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Linux Web Conferencing: Share And Share Alike?

The Web conferencing market nowadays offers plenty of choices -- but relatively few surprises. With so many companies selling look-alike services, cost and reliability are now the most important factors for most customers so many companies selling similar services that nowadays few things stand out among them. Subscription price and connection reliability are the important factors for most customers, but interest in being able to use another operating system, including Linux, during a Web conference session is growing.

A Web conferencing application allows you to collaborate in real time with customers, co-workers, sales prospects, or anyone else with an Internet connection. Typically, the person hosting the meeting is able to share his computer desktop with other participants, allowing them to see and even to interact with documents, presentations, software demos, and the like. Many conferencing tools offer additional features. such as the ability to upload and share a Microsoft Office documents, an interactive "whiteboard" that is accessible to all of the participants, integration with instant messenger services, voice over IP (VoIP) support, and two-way videoconferencing .

Most companies use Web conferencing tools to hold virtual meetings, bringing together employees who work in different locations. The technology is also well-suited for e-learning programs, software demos, or as a tool for organizing collaborative projects. Until recently, vendors relied heavily on a key selling point: holding a Web conference is much cheaper than paying employees' airfare and travel expenses to attend on on-site meeting. As portable computers, broadband Internet access, and wireless networking become more prevalent, however, Web conferencing services simply make it convenient for people to meet online, no matter where they are located.

The vast majority of the Web conferencing solutions on the market today are still Windows-only products. Some developers, however, also provide some level support for other operating systems, including Linux. "We wanted to be able to help the Linux community. It is a community that originally had been left behind," says Brian Doe, Director of Customer Relations for Glance Networks, Inc., which sells Glance, a conferencing service that includes limited Linux support.

Compatibility Via Java or Flash

Like most other proprietary Web conferencing applications with cross-platform capabilities, Glance was built using the Java programming language. Among other benefits, Java allows developers to create applications that users can run on any PC with a compatible Web browser, such as Mozilla Firefox; they do not have to download or install any additional software.

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