RealAudio uses a variety of audio codecs, ranging from low-bitrate formats that can be used over dialup modems to high-fidelity formats for music. It can also be used as a streaming audio format which is played at the same time as it is downloaded. In the past, many internet radio stations used RealAudio to stream their programming over the internet in real time. In recent years, however, the format has become less common and has given way to more popular audio formats.
RealAudio files were originally identified by a filename extension of .ra (for Real Audio). In 1997, RealNetworks also began offering a video format called RealVideo. The combination of the audio and video formats was called RealMedia and used the file extension .rm. However, the latest version of RealProducer, Real's flagship encoder, reverted to using .ra for audio-only files, and began using .rv for video files (with or without audio), and .rmvb for VBR video files.