Evolution never stops. How we entertain ourselves is no exception to this.

First, humans used to entertain themselves by reading.

Yes, by reading. How insane is that?!

Then, sports were invented, and those became pastimes. Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey, the United States’ four most profitable sports, were invented nearly century before the television was made available in homes in 1928.

Only half a century later, starting in the late 1970s, cable TV was invented. From the 1970s to the 2000s, cable TV was in the top five most popular forms of entertainment.

Three scant decades after that, YouTube, one of the first online video streaming websites, was created. Then came Twitch, which made live streaming popular. And now, streaming video is possible on almost any online platform.

Nowadays, streaming video on the internet is just as common as cable TV, if not more common.

What is the point of this history lesson, anyway?

The point of it is that the way we are keeping ourselves entertained has officially changed. Streaming video on the internet will eventually replace cable TV, but streaming video online requires a different understanding than cable TV does.

Knowing this difference can clear up a lot of confusion when it comes to watching things on streaming services such as YouTube, Twitch, Hulu, or Netflix, which are currently the four most popular online video streaming services.

Streaming video and data use

Nearly all internet package subscriptions have a data use cap. When something is watched, downloaded, or uploaded online, data is being used.

Therefore, the very first thing that you should understand when it comes to streaming video (or uploading and downloading videos online) is how much data is used.

Most internet service providers (ISPs) have a maximum capacity for data. The most common maximum capacity is one Terabyte, which is approximately 1024 Gigabytes.

Many ISPs also have charts that show how much data might be used via watching live, on-demand, uploading, or downloading. However, the figures you see there are only approximations. The best way to chart how much data is being used while watching online video is to check how much data has been used before and after your session.

Things to know about video quality

Going back to the earlier history lesson, High Definition video became popular only one short decade ago. Today, video quality can actually exceed what the human eye can process when viewing something off of the screen. This phenomenon has reached us faster than our knowledge surrounding this evolution.

The most important thing to know about this is that the higher the video quality, the harder your modem needs to “work” to get those images on the screen. This is why it may take a very long time to download or upload certain videos, and it is also why buffering issues exist when watching something in super high quality.

This doesn’t mean that you need to stop watching streamed video in its highest quality, but it does mean that you should micromanage when to watch something in high quality and when to watch something in a lower quality.

Internet speeds and streaming video

When it comes to watching videos online, you need to know your download speed. To put it simply, the higher the download speed, the higher the quality you can watch.

The difference between a live streamed online video and an on demand online video is that a live streamed video is always “downloading” information. In an on-demand video, everything has already been recorded.

When it comes to recording something live, two figures must be micromanaged: Bitrate and upload speeds. If you have slow upload speeds and try to stream live at high quality, you will encounter issues and dropped frames.

Check your upload and download speeds here. Knowing these numbers as well as how much data you can utilize per month will make things more enjoyable when watching or uploading things online.