Web conferencing is an Internet-based technology that facilitates the sharing of just about any audio and visual medium in a conference. This includes everything from presentations to polling facilities to product demonstrations and Web tours. Using Web conferencing, groups of people from around the world can work collaboratively on a document, blueprint or a drawing without leaving their desks. For example, an engineering team in Detroit can participate in a new car design review held in London, while discussing the new design with an advertising agency in New York.
The term ‘Web conferencing’ was earlier used mainly for text-based group communications or discussions over a Web space known as a message board. But now it has evolved to refer to live or synchronous meetings. This technology dates back to the 1990s when the Web was first used for conferences using instant messaging techniques. Microsoft NetMeeting is one of the earliest examples of Web conferencing software that allowed users to collaborate in real time.
A conferencing service provider usually offers Web conferencing as a service. The application software is hosted on the service provider’s server and is made available to customers either as a per seat basis or on usage basis. Some service providers allow their large customers to install the applications on their own servers. Conferencing software that operates on a peer-to-peer basis such as Instant Messengers is also available but its functionality is limited and restricted to small groups.
A large number of service providers and vendors are now present in the conferencing market
This market continues to expand at a rapid pace due to the growing acceptance of online conferencing as an alternative to personal meetings requiring travel and as a better form of communication compared to voice-only conferences.
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