A Few Free Web Conferencing Tools

I work remotely from home, so just about all the collaborating I do is over the phone or a web meeting. Last week I hosted a webex meeting with a couple coworkers, and one of them said “why aren’t you using a free web conferencing tool?” This week, I need to do another meeting, so I thought I’d better go look for a free tool. I found a few interesting ones:

  • Yugma: claims to be easy to use and cross-platform (windows, mac, linux). They have a version that’s integrated with Skype, but most of the comments I saw about it on the Skype forum are not positive. I installed it and like the interface for instant meetings, but the scheduling piece wasn’t as easy. I didn’t see how it integrates with Outlook–the scheduling appears to be via their web site. Yugma features desktop sharing, a free teleconference, annotation tools, and a virtual whiteboard. I didn’t like that the people attending my meeting have to register as a Yugma user before they can attend, and unless you have the pro version, you can’t hand control over to another attendee. Also, you have to install their software on your computer, as do all the attendees.
  • DimDimDimDim screenshot: DimDim is browser-based, so you don’t have to install anything. I like that idea, so I decided to give it a try with one of my friends and am very glad I did, because when I clicked on the “Share Desktop” button, I was prompted that I would have to install something on my computer the first time I share my desktop. So, in the middle of the meeting with my friend, I was installing software while she was wondering where I went. That was awkward. When I finally made it back to the meeting, she was still there (whew!), but when I clicked on “Share Desktop” again, I went into an infinite loop with IE asking me over and over if I wanted to allow this desktop sharing application to run on my computer. I had to go into Task Manager and shut down the application, which of course closed the browser and ended the meeting. I got a note from their tech support, though, telling me to click the “Don’t ask me again” box, so I’ll have to give it another shot.: I like their simple interface.
  • Vyew: Vyew looks interesting. It’s also browser-based, but it’s more of a virtual workspace than just a meeting tool. They allow users to post comments right on the presentation, document, or whatever it is you’re working on in what they call a “Vyewbook”. The Vyewbook can stay up there as long as you like, so people could go back and look at it, or even make comments. Vyew is integrated with freeconferencecall.com, so you can use that, or you can just click the “Push to Talk” button and talk into your computer’s microphone. It looks pretty neat, but how do I schedule a meeting? Is it integrated with Outlook? Also, when I was looking at their OverView (which happens to be a Vyewbook), I couldn’t find some of the buttons they were referring to on my screen. The free version allows you to have up to 5 Vyewbooks, and there will be banner advertising on your attendees’ screens. Also interesting is everyone in the meeting can show their mouse cursor, so anyone (not just the presenter) could point to something on the screen in a conversation–an interesting feature that seems very useful, but could get cluttered if you have a lot of people on a meeting. Also, how do you know who’s cursor is whose?

Does anyone have experience with any of these or suggestions for other free web conferencing tools? I’d like to hear them.


5 Responses to “A Few Free Web Conferencing Tools”

  1. 1 sinead borgersen September 8, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I think those free ones are fine for chatting with friends but can you imagine that when presenting to a customer or trying to close a deal. I use skype to chat to family but if I want to make sure calls not dropped I use the phone. Same as web confernences. I use WebEx or one of the secure ones when I want to make sure my customer knows I’m reliable..

  2. 2 Alex Cory September 8, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Just a correction–FreeConference.com provides the audio conferencing to Vyew (and several other web conferencing companies), not the competing company you mention.

    Also, if you want web conferencing and Outlook integration, we have two products. At FreeConference.com, we have a simplified desktop sharing program that is free while in beta ($9 per month for unlimited seats once we take it out of beta) and we also have an Outlook Conference Manager that allows you to integrate conference scheduling into Outlook. These will all be brought together eventually, but exist separately right now. There is scheduling through a web based scheduling tool that is integrated with desktop sharing and allows you to send invitations and download calendar items into Outlook.

    If you want the combination, you can go to http://www.instantconference.com/enterprise and for $25/mo sign up as a company and then give out accounts within your company that have an Outlook plug in, plus free toll conferencing, free recording, free desktop sharing, moderator controls, and toll free conferencing at only 5.5 cents per minute. This isn’t completely free service, but it is exceptionally low cost. The $25 admin fee covers all accounts you manage through this service (not per account)

  3. 3 Steve September 9, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Steve from Dimdim here:

    Thanks for the mention – hope you will try again. We have focused on making Dimdim easy, open and affordable – and also very reliable. Your attendees won’t see advertisements, don’t need to become members or install anything and your meetings will start in seconds. You can also give control of your meetings to your guests and they won’t need to install anything (even to share PPTs/PDFs, whiteboards, webcams, etc.) unless they want to share their desktop. Sinead, we have very many, large firms using Dimdim every day and they don’t have to force their guests to install software like WebEx – that benefit alone is extremely valuable to them.

  4. 4 krauseann September 9, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for the correction.

  5. 5 ors September 25, 2008 at 6:51 am

    I just tried vyew. The tutorial was easy. However uploading of a simple word document into a vyewbook did not work. The flash based interface does not meet the accessibility standards required by most of today’s organisations either. Will have to keep looking.

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