming media takes a lot of resources to perform well so most servers are high powered machines and often are dedicated to serving its customers.
  • Once the server receives the broadcast listeners can "tune in" and receive the broadcast from them. The users computer then takes the audio data and decompresses it again and sends it to the speakers. None of the audio is actually stored on the computer but actually received in real-time.

What is needed for a internet radio station:
Well this really can depend on how deep you want to get into it. At least you need a decent computer, an internet connection, encoding software, and a streaming media server. Encoding software is available all over the internet. However streaming media server software is different for each system you use. Nullsoft has its own software called shoutcast, real audio has a real audio server. People using Winamp can received streamed MP3 files from you. Other sites use their own software. Depending on where you want your radio station to be publicized you will have to check to see if they have software available for download. Usually this software is free. Some other nice equipment to have around is a CD-ROM, a microphone, recording and editing software to play with your music, and maybe things like a a digital sound card to do live content, keyboard, equalizer, encoding and decoding software to make MP3s, and other audio tools. All of these things are normally used in radio stations, and can also be used for a internet radio station.

Some internet radio websites:

  • http://www.virtualtuner.com - Awesome site to find stations, easy to navigate.
  • http://www.winamp.com - Great for MP3s in a variety of genres.
  • http://www.radio-locator.com - Find stations by city, state, zip code and more.
  • http://www.streamingmediaworld.com - Generally useful site on all sorts of streaming media.
  • http://radio.yahoo.com - Yahoo!'s internet radio site.
  • http://www.icecast.org - free open source audio streaming server software.
  • http://www.saveinternetradio.org - Go help keep internet radio free!

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