Last week I wrote a nastygram to WebEx, concentrating on registration and reporting as areas that were due for significant improvements. It is only fair that I examine the other side of the story… Untold number of companies and individual users continue to employ WebEx as their primary web conferencing/web seminar solution. It still has the largest market share in the industry. If I'm so hard on the product, why do so many people use it?
1) Longevity and stability. Cisco bought WebEx a decade ago and the product line goes back to the late 90s. That is a long tenure in this industry. If I complain about interfaces and functionality that don't change much, there are plenty of people who find that comforting and easy to work with. Corporate administrators don't have to constantly update training materials for their user community. Hosts don't need to remake introductory slides for their webinars. Past users can jump back in, secure in the knowledge that their previous experience is still applicable.
2) International presence and support. Cisco's WebEx support is available by telephone seven days a week, around the clock. Support numbers are available for countries around the world, and often with support personnel who speak languages other than English. They even have a first-line phone option for attendees having trouble joining a meeting. That is a huge competitive advantage and should not be discounted.
3) Excellent audio integration. Presenters and attendees can join meetings by telephone or with computer audio. The bridging between the two audio channels is superb, with no lag times or delays between them. Local dial-in phone numbers are available in a huge number of countries, and participants can also type their phone number and have the system dial them directly.
4) IT department familiarity. Every software application carries a potential security risk. This is especially true for products that enable real-time communications and computer access over the internet. Large, secure organizations such as financial companies, government agencies, medical institutions, and so on have IT teams who constantly worry about security threats. They don't particularly like employees to run web applications that rely on Flash, they are concerned about the potential for unforeseen problems with the evolving HTML5/WebRTC standards, and they try to control what software employees can download and install on their work computers. WebEx at least has the advantage of being a known entity that has been tested and used across large enterprise organizations, and Cisco has a pretty good track record of issuing fast patches when they do discover new potential threat vectors. For companies trying to attract attendees from such companies, using WebEx is likely to create fewer webinar access problems for attendees than using other technologies.
So I can stamp my virtual feet and call out design features that annoy me, but that doesn't blind me to the fact that WebEx remains the "Big Man On Campus" and that many of my clients are quite happy using it.