Saturday, January 08, 2011

In browser web video conferencing, Silverlight style… Alanta Web Conferencing goes Beta (or “Look Ma, no headphones video conferencing!”)

Confessions of a Would-Be Theologian - Alanta Web Conferencing Released to Beta

“I’m pleased to announce that the product the small team at Alanta has been working on for the last 18 months is finally in beta. Now, this is a true beta, rather than a Google-style “forever-beta”, so use at your own risk. But we’ve been dog-fooding it ourselves for the better part of six months, and we decided it was time to let other folks start banging on it. As Matt Mullenwegg said, “If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.” And if that’s true, well, we haven’t exactly waited too long.

If you have only a small amount of courage, you can start using it here:

Some Details

Alanta is the first completely in-browser web conferencing and collaboration solution with acoustic echo cancellation. There are other in-browser solutions, like DimDim and TokBox, but because they use Flash, and because Flash has no echo cancellation, they’re basically unusable unless everyone in the conference is wearing headphones. We managed to add echo cancellation by using Silverlight as our platform, which gave us raw access to the audio and video streams, though precious little else. As a result, we ended up having to rebuild the entire web conferencing stack, more-or-less from scratch: but the result is a solution that can offer features nobody else has.  


Some Additional Details

  1. This all free at the moment – we haven’t even built the piece to charge folks. We anticipate that we’ll eventually offer a free and several paid levels.
  2. This is all written in Silverlight. Some folks have wondered about our choice of platform, mostly because of the limited reach of Silverlight compared to Flash. We don’t think this is going to be an issue in the long term: Silverlight had ~25% reach when we started, is now up to ~70%, and is continuing to grow at ~2% a month (see riastats for details).  HTML5 isn’t going to be an option for at least five years, as the W3C/IETF committee tasked with working on realtime web conferencing technologies only spun up last month, and is likely years away from a working spec, let alone widespread browser adoption.

Because all this is happening is completely in-browser, the next step in our strategy is to offer a simple API that websites can use to add real-time communications to their own sites.  Imagine car dealerships talking with customers in real-time as they’re browsing their site, or Nordstrom’s “personal shoppers” talking with their clients, or, really, any website with a high-touch sales model. Or use it to turn casual games into social games …”

Ken’s a friend and a co-worker from a previous life, so when I saw his post about his team’s new beta, I thought I’d help spread the word. I also thought it cool that they used Silverlight for this project.

Remember folks, this is beta, as in real, it might not work right away or all the time and they are still actively working it, beta.

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