A few years ago when I met with some Cisco WebEx founders - they told me they had purposely gone the alternative route from video conferencing to screen sharing and telephone audio so they could focus on the sales presentation use case without having to deal with the technical nightmares of video conference and Voice-over-IP. The move made WebEx the market leader in web conferencing. These days, with faster networks, high quality voice and video is becoming commonplace, so it's not surprising that WebEx is now jumping on the video collaboration wagon with its new WebEx Meetings offering which integrates video, audio, and sharing tools. While Meetings is a big step up from WebEx's old webinar interface, it's still based on a rather controlling meeting set up that can make for formal and hierarchical meetings. If you really want to let out your team's creative juices, try out VSee, a truly simple video conference and screen share alternative instead.
VSee is designed for creating and for getting work done, while WebEx - including its new Meetings offering - is designed for making presentations. For presentations, the communication is mostly one direction from the presenter to the audience. For creating and getting work done, communication needs to be peer-to-peer, so the user interface should allow everyone to easily contribute.
VSee's simple interface encourages the free flow of ideas and the easy back and forth needed for brainstorming, discussions, and resolving complex issues. Meeting participants have equal power to share, chat, send a file, etc. There is also a reduced number of clicks for common collaborative tasks (starting a meeting, sharing with annotate, and sending a file). This makes group work easy and natural.
WebEx, on the other hand, is better for presentations and one-way webinars, since the host has control over most aspects of the meeting. Participants must get permission anytime they want to share a screen, annotate, or pass a file, which stifles group processes. The host can also take control of others’ audio, video, and chat at will. It requires a greater number of clicks and menu selects for common tasks, further slowing down group interactions.
Let's say you get stuck as you work on a document or piece of code, and you want a team member to take a look at it. She looks it over and then shows you something she's done. With VSee, this kind of sharing can be done in just 2 clicks, while WebEx takes 6 clicks. See how the obstacles in the way of Person A working with Person B stack up in WebEx:
A: 1 click on the window to be shared
B: 1 click on the window to be shared
A: 1 click to show menu, 1 click to select window to be shared
B: request permission from the host to share a window
A: 1 click to unshare, 1 click to pass control to selected requestor
B: 1 click to show menu, 1 click to select window to share
|Total clicks: 2||Total clicks: 6|
VSee not only allows you to share with 1 click, it also allows you to start a meeting in 1 click. It’s even faster than meeting in person:
1 click to start a meeting in VSee
6 clicks to start an instant meeting in WebEx
Total clicks: 1
Time in seconds: 3
Total clicks: 6
Time in seconds: 44
WebEx's lengthy process doesn't even take into account the time it takes for you to log into your host account on the Web or the time it takes for an invitee to find and click the meeting link in his or her inbox, load the meeting, select the audio mode, etc.
VSee's simple, uncluttered design makes for a smooth, painless experience. WebEx, on the other hand, is anything but lightweight and simple to use. In fact, a common complaint from users is "too many options." Its complicated menus, confusing options, and redundant functions end up creating more barriers to easy collaboration rather than facilitating it.
WebEx is a solid presentation tool. It's got all the bells and whistles for putting on a spectacular show - full screen whiteboard, a suite of annotation tools, phone bridge, video sharing, storage for meeting notes and files. It's also very nice for scheduled meetings, especially if you use Outlook. You can plop a meeting right into the Outlook calendar without worrying about people losing the meeting link in their inboxes. Unfortunately, with more features comes more complication, and we could all use less of that in our lives.
Last updated: Nov 14, 2012