Jim wrote in and asked “What’s a good source to compare the various web conferencing applications before choosing one?”
This is a question I have addressed in the past, but it’s worth talking about again, as it is one of the most repeated queries on this blog. The short answer is that I don’t know of any trusted, all in one source for comparing web conferencing applications on an equal basis.
The closest you’ll get is Publicare’s site: webconferencing-test.com. It gives you some criteria they selected for making a rating system and points you toward some very usable software.
Problem number one (for my blog focus) is that Publicare chose to “focus on online conferencing solutions for smaller and medium-sized companies and the self-employed.” These tend to be less expensive solutions designed primarily for peer-level collaborative meetings. That is a valid niche, and I’m not knocking their choice of focus. But you need to be aware that it leaves out web conferencing packages targeted at large structured web seminars or training sessions where the focus is on presenters providing information to an audience.
Problem number two is that all rating systems have a built in bias towards the criteria that the tester chooses to emphasize. Those criteria might not meet your priorities for product selection.
Problem number three is that many of the big web conferencing vendors have multiple versions of their software. Adobe, iLinc, and WebEx are just some of the big recognizable names that license distinct versions of their software designed for small events, large events, eLearning, or support. Which version do you choose for your comparison?
Problem number four is that you are dealing with a moving target. The vendors update their software all the time. With web conferencing commonly licensed as a hosted SaaS solution, the programs can (and do) get upgrades whenever the vendor feels like it. These are sometimes not even announced publicly!
Problem number five is that there just isn’t a strong business return for the poor shlub who is thinking about doing the work. If you accept advertising from the vendors on your site, your testing objectivity comes into question. You spend an enormous amount of time testing and writing up results, then spend the rest of your life retesting and updating and answering challenges from vendors and users. And every new piece of software that comes along wants you to add them to the review list. It’s a major commitment if you plan to take it seriously.
I wrote up a blog post a year ago on “My Favorite Webinar Technologies.” That was a snapshot in time, and it is now out of date. I have been using omNovia quite a lot lately with excellent results, and it would be high in my list. InstantPresenter got a major update, and I like it much more now (coming in first place for fee-based events). I haven’t tested iLinc lately, and I know they have had updates. Connect Pro actually slipped a bit because of some slide conversion problems that I found frustrating.
I try to keep this blog updated with mini-reviews of various webinar products from time to time as well as key announcements when I find out about upgrades that affect usability. But I’m the first to say that I don’t use a structured approach and it’s not very useful for vendor to vendor comparisons. Given that this is a non-revenue activity for me, I’m afraid the haphazard nature is likely to continue. In the meantime, let me point you to a series of articles I wrote on Webinar Wire where I talk about some of the major webinar features and how vendors implement them in different ways. You can go to the site and do a search on “features”.
If you find a comparison site I don’t know about, please let me know and I’ll publicize it for everyone to use!