Web Conferencing

Three people participating in a video meeting over the Internet

Web conferencing, also known as online workshops or webinars, is a service that allows conferencing events to be shared from remote locations. It allows for real time communications between one sender and one or many receivers. Web conferencing lets voice and video chat as well as text messages to be shared at the same time across the globe. Presentations, meetings, and lectures can all be done from any computer using web conferencing. This service is made possible through various internet technologies.

Functionality

Some web conferencing solutions provide the physical hardware necessary for web conferencing, while others require additional software to be installed (the system requirements depend on the vendor). There are two applicants: the presenter and the participant. The participant can either be a group or an individual. Sometimes, depending on the size of the group and system requirements, people within the group can participate as individuals. The process of controlling access to an event is made available by the vendor, and most vendors will allow the participant to record the event, or will make a recorded copy available. Most vendors also provide an interface to email and schedule with clients so customers can plan and share an event in advance. Typically, web conferencing services apply proprietary software as opposed to free software.

Features

There are many different features available to clients using web conferencing. Slide show presentations are a popular feature. They allow for the presenter to discuss specific content while presenting various images relating to their topic to the audience. Live video is also available, by use of a full motion webcam or digital video camera. A voice over IP (VoIP) can be used for audio communication through the computer via speakers and a microphone. The presenter may want to conduct a web tour, where various cookies, scripts and URLs can be “pushed” to other participants, which allows them to access web based logons. This allows the presenter to demonstrate websites while permitting the users to access the website themselves and participate. Text chat is another option, which is suitable for live Q&A sessions. They can either be private (between the presenter and one participant) or public (allowing all participants access). Another feature is a whiteboard with annotation, which allows clients to highlight items on a slide presentation. Polls and surveys can be used by a presenter to conduct multiple choice questions for the participants to answer. Another feature is the ability to share screens/desktops/applications, allowing the participants to view anything the presenter has on their screen. Lastly, there is the option to record meetings for later viewing and potential distribution. Web conferencing is typically hosted on a web server, which the vendor controls, and sold as a service. Typically the vendor uses a charge per user per minute model, but it can vary depending on the vendor. Sometimes they offer a seat model or a model with a monthly fee. Occasionally a server side solution is provided, allowing the client to use their own servers to hold their own web conferencing service. An example is Microsoft Office Communications Server.