Yesterday, the company formerly known as Freebinar issued a press release saying that henceforth they (and their product) shall be known as AnyMeeting. I had a chat with the company’s president and CEO, Costin Tuculescu, to get an update on new developments.
My purely subjective, personal opinion is that the name change is for the better. I think AnyMeeting sounds more professional and includes an implicit use case right in the title. “Use our software for any online meeting.” Costin confirmed that this was their goal in the rebranding.
The product is interesting in that it is absolutely free for users. Hosts can have up to 200 participants in a webinar (newly raised from the old 150 limit). The company gets its revenues by displaying a rotation of advertisements during the course of the meeting. The ads are pulled from various ad networks… The company does not solicit direct advertising sales or sponsorships, and users currently do not have a way to put their own ad into the mix. Costin says that ads are simple display banners, without roll-over popups or other fancy interactions that would intrude upon the meeting content.
There is no option for users to upgrade to an ad-free, paid service. By offering the same version to everyone, it simplifies the company’s operations and also guarantees the largest number of impressions for advertisers. Costin says that their analysis shows higher click-through rates than are standard for typical web page ad performance.
The product is based on the Adobe Flash platform, which makes it easy to access and run through most major browsers and operating systems, but currently cuts out iPad and iPhone users because of Apple’s well-documented refusal to allow Flash content on the iOS.
The fact that the service is completely free obviously makes it attractive to entrepreneurs or small businesses who want to try out web conferencing and webinars without a cost commitment. Now that Dimdim is Byebye, AnyMeeting fills a niche in the industry for a low-cost/no-cost entry point.
I asked Costin to go over recent feature enhancements, and he pointed out two in particular. They just added the ability to show a live webcam feed of the presenter in a meeting. This is enabled in a one-way mode, so audience members do not have the option to also appear on camera. AnyMeeting also improved post-production capabilities for meeting recordings. Hosts can trim the beginning and end of a recording to get rid of non-content material and can create a virtual Table of Contents for the recording by adding arbitrary bookmark positions at any point in the timeline.
Recordings are stored and played back in Flash format, but require a set of files to support the playback. Recordings normally live on the AnyMeeting servers at no cost to the user, but if a customer wants to download and redistribute (or rehost) the recording, they must grab the entire zipped set of support files and distribute them with the content.
AnyMeeting gives cost-conscious users an attractive option for supporting their web collaboration needs. Certainly many businesses will not want to see ads for other companies and products displayed during their meetings, and that’s fine… There are plenty of pay-for-play alternatives available. But more choice is always a good thing in the marketplace, and I wish AnyMeeting success in serving their target audience.