Streaming media is a term that describes "just-in-time" delivery of multimedia
information. It is typically applied to compressed multimedia formats delivered
over the Internet. It does not try to reassemble as many bits associated with
video content as binary computer file formats do.

Streaming allows data to be transferred in a stream of packets that are
interpreted as they arrive (hence the name streaming.) Without streaming
the entire media will have to be downloaded in one big package before it can
be used. A streaming format is usually defined at the bit level (comprising a
bitstream), so that streams do not have to be aligned to even byte
boundaries, whereas file formats for media usually require even alignment.

There are many pieces to a streaming media system. Encoding tools are
used for compressing the media into a format suitable for delivery over the
Internet. Servers make the compressed files and live streams available to
many people. Players connect to the servers and get the media.

Additionally, there's a lot of technology under the hood. Codecs are the
compression/decompression routines used by encoding tools and players.
File formats are shared by encoding tools and servers to generically store
encoded streams. Players and servers need shared protocols for streaming
the data.