Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

Also see unicast, multicast, and anycast.

In general, to broadcast (verb) is to cast or throw forth something in all directions at the same time. A radio or television broadcast (noun) is a program that is transmitted over airwaves for public reception by anyone with a receiver tuned to the right signal channel.

The term is sometimes used in e-mail or other message distribution for a message sent to all members, rather than specific members, of a group such as a department or enterprise.

On the Internet, certain Web sites deliver original or redistributed broadcasts from existing radio and television stations, using streaming sound or streaming video techniques, to Web users who visit the Web site or "tune it in" using a special program such as RealPlayer. Like publicly available radio and television broadcasts, Web broadcasts are available to anyone. The Web now offers live as well as prepackaged broadcasts and also plays back audio and video tapes. Some programming is scheduled and other prepackaged programs can be delivered on demand. Many Web users listen to music from a particular broacasting site as they surf other sites on the Web.

Broadcast should not be confused with unicast, a transmission to a specific receiver (like most e-mail messages); multicast, a transmission to multiple specific receivers (as in e-mail to a distribution list or a Web transmission over the MBone network to a specific group of receiving addresses); or anycast, a transmission to the nearest of a group of routers, used in Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) as a technique for chain-updating a group of routers with new routing information.

This was last updated in April 2005
Contributor(s): Angie D. Graves
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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