What is Latency?
Any time two computers communicate over the internet, it takes some time for this communication to travel from one computer to the other; the amount of time it takes for a message to go from one computer to another and then back to the first computer is said to be the latency of the connection between those computers. As such, latency is a measure of time.
Because the values are often quite small, latency is typically reported in milliseconds (ms), i.e. thousandths of a second. If a connection is said to have a latency of 100ms (one tenth of a second), it takes 100ms for a message to make a round trip on this connection.
What Does Latency Have to do With Podcasting?
Because latency represents the delay involved in sending information between computers, large latency values mean that information is incurring a significant delay when travelling between the computers in question. In practice, this means that every time you speak, there will be a delay before the other participant you're speaking with hears you, and a further delay before you hear their response.
Typically, latency values in the order of the low-hundred milliseconds (under 500ms) are rarely perceptible. Higher values (over 1000ms or one second) are often quite noticeable, and can make quick back and forth conversation more awkward. That said, if participants are all aware of a high latency value, they can often manage their conversation well enough so that it's hardly noticeable.
How Can I See My Latency?
In Cast, the latency between your computer and each other participant in your Studio session, in milliseconds, is shown in their participant area on the right side of your screen.
What Affects My Latency? How Can I Improve It?
While a number of factors affect latency, the dominant factors are typically the distance between the two computers involved (as information on the internet travels at a fixed speed, and takes longer to travel further), and the quality of each participant's internet connection. In the case of a low-quality connection, computers may have to re-try sending each piece of information multiple times before they succeed, which effectively means it takes longer to (successfully) send a piece of information.
There typically isn't much you can do about the distance between you and other participants in your session, but improving the quality of each connection can often have a positive effect on your latency. Switching from a wireless network to a wired network often improves the overall connection quality.