Web Conferencing Roundup: 9 Tools for Online Meetings

69 Comments

The wild proliferation of online meeting tools makes it easier than ever to collaborate across distances — except that before you can use one you have to choose from among all those tools.

Which one is right for you? I’ve rounded up nine you might consider: Adobe Acrobat Connect, Central Desktop, Dimdim, Glance, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Live Meeting, ReadyTalk, WebEx MeetMeNow, and Yugma. If there’s one you like that’s not on the list, tell us about it in the comments.

Some of the features you might look for in an online meeting tool include:

  • Presentation, desktop, and application sharing
  • Chat — text, voice, and video
  • Whiteboarding and annotations
  • Two-way screen sharing so that attendees can become presenters
  • Shared mouse and keyboard control
  • Audioconferencing via VoIP or a dial-in number
  • Session recording
  • Multiplatform support for both hosting meetings and attending them
  • All browser-based solution — no download required
  • Transparent pricing

Adobe Acrobat Connect

Adobe Acrobat Connect logoAdobe’s Flash-based Acrobat Connect supports Mac or Windows hosts and attendees, integrates webcam feeds for streaming videos, and provides chat capabilities for meetings of up to 15 people. It offers extensive whiteboarding capabilities, but you have to pause the presentation and freeze the display in order to use them.

Note Acrobat Connect is not the rebranded (and quite popular) Macromedia Breeze, which became Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional. Acrobat Connect Professional provides web conferencing for up to 2,500 participants, embedded quizzes and surveys, and session recording.

Acrobat Connect is priced at $39.95 per month or $395 for an annual subscription. Each account comes with reservationless telephone conferencing as well as an always-on personal meeting room with URL.

Central Desktop

Central Desktop logoMuch more than just a web meeting tool, Central Desktop provides an array of tools for team collaboration, including document archiving, wiki-style editing, discussion forums, and project status tracking. But for a competitive $35 a month, you can get the free version of the basic tool with web meetings for up to 10 attendees.

Central Desktop’s web meetings provide for remote presentations and screen sharing with integrated free audio conferencing and Outlook Calendar integration. You need the Java Runtime v1.1 or higher to launch a web meeting, but any browser should allow you to join into and attend a meeting.

Central Desktop offers instant messaging presence integration with all the major IM networks (AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, MSN Messenger, Skype, Jabber).

Dimdim (GigaOM report)

Dimdim logoBeta offering Dimdim comes in four versions: a free hosted version, hosted enterprise edition, onsite enterprise edition, and free open source community edition. Based on Flash, the hosted version requires zero download for use assuming you already have the Flash player installed — something struggling WebEx users might be glad to hear.

Intended in its enterprise editions to go up against heavyweights like Cisco’s WebEx and Microsoft’s Live Meeting, Dimdim offers all the features you’d expect: presentation/desktop/application sharing, annotations, session recording, and audio and video chat.

While they do offer a free version, it seems to be more demoware than anything else, as the website says of that edition, “Basically meant for trying out the product and becoming familiar with it.” The hosted enterprise edition runs $99/year/room, with a maximum of 20 participants per room.

Glance (WWD review)

Glance logoGlance seeks to make web meetings super-simple by offering one-button screen sharing with no extras. Attendees see the live desktop screen inside a plain window with no buttons, menus, or logos.

To run your own meeting, sign up for an account and download the Windows or Mac client. Click a button, and up to 100 invited guests can view your screen by navigating to the provided URL. It uses a Java applet for attendees, so Windows, Mac, and Linux users should be supported.

In October, Glance announced a lightweight remote control feature, allowing the meeting host to share control with guests at any time.

Glance Personal runs $49.95/month or $499/year for one session at a time of any duration. You can try Glance for a week with no credit card required.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting logoGoToMeeting from Citrix Online is one of the most full-featured web meeting tools available. Too bad it only supports Windows meeting hosts, not Mac or Linux, though Mac attendee support was added in version 3 via a Java-based attendance applet. Its basic features include screen sharing, chat, attendee permissions, and real-time annotations. You can also record your meeting session with audio, change presenters, and share keyboard and mouse control.

GoToMeeting is priced at $49 monthly or $468 annually for up to 15 attendees in addition to the organizer. The package includes teleconferencing: you get a toll-based, long distance number that meeting participants dial into.

Microsoft Live Meeting

Microsoft Office Online logoMicrosoft acquired PlaceWare in 2003 and then renamed the software Live Meeting. Geared towards corporate customers, Live Meeting supports multiple communications channels including live and recorded video, chat, slides and application sharing, VoIP, and audience feedback. The standard offering supports up to 15 participants.

You can of course use a full-featured Windows-based desktop client to access Live Meeting. A Java-based web client is also available, and runs on Mac with the Safari browser or Solaris using Firefox.

The pricing of Live Meeting is clearly geared towards companies who want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get the best deal. Most web workers and small business owners might better look elsewhere, to offerings provided at a flat monthly rate or even free (see Yugma, below).

ReadyTalk

ReadyTalk logoReadyTalk provides integrated web and audioconferencing using pay-per-minute or corporate subscription pricing. But you have to call them to find out about their “simple and flexible pricing.” If they can’t provide their pricing on an easy-to-understand web page, they’re probably not a service that most web workers are going to use.

I attended a ReadyTalk online meeting recently, though, and thought it worked well. Of course it provides slide, application, and desktop sharing. It records conferences with synchronized audioconference recording. Attendees connect with Java applets, so that provides good multiplatform support.

ReadyTalk offers a test URL where you can check system compatibility prior to your conference. That helps avoid the awful “I can’t get onto the conference” experience that wastes time right as the meeting starts.

WebEx MeetMeNow

MeetMeNow logoWebEx, the great grandma of online meeting providers acquired by Cisco for $3.2 billion, now has to fight back against upstart competitors providing web meetings at a flat monthly rate. WebEx has responded with its MeetMeNow, aimed at individual use.

Dig into the system requirements page and you’ll read that MeetMeNow works only on Windows. Does that mean for meeting organizers? Or meeting attendees too? It’s not clear from the website. I’ve routinely had problems, however, getting onto regular WebEx conferences with my Mac, even after downloading the WebEx meeting player and using it with Safari, as recommended.

MeetMeNow runs $49 a month for unlimited meetings with up to 10 participants and a call-in number for each meeting or $39 a month for a prepaid annual plan.

Yugma (WWD review)

Yugma logoYugma (pronounced “yoogma”) is a Sanskrit word meaning “the state of being in unified collaboration.” Yugma’s free version offers meetings with up to 10 participants, desktop sharing across Mac and Windows, file annotations, and a teleconferencing dial-in. It’s Java based and you can check if your system is Yugma-capable by just clicking a link.

With the premium version starting at $9.95 a month for ten-participant meetings, you get shared control of mouse and keyboard, session scheduling and recording, and shared file space.

In September, Yugma announced Skype integration that allows you to share desktops with your Skype contacts whether they’re on Windows or Mac.

Web Worker Daily suggests

Try Yugma’s free edition for meetings up to 10 people, Glance if you need simple screen sharing with up to 100 people, Central Desktop if you like the idea of team collaboration mixed with web meetings, or Adobe Acrobat Connect if you want video chat.

69 Comments

Ilze Ditrich

We’ve just finished the free trial of eLecta Live and wow..it is great. The software is very user frendly. It has crystal Voice over IP, smootly video , Presentation library,recording/ playback option, 5 syncronized whiteboards in each classroom, web guided tool, very fast application sharing and many others. The software includes and a Web Event Center where you can register unlimited number of users, schedule events, send email invitations etc. There’s also a library for data exchange…splendid. Go to http://www.e-lecta.com you won’t regret it.

Ilzze D.

Jeff

i think integrated collaboration and conferencing solutions are the order of the day. conferences need to use company information which is captured in the company’s collaboration tools – document management, intranets/extranets, directories etc. the synergy created by a conferencing solution integrated with collaboration tools would be great.

i was glad to know that microsoft has introduced a productivity suite which includes sharepoint and livemeeting. but it was a dampener, since the two dont integrate. but i’ve heard that recently hyperoffice launched its web conferencing solution hypermeeting , which integrates with its collaboration solution. That should be worth a try!

Andrew Donnelly

If you’re after a free solution to online meetings and remote support, take a look at Mikogo
Only takes a moment to start and no installations for participants to join. And there are no hidden catches: it is 100% free for the meeting host and for all participants.

Regards,
Andrew Donnelly
The Mikogo Team

Louis Gagliano

We use eBLVD.com, which has been around since 2001. It has all of the features of its cousins, and has always been just $29 per month for unlimited use with teleconferencing.

Anna

http://www.livelook.net is a web-based tool that requires no software downloads, and can be used on any platform (PC, Mac, Linux). Is also is very simple to use with two features only (zoom in/out and hi/low resolution).

Todd Lane

Vyew is another real-time (synchronous) and anytime (asynchronous) collaboration platform. It requires no software download and has a free version and two subscription versions. It also has an appliance for organizations that want to install and administer it behind their firewall. http://www.vyew.com

Beth

Another option is Elluminate Live! eLearning and web collaboration environment. Supports multiple platforms and low bandwidth connectivity (including dialup). Offers best-in-class VoIP that keeps everyone in synch, along with high-rez video, web tour/push, app and desktop sharing, file transfer, breakout rooms, closed captioning, synchronized notes, multiple language translation, and much more. Free fully functional 3-seat Elluminate vRoom also available. Truly an enterprise/global solution, For more information, visit http://www.elluminate.com and http://www.getvroom.com.

– Beth, Elluminate Goddess of Communication

Mia

i’m quite enjoying the yugma experience. at work, we use it with skype all the time, and at home, i use it to show mom (who is mucho un-tech-savvy) pictures of the kids. even MOM is able to get it! thumbs up.

Sean Kwek

I am sure you can’t exclude Genesys Conferencing from this list as this company has a 21 years history in the conferencing industry. With 3 R&D centers in the world (each in one continent); it has very dedicated people working 24/7 round the clock on it’s platform & product. Definitely a Conferencing Technology pioneer…..

Anthony Russo

I of course would like to mention my company’s offering: Great America Networks Conferencing offers every feature you listed outside of video, for an unlimited amount of participants, lower priced, and I personally would provide Free ongoing training and support:

Some of the features you might look for in an online meeting tool include:

* Presentation, desktop, and application sharing – Got that
* Chat — text, voice, and video – Just no video
* Whiteboarding and annotations – Got both
* Two-way screen sharing so that attendees can become presenters – Got that
* Shared mouse and keyboard control – Got both
* Audioconferencing via VoIP or a dial-in number – Got both
* Session recording – Easiest in industry, and free hosting
* Multiplatform support for both hosting meetings and attending them – Got that
* All browser-based solution — no download required – Got that
* Transparent pricing – Got that here: http://www.ganconference.com/web.html

Plus we offer as many free audio conferencing accounts as you would want. Only pay for the actual usage at 5 cents per minute/connection.

All training and support is done on a one on one basis if you would like for your whole company. You can call me at my direct dial line at 312-432-5377 anytime for a demo, or as a customer, for training or help with anything. Yes a real person to hold your hand while you need help. Not so easy to find with most in the industry nowadays.

Anyone interested in more info or a demo, just contact me.

Anthony Russo
Conferencing Consultant
Great America Networks Conferencing
arusso@ganconference.com
http://www.ganconference.com
312-432-5377
Skype: anth.russo

Cece Salomon-Lee

I’ve tried posting a couple of times with no luck, so I’m trying once again :-)

I wanted to mention webcasting as an alternative to web conferencing for holding online meetings (my company ON24 is a webcasting company). Granted, web conferencing is great for small, collaborative meetings. Webcasting would be a consideration if you wanted to hold a larger (50 + people) meeting for training, CEO speech, all hands meetings, or other type of meetings that wouldn’t be “collaborative.” The fundamental difference is the encoding and streaming of the audio/video over the Internet vs. a VoIP or teleconference. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about webcasting.

ELLIS D COOPER

I would like to know what product might provide mathematicians, scientists, engineers and artists to collaborate on a single virtual drawing of unlimited size. Each person in the collaboration should be able to use more or less ordinary writing instruments (in color) to add equations and diagrams to the virtual drawing. Each person should also be able to display printed material from articles, papers, or books for incorporation in the same virtual drawing. Each person should be able to collaborate on multiple virtual drawings at the same time. Please correspond at XTALV1@NETROPOLIS.NET with any suggestions you may have along these lines.

John

You may want to take a look at a radical different approach to web conferencing at http://www.rhubcom.com. It is a self-hosted appliance model, very affordable, secured and best in performance. Best of all, it requires no-download of any kind for seminar type of meetings.

Andrew Shebanow

FYI, PlaceWare predates WebEx in the web conferencing space (I was at PlaceWare from almost the beginning, and remember quite well when we got our first real competitor). The company that became WebEx was around before then, but they made printer drivers and such, not web conferencing software.

Jonathan Maley

Definitely worth a look is the OnSync product from Digital Samba:
http://www.digitalsamba.com/index.php?afid=742 . Like Acrobat Connect, it’s Flash-based… so no downloads required, it’s cross platform, and (in addition to having all the functionality listed above) features unrivaled live video & integrated VOIP quality. Pricing is clear: $100/month for a named user account w/ up to 10 seats. Need more… just $10/seat/month. Best of all, OnSync is one of the few solutions in the market that’s also available as an Enterprise Server License, meaning that fast-growth customers always have the option to migrate their usage to an on-premise server solution if/when the need arises. Full disclosure: I’m the Director of US Marketing for Digital Samba USA… a great organization with wonderful people and the right attitude for client service. Give it a try.

Royal

I have had good results with (http://www.netviewer.com). I have been using it for aproximately 14 months. No Apple support but works well. Excellent customer service and support. Less complex than WebEx, has a full feature set.

Zoli Erdos

Zoho Meeting is a full-featured product, too, and other the typical web-conferencing features, it’s also embeddable in other products, like Zoho Show – i.e. you’re looking at a presentation, click, and voila! you’re conferencing :-)

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