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Initially, Valve was required to be the publisher for these games since they had sole access to the Steam's database and engine, but with the introduction of the Steamworks software development kit (SDK) in May 2008, anyone could potentially become a publisher to Steam, outside of Valve's involvement to curate games on the service.Prior to 2009, most games released on Steam had traditional anti-piracy measures, including the assignment and distribution of product keys and support for digital rights management software tools such as Secu ROM or non-malicious rootkits.The success of the Steam platform has led to the development of a line of Steam Machine microconsoles, which include the Steam OS operating system and Steam Controllers, and the Steam VR platform.Before implementing Steam, Valve Corporation had problems updating its online games, such as Counter-Strike; providing patches would result in most of the online user base disconnecting for several days.Developers are not limited to Steam's CEG and may include other forms of DRM and other authentication services than Steam; for example, some games from publisher Ubisoft require the use of their UPlay gaming service, In September 2008, Valve added support for Steam Cloud, a service that can automatically store saved game and related custom files on Valve's servers; users can access this data from any machine running the Steam client.In May 2012, the service added the ability for users to manage their game libraries from remote clients, including computers and mobile devices; users can instruct Steam to download and install games they own through this service if their Steam client is currently active and running.Content is delivered from an international network of servers using a proprietary file transfer protocol.In April 2016, Steam began accepting payments in Bitcoin with transactions handled by Bit Pay, but dropped it in December 2017, citing high fluctuation in value and costly service fees that made its use "untenable".

It was launched in September 2003 as a way for Valve to provide automatic updates for their games, but eventually expanded to include games from third-party publishers.Valve decided to create a platform that would update games automatically and implement stronger anti-piracy and anti-cheat measures.Through user polls at the time of its announcement in 2002, Valve also recognized that at least 75% of their users had access to high-speed Internet connections, which would grow only with planned Internet expansion in the following years, and recognized that they could deliver game content faster to players than through retail channels.The software provides a freely available application programming interface (API) called Steamworks, which developers can use to integrate many of Steam's functions into their products, including matchmaking, in-game achievements, microtransactions, and support for user-created content through Steam Workshop.Though initially developed for use on Microsoft Windows operating systems, versions for mac OS and Linux were later released.

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