Where Did It Come From? Web Conferencing History

Through web conferencing, there is an opportunity to chat and communicate with co-workers, even facilitate meetings, presentations and demonstrations. Web conferencing not just offers communication exchange but also allows participants to trade documents, share applications, access desktops, use whiteboards and PowerPoint.

How did this technology started?

Lucy P. Roberts, author of “History of Web Conferencing – Multifunction Conferencing Comes of Age” (2004) traced the roots of web conferencing long before there is internet.

The University of Illinois developed a system known as PLATO during the 1960s. This is for their Computer-based Education Research Laboratory (CERL). This is just a small system supporting just a single classroom of terminals connected to one mainframe computer. In 1972, the terminals being supported by PLATO increased to over a thousand.

Although PLATO was long before internet technology and it is mainly designed for computer-based education, it paved several communication features that became the foundation for web conferencing and instant messaging. PLATO Notes, was the world’s first online messaging boards, while Personal Notes is used for electronic mails. Talkomatic is used for real-time instant messaging or for chat. PLATO even developed a tool for monitor mode or remote screen sharing.

David Wooley, creator of PLATO Notes in 1973, eventually designed Lotus Notes which was released in 1989. Lotus Notes is mainly an e-mail client, but it can also be used as an instant messaging client, browser, notebook, and calendar reservation client. Roberts cited that Lotus Notes was the first commercially released product that offered document sharing, user-created data-bases and remote location communication.

The PLATO technology gave birth to several communication tools that paved the way for web conferencing. But it wasn’t until mid-1990s that the complete web conferencing started to shape up and become available in the market.
Roberts cited PlaceWare as one of the first companies to provide complete web conferencing. It was developed by Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the 1990s. In 2003, Microsoft acquired PlaceWare and renamed its core product Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Meanwhile, file sharing started proliferating the World Wide Web. Peer to peer (P2P) file sharing refers to sharing of file containing audio, video, data or anything in digital format. With peer to peer file sharing, peers act as equals, the roles of clients and servers are merged. There is no central server that manages the network nor a central router.
Peer to peer file sharing was seen as a way of hosting web conferencing, rather than running the application through a single server. With this P2P format, it is more dynamic and involving.

Groove was the first to apply the P2P concept in web conferencing. It was released on 2000 and was upgraded in 2002 with impressive results. WiredRed Software, in 2003, released the first web conferencing software that does not require significant installation time.

Most web conferencing providers offer packages that contains voice over IP,co-browsing and application sharing, additional features that can be readily available like polls, event management, PowerPoint presentation, playback, recording and live annotation and mark-up.

With a lot of web conferencing providers and vendors in the market today, web conferencing is becoming more and more common. A lot of people are using this technology in their businesses and companies. New development in the web conferencing system is inevitable due to competition and continuous technological innovation.

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