RealNetworks, Apple and Microsoft's competing formats have much in common. They all use specialized, proprietary codecs (compression / decompression algorithms) to encode and playback their streaming media. They all release occasional updates in the form of advanced codecs (which usually produce better-looking video at lower bandwidths). Many critics may tell you that Windows Media is "jerkier" but "crisper" and that RealVideo is "smoother" but "blurrier" or even vice versa; the point is, they're all very similar and all currently enjoy widespread worldwide distribution and recognizance. Perhaps the biggest differences are their costs: Windows Media is "free" to encode and serve (but you must use Windows OS, of course); QuickTime server support is strongest on a Macintosh platform and may involve a cost to encode (using QuickTime Pro); RealNetworks has sometimes hefty costs associated with large servers.
Last update: 01:57 PM Thursday, May 4, 2006