January 11th 2011 : As of today, Dimdim has been bought by Salesforce.com. New DimDim free accounts are no longer available and I am not sure if Salesforce.com will be providing any new DimDim accounts. I do know that Salesforce will no longer continue to maintain the open source version of DimDim. So I wouldnt consider DimDim as an opensource alternative anymore. If you are looking for Free Web meeting alternatives, please try Big Blue Button and BuddyMeeting .
The features I give very high priority in a web conferencing tool are:
- VOIP: International attendees cant pay bills for long distance calls. Integrated VOIP to rescue!
- Zero Install: Most of my attendees are non IT people. Installation just makes it that much more difficult for them.
- Whiteboards: I like to use my cyberpad to write stuff on whiteboards during presentation. Makes people understand faster and they feel connected when they see something happening on screen.
- Change Presenter / give control: Especially when its a collaborative work and my remote colleague wants to present a portion. Also when an attendee has a doubt, they can just take the mic and speak rather than typing their doubt in chat window. Helps interaction.
When I started writing this post, I had a list of about 20 different “supposedly free” web conferencing , online meeting alternatives listed with me. I removed that were not truly free but had a trial subscription offer only. Most of these alternatives have embedded VOIP as well and can be used quite effectively as substitutes for webex, adobe acrobat connect, gotomeeting, IBM Lotus sametime, Netmeeting and other such meeting softwares. So here is the list of my favorite free webconferencing tools, with some others listed after just with my experiences with them.
My Favorite free web meeting and collaboration services/tools :
- Vyew: My experience with Vyew has been just OK. It is a 0 install tool whose free version allows for about 20 users and have all the features of a good web conferencing tool – VOIP, whiteboards, desktop sharing, upload powerpoint presentations, collaboration features, webcam, user permissions, invite users, private and public chat etc, although it doesnt allow for recording, but allows downloading collaborated re-edited presentations. However, in free version, you can have only 5 Vyewbooks (aka meeting rooms), which is a big restriction for me. Their paid subscriptions are not very attractive either, for example their plus program where they offer only 5 users without ads rest of them will see ads. That seems a bit nickle and dimy to me. Compared to this DimDim and Wiziq fare better in their paid offerings. My biggest problem is with the latency in support (may be because I am a free user? but still if I dont get a good first impression ….) and with their service availability. I have had 2 instances (out of 5) where on the day of presentation Vyew was down and second time invitees couldn’t get into the meeting. [Has VOIP]
- DimDim: By far the better of the free webconferencing tools I have tried. Their marketing team is enthusiastic and very responsive and their UI looks pretty professional as well. I have already done a comparison between DimDim and Wiziq where I have written at length about DimDim. I did get a response from their team within 2 hrs of my post indicating that their newer version (ver 4) is goine to have recording capabilities and user permissions. So waiting excitedly for their release. [Has VOIP]
- Wiziq: Although one of my favorites, my biggest complain with Wiziq is that it makes invitees register. My invitees are already registered for me, then why should they have to provide details inside wiziq as well … they dont like it either? Apart from this, I like the software a lot. In my comparison between DimDim and Wiziq I have dome some deeper analysis on the features etc so not re-inventing the wheel here . Please check out that post. [Has VOIP]
For your webconferencing needs, I recommend all three of the above – Vyew, DimDim and Wiziq. They are all worth trying and then you can decide which of them suits your needs the best. If you run and educational institution and are considering Moodle, then you must know that both Wiziq and DimDim have Moodle plugins available (pretty straight forward integration) while Vyew doesnt as of now.
Other Mentionable free Web Conferencing solutions :
- ConferenceNOW: The methodology is web-conferencing by desktop sharing and needs an install. You do have features like changing the presenter and recording your sessions. Recording works great but only gets converted into mpeg after the meeting is over and you close the software [I have been using it as a screen capture tool along with Jing and Wink]. I couldnt really test much because it never started my meeting and kept giving me error “server didnt respond for 5 seconds”. I Gave up after a while. [Looks to have VOIP]
- Yugma : Similar to Conference NOW, Yugma is web meeting with desktop sharing. The UI looks really cool and the software needs download. The annotation tools are awesome and you can draw / collaborate on almost anything, even right to your desktop. The free version only allows 10 users and makes them register (which is a complete turn off). It doesnt have built in VOIP but have hooks with outside VOIP clients such as skype. Looks very much like ConferenceNOW. Can act as screen share. Awesome annotation tools, you or other attendees can annotate right on your desktop. Buggy installer, for everytime i had to start a session, I had to reinstall the software. While you can record, you cannot play the recorded file unless you upload to yugma. When I uploaded the file to yugma, it showed that nothing was recorded. :thubsdown: [Doesnt have direct VOIP, needs skype]
Didnt try the following free meeting solutions :
- vMukti : Mainly because it doesnt have a hosted solution and needs .NET (IIS etc) kind of installation which I didnt have. Although it does look promising.
- vroom by Elluminate : It provides only 3 people in its free service, which is way less than I need personally and my expectations were for atleast 10.
- NEW (Network Education Ware): Education purposes only, limited support.
- OpenMeetings (in google code website): Still in development
- Agora: Needs SAKAI. Its a integrated module with SAKAI. I wish it were stand alone, but its not. But it really looks awfully promising and I am willing to give this a try very soon and will put another writeup for the same very soon.