It has happened to someone you know. It’s happened to someone you love. Maybe it’s even happened to you. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. The movie you downloaded for your long flight seems to have disappeared from your computer.
Here’s how it plays out: You settle into your seat on the plane, take out your tablet, open Netflix, and click on that movie you’ve saved for the flight. And… What? It won’t play. In utter frustration and confusion you say, “But I downloaded it! Why isn’t it here on my computer!” Too tired to figure it out, you settle for music instead. You open Spotify, choose your favorite playlist, hit play, and… Nada. The music won’t play either. So what’s the story?
It’s all about the difference between downloading and streaming. Let’s clear this up by putting it in terms that we all understand.
Say you’re standing in your bathroom. Your shower faucet is like your connection to the Internet. The water is the information, in this case, the movie or music.
Streaming a movie is like taking as shower.
If you turn on the shower faucet, the water starts flowing. You can see, feel it, hear it. But once you turn off the faucet, the water goes down the drain and disappears. The same is true for streaming. When you’re connected to the Internet, you can press play to turn on the stream and watch a movie. When you are not connected to the Internet, you have turned off the stream, so the movie, like water from a shower, disappears. You can’t watch the movie anymore.
Downloading a movie is like taking a bath.
To take a bath, you close the drain, turn on the water and fill the tub. When you get in the tub, what’s still there? The water! The same is true for downloading. In this case, you connect to the Internet, click a download button to close the drain, then download the movie. Once the movie is finished downloading you turn off the faucet by disconnecting from the Internet. Now you have a movie downloaded to your computer. Just like water in a bathtub, it’s sitting there waiting for you.
A good way to check if you’ve actually downloaded something to your computer or tablet is to disconnect from the Internet and see if the movie will play while you’re still in your house or near a connection should you need to fix a download. And not all services let you download. Netflix, for example, only allows streaming, while you can actually download movies from iTunes and Amazon.
The next time you’re getting ready to take that long flight, double check that you have in fact downloaded your movies. If not, at least you’ll understand why you’re paying the airline for Internet access to use their “faucet” and stream your movie.
Image credit: Jonathan Grossman