Web Radio FAQ: How Does This Technology Work?

How do web radio services stream music over the net?

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Web radio—more commonly referred to as internet radio—is a technology that continuously transmits streaming audio over the internet to your computer. This technique of broadcasting audio using data transmission is much like listening to terrestrial radio.

Transmitting Internet Radio

Traditional radio stations simulcast their programs using one of the compatible audio formats that internet radio uses such as MP3, OGG, WMA, RA, AAC Plus and others. Most up-to-date software media players can play streaming audio using these popular formats.

Traditional radio stations are limited by the power of their station's transmitter and the available broadcast options. They might be heard for 100 miles, but not much further, and they may have to share the airwaves with other local radio stations.

Internet radio stations don't have these limitations, so you can listen to any internet radio station anywhere you can get online. In addition, internet radio stations are not limited to audio transmissions. They have the option to share graphics, photos, and links with their listeners and to form chat rooms or message boards.


The most obvious benefit of using web radio is access to thousands of radio stations that you wouldn’t normally be able to listen to due to your locale. Another advantage is an almost unlimited supply of music, live events and radio show that you can listen to in real-time. This on-demand audio technology gives you access to entertainment at any time of the day without having to first download files to your hard drive.

Listening to Internet Radio

With the proper hardware, you can find and listen to a multitude of internet radio stations. Unlike on-demand music streaming services, internet radio stations have music played by DJs or talk shows with live (or pre-recorded) hosts and guests.

Some internet radio stations are simply online streams of traditional, local programming, which is typically live. If you miss a station from your hometown or simply want to broaden your listening horizons, there are hundreds of stations from which to choose. Finding the best internet radio stations will largely depend on your personal taste.

If you are unable to listen to your favorite internet radio programs live, you have the option of recording them. You don't need any additional hardware. Several free software programs make it simple to listen or record music, talk shows, and other content played on internet radio stations.