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