Adding streaming media can be a great way to keep visitors to your site coming back for more. There are several media formats that can be streamed across the Web, including RealMedia (*.ra and *.ram), Windows Media Format (*.wmf), Active Streaming Format (*.asf), and QuickTime (*.mov).
Some streaming media formats require server-side support, whereas others don't. RealMedia (RealAudio and RealVideo), for instance, requires installation of the RealMedia Server. Other media types require that servers be configured to recognize their MIME type. Before trying to implement streaming media in your site, check to see whether your Web hosting service supports it.
There are several free or inexpensive software tools that you can use to create your own streaming media:
PresenterOne Basic at forms.real.com/rnforms/products/tools/presenteronebasic/. Free software for creating your own streaming presentations.
RealSlideshow Basic at forms.real.com/rnforms/products/tools/slideshowbasic/. Free software for creating your own streaming slideshows.
Microsoft Windows Media Encoder at www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/9series/encoder/default.aspx. Converts both live and prerecorded audio, video, and computer screen captures in Windows Media Format (*.wmf) files for streaming delivery over the Web.
AudioActive Production Studio at www.audioactive.com/products/default.htm (Windows/$34.95 to $149.95). Encode WAV audio into MP3, ASF, SWA (Shockwave), and compressed WAV audio formats.
QuickTime Pro from Apple at www.apple.com/quicktime/upgrade/ (Macintosh, Windows/$29.99 upgrade for the free QuickTime Player). This is not only a streaming media player but also allows you to create Web-ready audio and video, apply special effects and filters to your movies, and export audio and video to over a dozen formats.
CoolEdit 2000 at www.syntrillium.com/cooledit/ (Windows/$39, $69, and $249). One of the best Windows-based audio editing utilities, available in three versions (2000 Lite, 2000, and Pro). Record through your sound card from a microphone, CD-ROM, or other source, read and write MP3, and more.