How have you been using the Internet? Isn’t it that you go there to get information? You have to visit different sites in order to get the data you want. What if data comes to you, without the need to visit the site that provides it? That will save you a lot of time surfing the ‘Net.
Now, with podcasting, the scenario where you receive the data directly from the originator, rather than visit his site to get the data, is now possible.
So, what is a podcast? Think of the word “broadcast”. What does it remind you of? What do you picture? Perhaps, you see someone listening to the news on a radio. Or you might see someone watching a baseball game on TV. You may even see a PC on a network transmitting packets for all other networks to receive. So, broadcasting is the process of sending out information to an audience. These audiences, with the right equipment, will be able to receive and decode the signals being transmitted. There is one source and, normally, has many recipients, although there may be one or no one to receive the information.
Similarly, with podcasting, digital, machine readable files are being sent out from a server to people who subscribe to them. Although it is a form of file-sharing over the Internet (like direct downloading or streaming), podcasting is distinguished by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when there are new data added. This is done using an aggregator or feed reader, such as RSS or Atom, that can read feed formats. Subscribers have a podcatching client, a software that makes full use of the features of the podcasts’ syndication. Examples of these podcatching clients are Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace, Juice, and Podget.
Programs, or episodes, received from podcasters can be played on the computer or transferred to a portable media player, such as the iPod. In fact, the word “podcast” is a combination of the words “iPod” and “broadcast”, the iPod being the first portable device in which the first podcasting applications were developed.
Initially, podcasting was used to send radio-style shows. Podcasters now become DJs and stars of their own radio and TV shows. With the low cost in producing and distributing these shows, people now have a venue to showcase their talents, reaching audiences that would not have been possible before. Later, podcasting was used by established companies, such as NPR and CNN, to distribute their contents to end users. Further uses of podcasting include the distribution of school lessons, conference meeting alerts and updates, and even public safety messages by the police department.
Although podcasting connotes the sharing of media files, it may later have other uses, such as providing software updates and product evaluation programs. In any case, the use of the Internet will drastically change with podcasting.