Three years ago I wrote a blog post in which I said “Low-end collaboration is getting commoditized and provided for free to the masses… the basics are going to be expected by consumers as free and universally available utilities, just like the instant messaging they use for free today.”
By “low-end” I did not mean that it is not valuable or worthwhile. I was attempting to isolate my comments to collaborative solutions built for “quick and easy” online conferences with a few people. Extensive feature sets and advanced capabilities are not as important as ease of use and lack of technical barriers.
Today I received a link to check out another new entry in this niche. Join.me is a screen sharing utility currently in beta. I rather like the sassy hip feel of the site, with things like technical requirements lumped under a tab labeled “talk nerdy.”
I tried out the service briefly. It is not my intent to do a real product review… Every time I mention one of these small-group conferencing products I get buried under an influx of dozens of emails from similar vendors also offering low/no cost conferencing solutions. Join.me has taken the very basic screen sharing model popularized most successfully by Citrix GoToMeeting and dumbed it down for even easier public use. I can’t imagine many people having problems operating the software. One person shows his or her desktop and everybody else sees it. Almost no options, almost no settings. A simple group chat feature is about the only extra functionality offered (although viewers can change the “zoom” factor in their view).
I admire the programming skills necessary to make this stuff work. I appreciate the usefulness of it for quick collaborative sessions (although you should read this article for a look at how it can backfire terribly when it goes wrong). I just can’t figure out the business model for a vendor. With so many competing solutions available, as a consumer I’m not going to pay much/anything to use it and I’m not going to accept a bunch of ads getting in the way of my business collaboration. So how the heck are these companies making money?
Oh well. I’m going back to my concentration on more complex webinar/webcast oriented software and events. The value proposition and differentiation here becomes easier to define, with aspects such as registration, attendee management, reporting, recording, multimedia content, vendor support, and telephony integration all coming into play. And it also gives me a business opportunity as a service provider to offer the benefit of experience and expertise in using such features to their best advantage in public-facing web events.
I’ll tell you this… There has never been a better time for companies and individuals to make use of collaboration software as a matter of fact part of everyday business. It’s a consumer’s market with vendors literally giving away their functionality!