A few months ago, we talked about latency as a key differentiator between web conferencing tools (e.g. GoToMeeting, WebEx, Adobe Connect) and webcasting software like Panopto. Since then, we’ve gotten additional questions about other differences in the capabilities and user experience of these two technologies.
So last week, Eric Burns and I sat down to discuss three questions on the topic:
Here are a few highlights of our conversation on the differences between the technologies.
First, there are different requirements and levels of complexity when connecting to a web conference and a webcast. Many popular web conferencing solutions require client software to be downloaded for someone to participate, while webcasts can typically be viewed from within any web browser.
Additionally, web conferencing software has multiple entry points – either through a voice over IP (VoIP) connection, or via phone. When people are dialing in over the phone, there’s often a need to have multiple toll free numbers if participants are located in different geographic locations. By contrast, webcasting software has a single URL as its entry point, simplifying access to the content.
Second, there are differences in scalability. The maximum number of web conference participants differs based on the software being used, but typically hits an upper bound in the hundreds to around a thousand participants – a number that decreases when the web conference involves video sharing.
Webcasting software uses a different underlying video delivery mechanism, allowing it to scale to tens of thousands of people or more. This makes webcasting software ideal for broadcasting presentations and events to massive audiences around the world.
Third, there are differences in the level of interactivity, and this is directly related to the scalability of the systems. While web conferencing solutions have lower scalability limits than webcasting systems, they’re able to achieve near real-time voice communication, in which conversations can be held between participants with perceptually no delay – less than one second, and ideally 200 milliseconds or less between what’s said by one participant and heard by others. This is what makes web conferences perfect for small, highly interactive meetings.
Fourth, there are differences in the video quality. During a web conference, video of the person speaking typically has a maximum resolution of 640×480 when there are more than two participants in the meeting, while webcasting software streams presenter video in broadcast quality (720p at 30 frames per second).
Likewise, recordings of web conferences and webcasts differ in their quality. Web conferences that are recorded don’t include video of the people speaking, instead consisting of audio and the content of the presenter’s screen. Webcasts are typically recorded by default and consist of both presenter video and screen content – each recorded in HD 720p or 1080p.
For more information on the differences between webcasting and web conferencing, the easiest way to select between the two technologies, and ways in which the technologies can be used together, check out the video: