May 2016 - Web Conferencing and Video Conferencing – the Beginning of a Convergence

Web conferencing and video conferencing are two essentially different services, with different milestones and different evolutions, but they are in a process of convergence that sometimes blurs the lines between them.
The main question that arises when you want to examine the two services is the need. What is the customer’s specific need? And which of the different services will provide the customer with the most effectiveness.
So let’s make sense of things. Where are they similar? Where are they different? And most important, who and what are they meant for?
Video conferencing is the older of the two services.
Video conferencing has existed for a long time. Its commercial beginning was analog conferences through telephone lines, it moved into using ISDN telephone lines and allowed the video compression with a higher bandwidth, and now the information is transferred via IP, through the internet.
But besides its history, video conferencing began between two points. Each side had a codec to compress and decode the video, a camera, a projector to view the video and of course, a microphone and speakers.
There are two common configurations for today’s video conferences. The first is Point-to-Point connection between two or more end point video systems, the second is connecting to a video bridge that enables more devices to connect and other capabilities.
The main emphasis of the service in both configurations is the video conversation. In other words, the replacement for the “face-to-face” conversation that takes place between a number of locations. The purpose is to achieve a user experience and viewing that is as close as possible to a physical meeting in one meeting room.
Video bridging in the cloud or other configurations, allows more abilities that are of secondary importance to the video:
  • Content Sharing – you can share slide presentation, share your screen or white board.
  • Device Sharing – the ability to participate not just with a video conferencing system but also with PCs, tablets and smartphones.
  • Chat – the ability to send text messages between the conference participants, each on the device he is connected with.
  • Phone participation – a participant that is not connected to the internet, can still actively participate via the telephone.
  • Resolution – video conferencing systems and bridging systems use the bandwidth available to them to transfer video at a greater and greater quality, full HD and higher.
  • Streaming – One-way communication of the video conference to a passive participant.
Web conferencing on the other hand started with the development of the IP-based applications and VOIP technology.
There are many web conferencing services that enable a multi-party conference using remote bridging hardware, obviously through the internet.
The main functionality in web conferences is content sharing, the ability to share a slide presentation and other content. Some other web conferencing capabilities are:
  • Video sharing (usually in a small window)
  • Voice sharing – VOIP or integrating a traditional phone conference
  • Chat – the ability to send text messages to the other participants
  • Streaming – one way broadcast of the lecture to passive participants
The convergence…
As I said, we are witness to a process of convergence between the different servicesand the abilities that each one provides. On the video conference side, you can now connect computer and other devices that are not video conference systems, you can share content and chat. On the web conference side there are now video windows that are improving in their quality and the ability to connect video end points.
Even though the list of capabilities of the two services seems to be similar, the original nature remains different. Video conferencing is for a “face-to-face” experience, and web conferencing for the ideal content sharing experience.
This is exactly the question that you should be asking yourself when you evaluate your needs. What is the experience that I am looking for in my next meeting? We are always here to help of course.
Until next time,