You expect crystal clear audio conferencing over the phone? Get real – and get a USB headset.

Audio is an integral part of web conferencing. There are two ways of providing audio service: either a vendor offers an integrated VoIP solution or they offer POTS (plain old telephone service) aka. landlines.

The quality of VoIP is generally very good and exceeds that of a standard phone conference by far. And integration of VoIP should actually be no biggie for the vendors since they simply need to add the audio to the web conferencing functionality already in place. Yet, mostly phone conferences are used for web conferencing. How is that?

Well, even though with broadband easily accessible to deliver the VoIP, many users of online collaboration tools are missing one integral part of the solution: A decent USB headset or computer mike. And many users also feel it is easier to pick up the phone and dial into a phone conference in parallel to the online meeting. Big vendors clearly have an advantage here since they have the resources to provide an infrastructure of geographically dispersed audio bridges to even enable this functionality.

There is a trend in web conferencing, however, that shows an increase of VoIP usage. The increase is slow, but it is noticeable. Mobile devices play a role here because e.g. on an iPad you need VoIP since users will hardly be sitting next to their office phone when participating with an iPad or smart phone.

What will happen in the near future is the following: while VoIP clearly is the future, vendors will provide both POTS audio service and VoIP. And they will have to, because offering only one will equal a huge loss in revenue simply because too many users will be shut out. To get users to adapt to VoIP quicker, vendors should maybe consider bundled offers of web conferencing services plus the necessary peripherals such as USB headset and webcam.

And yes, if you have a fairly new computer it is likely to have an included mike that delivers a decent sound quality as well as a webcam. But this is not the case for a vast majority of office computers. And until that changes, adaptation to VoIP will remain a slow process.

Alternative web conferencing solutions to Dimdim

With the acquisition of Dimdim and the termination of services by March 15, Salesforce.com pushes users to make a quick decision about which tool to select as a replacement for future web conferences.

When looking for a substitution you have to ask yourself which features of an online meeting solution are most important to you. We compared Dimdim to all its competitors we listed in our ranking taking into account the following three criteria users might look for:

- range of functionalities,
- similar user interface,
- browser based vs. desktop based.

Especially the last criterion is interesting in this case. Dimdim allowed you to access your meeting through your browser and upload data into a virtual room to share it with others. But sharing your entire desktop was also possible and only required the download and installation of an additional app.

So if you prefer the browser-based approach, the tools that are the closest to what Dimdim offered are Adobe Connect 8, Fuze Meeting, or spreed.com. If you prefer the desktop-based model, which we personally do, we suggest you have a look at the top 5 tools in our comparison.

Of course, users will not be able to get an identical tool and take over where they left off. So why not use this as an opportunity to perhaps select a completely different service.

And we’re not necessarily talking about higher cost as a given, although quality does have its price and free solutions seem to be struggling on the market as Dimdim and Yugma have impressively demonstrated. All pros and cons of the different online collaboration solutions available are included on our site.

The idea of free web conferencing services goes on the fritz

Many vendors provide free versions of their web conferencing solutions. Often the functionality is only slightly less than that of a paid account and sufficient for a large number of users.

This model seems to be no longer working as recent developments on the online collaboration market have shown. Yugma, as we already pointed out in an earlier post, provides the bit that is left of its services from India. And Dimdim can hardly have been profitable if Salesforce.com’s first action after the acquisition is to stop the service for all free and paying customers.

Providing web conferencing services means large investments in infrastructure, and if too many of your users can live with the functionalities of the free versions, you really need to have a large number of paying customers to cover the deficit.

Citrix plans to take over Netviewer to expand its share of the European market

While Salesforce.com just inhaled deeply and swallowed Dimdim in the process, the planned acquisition of Netviewer by Citrix is a whole other story.

Citrix Online with its products GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and GoToTraining, has an enormous share in the worldwide web conferencing market, as the company proudly declares on its website. Netviewer on the other hand leads the German-speaking market when it comes to online collaboration.

In its press release Citrix is very candid about its goals, the major one being to accelerate growth in Europe. It will be very interesting to see what will come from this joining of forces. GoToMeeting and Netviewer Meet, currently number 1 and 2 in our ranking of web conferencing solutions, have been providing outstanding online meeting solutions for a long time and if the joined service keeps “simpler is better” as its motto, web conferencing users are in for a positive surprise.

Salesforce.com acquires Dimdim and leaves its users less than happy

We received some angry emails from Dimdim users in the last couple of days. What happened? Well, as has been published widely throughout the Net Salesforce.com has acquired Dimdim and thus now owns a very advanced web conferencing technology. Dimdim had made it to number 8 in our comparison of web conferencing solutions.

As Salesforce.com states on its website, one of the major reasons for the acquisition was

to bring new real-time communication capabilities to the Chatter collaboration platform, mirroring the proven Facebook model of combining collaboration and communication into an integrated service.

So it is once again Facebook that is driving innovation and tempting other – in this case admittedly powerful – online players to copy or emulate its services. And a “corporate Facebook” really is an intriguing idea, so we will be following the developments closely.

But this didn’t cause the angry emails mentioned above. These were triggered by a Dimdim ‘service mail’ informing all users of their online meeting software that the company will no longer provide its services after March 15 – even for paying customers. Only those users with a yearly subscription will be able to use the service until the contractually agreed upon end date. How good customer service will remain after March 15 we shall have to see.

However, cutting off all services with a three month notice to customers is not really a good move, considering that all uploaded documents will no longer be accessible after the shutdown, which means that users have to make sure to download everything they might need on time. For other info on the consequences for customers you can check out Dimdim’s FAQs on the subject.

Since the service is no longer continued we will remove Dimdim from our ranking of online meeting tools. We will keep you informed about further consequences and invite all Dimdim users to check out our list of online meeting solutions for a suitable replacement.

Upgrade for Yugma Free web conferencing users

Looking at Yugma’s website today, it is still hard to tell if anything is happening or not. True, the date in the copyright has been changed to 2011, but otherwise there is not much going on if you check out the forums or the news section. And yet, the lights don’t seem to have gone out completely since we just received an email notifying us – as free users – of a change in policy that went into effect on January 4.

As of January 4th Yugma Free users will be able to have unlimited meeting per day. Users will be limited to 15 minutes of use per meeting but will otherwise be able to enjoy Yugma P2 functionality.

As an explanation, P2 is Yugma’s Premium package, the number indicating how many attendees may join the host in an online meeting. Now we were not quite sure if Yugma simply wants to make a minor change sound really good in their email, and if the aim is to get long-time Free users to upgrade to Premium.

If the website contains current information the statement in the email is not altogether true, since the website states that ”Yugma Webinar registration & Data Tracking” is not available in the Free version. There would also remain a difference in “Technical Support / Customer Service” since email and phone service is only available to Premium users (Yugma’s web conferencing features).

If the website contains old information the email is merely a PR effort since there really are no major differences between Free and Premium, except for the number of meetings per day. And granting Free users an unlimited amount of 15-minute-meetings a day is a rather questionable improvement, since how often have you been able to wrap up an entire meeting in 15 minutes?

We did gain insight to the fact that Yugma still seems to be actively providing their services. However, the quality of service and support remains uncertain, which is why we will stick to our decision of not including Yugma in our ranking of web conferencing solutions.