It seems I’m always late on the game went it comes to new trends and fads. I head about Podcasts quite a while ago in a Wired magazine article and it took until recently for me to actually listen to one. I’m one of those punters who didn’t really think to hard about Podcasts until the little podcast icon popped up in iTunes. I need things to be proffered on a nice little convenient platter for me to take notice. I’m lazy, so sue me.
Many moons ago during the *dot com* boom there was this “amazing” new Internet technology called Real Audio broadcasting. People went nuts over it. All the major dot com players and wannabes were setting up a Real Audio boardcast servers and streaming their comercial clogged spiel to whoever would listen. And then it all disappeared. Ok, well maybe not entirely. People are probably still broadcasting stuff, poor buggers. Real hasn’t gone down the gurgler yet either, so I imagine they are still selling their streaming server products to someone.
In retrospect all of the streaming server technical wizardry was only really useful when the Internet sucked and no one had broadband. Back then Real Networks *had* to develop fancy protocols that degraded gracefully and survived dropped packets with barely noticeable drops in sound quality. These days no one really cares. Sure its better to have those fancy protocols but you can easily stream 128kbit MP3s over the net with TCP (using Icecast/Shoutcast for example) and just rely on TCP’s packet retransmission, fragmentation and out of order reassembly to handle the errors. People listen to MP3 radio quite a bit and its near CD quality. Its not perfect but its cheap and easy to do.
Podcasting is basically the same idea as streaming audio. The difference is that they’ve mixed in RSS syndication/subscriptions and you don’t need a “streaming” server to do it. The “pod” in the name also suggests the use of an iPod or other MP3 player in consumption of the content and as we all know the iPod is the X-factor consumer product of the naughties so Podcasting is, by association, extremely trendy.
Well enough with the ragging on how everything old is new again. I actually enjoyed listening to the old Real Audio broadcasts and likewise I’m enjoying listening to Podcasts.