Is a pear better than an apple?
They are both fruits, they both can satisfy a hunger pang, They both contain small seeds clustered around an inedible core. They both have peels that are edible (although some people prefer to remove them). They both grow on trees. Which is better?
It's awfully hard to answer that question, isn't it? Now what if I asked which one would be more useful in producing a pulpy sauce-like side dish to have with my pork chops? Suddenly I have a specific use case and my experience tells me which fruit is more applicable.
The preceding analogy was spurred by a question I received from Bob. He read my article asking "Is Good Web Conferencing Available?" and noticed that I didn't mention ON24 in the short list of vendors I covered. So he emailed me the following note:
Ken, how would you compare ON24 to Citrix GoToWebinar in terms of ease of use and user (participant) experience? Price-wise there is no comparison - Citrix is the clear winner based on their $1k annual flat fee. Would seem to be a no-brainer to use Citrix over ON24. What am I missing?
What you're missing, Bob, is a comparison criteria other than price. If that's your only decision factor, then yes... GoToWebinar is preferrable. But you also mentioned that you are interested in ease of use and the user experience. That opens up a large set of feature comparisons, some of which boil down to personal preferences and some of which are based on your needs.
Each product excels at different things. GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar stands head and shoulders above every other screen sharing technology I have used as a presenter or seen as a participant. It is the only one that has the display speed to show something like a full screen transition wipe from one slide to the next. When you are showing a full screen web page or Word document and use the thumb slider to smoothly scroll down a bit, the audience sees the document scroll as well. They don't see some blocky redraws of half the screen, or an instantaneous jump to the new position.
But ON24 comes into its own when you are webcasting a speaker narrating a slide presentation and you want to show a video of the presenter along with the slides. The audience can see the live video of the speaker and can view the slides alongside. ON24 is one of the many web conferencing vendors that lets you upload slides to a central meeting repository space. As each participant logs in to the meeting, the slides start caching for rapid display on their machine. The presenter can see a list of all the slides in his or her presentation in a preview "thumbnail" display and can see what is coming up as a memory jog. S/he can also jump directly to any slide in the presentation at any time. That is impossible with the Citrix product, since the audience sees what you see as a presenter. The "yes, but" rejoinder to the slide-showing question is that ON24 converts slides to static images when it uploads them. So GoToWebinar wins the battle if slide animations and transitions are important for you.
I like the fact that in GoToWebinar the audience can shrink the web conferencing controls all the way off the screen so they are concentrating only on your content display. But some people prefer to have a clearly defined viewing console framing their content, as ON24 provides. This can help set off and highlight your content from other applications your audience might be running (such as their never-ending solitaire game).
Other feature implementations seem equivalent at first glance, but have interesting differences that may please you and your audience more in one product than the other. As a presenter, I find GoToWebinar's typed in Q&A handling to be more difficult to work with. It is harder to see long question text and your answers. And GoToWebinar consolidates multiple questions from a participant into a long unbroken stream of text in the post-event report. It can be difficult to separate one question from another. But that might not worry you, as the participant-side experience is just fine with both technologies.
Another huge difference in the user experience is the availability of computer audio. GoToWebinar requires your partcipants to dial in over a telephone conference to hear your seminar audio. ON24 gives you the option of webcasting the audio stream to your participants' computer speakers. Many participants prefer having the choice of how to hear the seminar.
If we go back to ease of use for the event organizers, recording an event is another area where the products differ quite a bit. Because ON24 incorporates a digital audio stream with the visuals, it can record the entire integrated audio/video presentation via software. GoToWebinar requires the use of a hardware bridge between your telephone and your computer to integrate the sound and visuals. That makes another item you have to buy, install, and configure for use.
There are plenty of other differences, but I'm getting too long-winded already. I also have an uncomfortable feeling that I have just opened myself up to a string of "Product A vs. Product B" comparison requests. I don't really want to turn this blog into a comparative shootout site.
In the end, selecting a web conferencing vendor is an exercise in forethought, requirements definition, and testing. Think about what kinds of content you will want to show and what performance features are the most important to you. Who will participate in your seminars, and what (if anything) you can project about their technical configurations. Demand the ability to test the software as an event organizer and presenter and see how your key requirements are handled.
I have had clients who are quite happy with each of the technologies you mentioned, and I wouldn't cut either one out of consideration when looking for a new conferencing technology provider. But the one I would suggest for you would be highly dependent on the specifics of your use case.