Dimdim officially released version 6 of its web conferencing solution today. Combined with their announcement of Dimdim Business two weeks ago, it means significantly more options and more capabilities for users in organizations of varying sizes.
I wrote up my impressions last year of Dimdim Webinar and their unique Webinar Widget. The latest enhancements deserve a new look.
Dimdim has employed a multi-prong approach to building usage and revenues (not necessarily both at the same time). They offer a free version of their web conferencing product that is useful for smaller web meetings with up to 10 participants. Hopefully, the familiarity and satisfaction with that version will drive users to purchase licenses allowing larger room capacity, branding, secure meetings, polling, and other functionality. At a slightly higher price point, users can license Dimdim Webinar, which adds the embeddable countdown and registration widget, much larger meeting sizes, and meeting reports.
Hidden from the eyes of the general public, Dimdim also has a revenue stream based on letting other conferencing vendors OEM their platform and offer it under a different brand name and cosmetics. These vendors have been able to add some value-add functionality by expanding capabilities and integration through programming interfaces.
When I talked to Dimdim’s CMO, Steve Chazin, he told me that the new Dimdim Business offering was an attempt to bridge the gap between Dimdim’s one-license, one-user meeting rooms and the custom OEM solutions targeted at large enterprises. Useful for small to mid-sized business organizations, it allows multiple meeting host users under a single license. Dimdim Business also adds centralized administration and customization features that let a business better control and track how the outside world interacts with the company’s meetings.
Dimdim Business meeting rooms have a 100-person capacity (unless you choose to also license the Webinar option to go up to 1000). The platform in this configuration lets companies perform more extensive branding and cosmetic customization, creating “skins,” changing text labels, customizing onscreen messages, altering the default email templates that meeting hosts see, and so on. It also provides a business-specific high level URL for the meeting rooms, rather than a subdomain under the Dimdim identifier. A single business license can be shared between 2-10 named meeting rooms under central administration. The collaboration coordinator for the company can manage user administration and get company-level reports on utilization at the event or user level.
Dimdim Business also allows access to the API calls that the OEMs use to build their custom versions. This means that a motivated enough company could create their own specialized web conferencing solution with integrations to other company systems.
The final piece that deserves mention with Dimdim Business is that account holders are treated specially when it comes to support needs. Each Business client gets a dedicated account rep and priority support. Upon request, Dimdim will put a support person on call if you have a critical meeting, to ensure that if there is a problem, they are on top of it instantly.
Today’s new Version 6 release enhances functionality across the entire set of Dimdim offerings, from Free up to Business (except where noted). I’ll briefly address each of the new capabilities.
Screen sharing now allows a choice of showing a rectangular region or a named application as options beyond the full-desktop share that was previously mandatory. These additional options are not available in the Free version. Screen sharing defaults to full-desktop, but you can change the starting mode as a preferences option.
They also added a new way to get into a screen sharing session without starting up a Dimdim web meeting. Hosts can elect to download and install a program on their computer (available for Windows or Mac). Once installed, the application can be brought up at any time to instantly make the host’s desktop visible on the web. Then you give other people your dedicated URL and they can track what you are doing. This is naturally considered a “quick ‘n dirty” version of collaboration that would typically be used in conjunction with a phone conversation or Skype call. There is no password security under this sharing method, as anyone with the URL can see the shared space.
But the nice thing is that if you realize you need more functionality than the simple screen share, the host can quickly transition into a normal Dimdim meeting with public and private chat, whiteboard, and video. There is no need to access an account page or start a meeting through an administrative console.
Speaking of video, paid accounts can now show webcam images from up to four meeting participants at a time. Cosmetics and functionality of the video manipulation interface are much better, allowing each person to expand the video image to full screen, pause his or her webcam, and swap which camera view is displayed larger than the others.
A new Resource Manager lets hosts queue up display content (PowerPoint, Word, Excel) before a session. The Office document gets converted to a format that Dimdim displays quickly. This also lets hosts share the electronic file versions with participants (who get a rather long and unwieldy download link). Documents can be password protected for greater security.
The new release boosted polling functionality a bit, but I have to say that it is still primitive compared to many other web conferencing solutions on the market. This is not Dimdim’s strong suit. Polls are single-answer only, with up to five answer options allowed. Results are shown in bar graph format and always show the absolute number of votes. This is inconvenient for hosts who want to pretend like they have a larger audience than they really do. Polls can be created ahead of time and stored, ready for use in a meeting. Hosts can elect to show results or keep them private, and poll results per participant are recorded for administrative reporting after the event.
Possibly the most fun new feature is something Dimdim calls Web Mashups. That name may be a little unclear, but the functionality is easy to grasp. A host can elect to share a YouTube video by typing in the standard YouTube viewing URL. Instead of seeing the full YouTube web page for the video with advertisements, comments, descriptions, and the YouTube margins, participants simply see the video window itself in the meeting room. They each watch it from the source server… The video content isn’t uploaded and redelivered through Dimdim’s servers. That should allow for the best possible speed, but it also means (as with almost all video clip solutions) that different participants may be susceptible to buffering, thus taking shorter or longer total viewing times to get to the end of the video. This is always a problem for web conference hosts, as you don’t exactly know when it’s safe to start talking again.
But wait… It’s not just YouTube. Any web page that includes an embed code for HTML delivery of the content can be shown this way. Dimdim grabs the embed code and shows the content. They like using Picasa web albums as an example. You can show your guests an entire slideshow directly from your already uploaded Picasa web account.
Dimdim is an intriguing web conferencing offering. It has flexible platform choices to suit varying needs. It has a free version to try out capabilities without financial risk and to learn the ropes. It is probably the lowest cost solution available for large webinar-sized meeting rooms of 1000 participants (I have to hedge because vendors seem to change their pricing daily!). With the Business version, it can even be used as a customization base to create your own privatized version of a web conferencing platform.
At the price levels they advertise and for the properly targeted use scenarios, Dimdim offers a compelling cost-value proposition. It is definitely not the most sophisticated web event solution on the market, nor would they ever make that claim. Its sweet spot is low barrier to adoption, a fast learning curve, and ease of use for simple meetings. Professionals looking for advanced capabilities in registration, attendee management, polling, reporting and recording options may opt to look for higher-end products, but you’ll definitely pay more and have more things to manage.