Move Over Google Plus Hangouts. Appear.in Is Here & It’s Really Good

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Video conferencing isn’t something most people get excited about. Until recently, the field has been dominated by the likes of Polycom and Cisco in the enterprise sphere, and Skype and Google Plus picking up the slack in the consumer sphere.

Commonly, video conferencing hasn’t been done especially well. For the most part Skype stutters and glitches out more than a Max Headroom marathon, even with a fast internet connection. Meanwhile, users of Google Plus Hangouts are required to sign up for a Google account and install a bulky, bloated plugin before chatting to their mates.

People have been crying out for a decent video conferencing app for ages. Everyone was using Google Plus. We thought that was it. We were wrong. Meet Appear.in.

HTML5 Video Conferencing

Appear.in is a slick, visually beautiful, and snappy take on the Google Hangouts model. HTML5 only (here’s a HTML5 tutorial for beginners). No flash. No plugins. No sign-ups. No bullshit.

Produced by Norwegian telecommunications titan Telenor, Appear.in allows you to share your webcam, microphone, and screen with up to 8 people. Inviting people to your hang out is simply a matter of sharing a link.

It uses WebRTC (real time communication). This is a recently announced feature which uses simple JavaScript APIs and HTML5 to stream content in real-time. This is integrated into Firefox, Opera (Webkit only), and Google Chrome, with IE and Safari yet to show it any love.

Privacy nuts will get a kick out of this service. No content from your video conference is stored on their servers, and traffic is encrypted with strong SSL encryption.

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How Does It Work?

Creating a videoconferencing room with Appear.in literally couldn’t be any easier.

Navigate to the site. You’ll be prompted to create a room. Give it a name (ideally something that is easy enough to remember) and click ‘create’.

appearin-create-room

You’ll then be prompted to grant Appear.in access to your microphone and camera. If you’re happy with this, allow it and proceed forwards.

appearin-camera-and-mic

You’ll then see yourself appear on the screen. Huzzah, It works! Now, time to invite some friends to your conversation. Remember that link you created earlier? That’s all you need to pass on to your friends in order for them to join your room.

appearin-home

Once they’ve joined the room and granted access to their camera and microphone, they’ll automatically appear in the page.

appearin-dill

That’s pretty much it. If you wish to claim the room for yourself, you can assign a code to it, thus preventing anyone else from getting dibs on your meeting home.

There are some advantages to having your own room. Firstly, owners of the room get an adorable little crown next to your video feed, showing all other participants in the chat who’s in charge. You can also change the background of the room, and you can lock the room to other participants.

Owners of a room can also eject troublesome participants. This is handy if someone’s mic is on the fritz and emitting a high-pitched wail, or if you’re just feeling particularly malicious.

appearin-claim

You can also screenshare. This works pretty much as it does on Google Plus Hangouts, although you’ll have to set a flag in your web-browser for that to work. Instructions are below in the screenshot.

appearin-screen-share

Quality

Here’s the big question. How was the audio and video quality? In one word, excellent.

I tested it with a friend based in the United Kingdom. There wasn’t any perceivable lag on either of our ends, and video and audio quality was nothing short of superb. One could speculate that this is possibly an advantage of Appear.in being owned by one of the largest telecoms companies in the world, with all the expertise that comes with that.

Conclusion

Will Appear.in crush Skype and Google Plus Hangouts? God, I hope so. There’s so much to love about this amazing little site. It’s fast, based upon open technologies and super-simple. They even host their developer documentation on Github.

But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Image Credit: Steve Browbrick

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Comments (34)
  • Jacob

    We as a company gave up on Appear.in and actually switched to hangouts because appear doesn’t have the same visual fidelity (when you add more than 2 people) that hangouts does, and it doesn’t let you have as many people.

    And certainly, the screen-sharing is better on hangouts.

    It is a wonderful concept, and it’s major benefit is the URL function. It’s much easier to create a persisting meeting that you can refer back to, a major pitfall of hangouts.

    But in the end, we needed something that could handle the bandwidth. Maybe we’ll refer back to it in the future.

  • Uwe

    I tried it and it works – with connection problem. Considering it is still new, I am fine with that. My question is: what is in it for Telnor? Why are they doing it?

  • FAHIM

    I have tried through my smartphone using wifi and connect to my desktop PC which uses wired ISP connection. Every thing works fine except the voice !!!! not coming up! volume is on. smart phone records and play perfectly but it fails on video/voice chat why ?

  • Jkjack

    does appear.in work on android devices or only via computer?

  • Anonymous

    It would help to know what firewall ports are required. I’ve been asked to take a second look at this by my manager, and agree it looks good, but a lack of firewall documentation is a major blocker for us to get it setup for a trial here. Also the requirement to have audio/video, and lack of text chat – any idea when these will be resolved? I tweeted the last question.

    • Matthew Hughes

      Unless I’m wrong, I think you only need port 443 open, because WebRTC is basically just HTTP/HTTPS traffic.

      That said, try asking Appear.In and let me know what they say! :)

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.