Streaming media doesn’t work!

While this may not be news to some, a lot of streaming media - including that from expensive broadcaster-operated Web sites - is frustrating end users because it doesn’t work. A recent test found that more than half of the digital media streams on the web were so bad that they frustrated computer users and would certainly anger advertisers.

This news is from, a company that monitors digital media streams for hire. It analyzed 2,400 digital media streams from more than 300 Web sites during the second quarter of 2003 and found that 51 percent were not performing properly.

The malfunctioning sites included a wide array of broadcasters, entertainment, religious, financial, educational, and others. The streams included broadband and dial-up audio and video streams from Windows Media and Real Networks. The diverse group of live and on-demand streams originated in 12 different countries around the clock, seven days a week.

Using StreamGuard’s Quality Online Score (QOS) rating system, the average score was a failing 62 percent. More than one in six video streams reported an immediate and fatal error to the viewer (16.7 percent). Almost one in 20 attempts found the stream was apparently “down,” since after 25 seconds it had yet to start playing.

Before blaming the host server, a second agent in a different part of the country, on a completely different Internet backbone routing was assigned to verify the “stream down” condition. Even after making a list 4.3 percent of streams failed to queue and play after 25 seconds.

Additionally, 4.3 percent of streams earned a place in the “very frustrating” category, where digital content took between 10 and 25 seconds to load or buffer before starting to play. More than a quarter of viewers, 25.7 percent, would wait between 5 and 10 seconds for their streams to start playing.

Real Media streams, the company said, fared worse in its tests than competitor Windows Media.

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