Flash Media Format
When Flash first entered the market as a streaming delivery platform it was both a blessing and a curse. The player was already present on nearly all computers so the idea that viewers on any OS would not have to download any player and could simply watch your content with ease was amazing. Sadly the first versions of the servers didn’t hold up to the demand for the product. Server performance was much lower than that of the Windows Media Servers resulting in the need for many more servers to support the same size audience. Pair this with very high server licensing costs and it caused the format to get off to a rocky start. Providers that were offering the format had to charge higher rates or even take losses on hosting for the format.
The Windows Media format started to show up in the late 90s as a competitor to the RealPlayer format. At the start they were really only comparable for on demand content. The Windows Media server although it was free was no comparison to the RealServer from a system administration standpoint. For live streaming Windows Media also did not offer push based broadcasting which required broadcasters to have a static IP address and an open port for the server to connect to with a pull type broadcast. While the pull type broadcast is much more reliable than push the lack of a push option made the format unusable for some broadcasters.
Real Media Format
The RealNetworks format was one of the first true streaming solutions on the market. It was also one of the first major formats to offer multiple bitrate video with bandwidth detection which they branded as surestream. Their server platform was also the most advanced at the time. They offered full featured monitoring and a much more advanced user interface than any of the competitors at the time.
QuickTime Media Format
With Apple behind this video format, it was always expected to be a leader due to all of the users that consider Mac the leader for video editing and production. As far as streaming media goes, this format never really got off the ground. Most of the content that you have seen as Quicktime was probably progressive download and not actually streaming. While it is a fine format for local viewing or for progressive download type content, the quality and performance of the streaming platform has never been on par with the competition.
Video Format Comparison