First there was teleconferencing where two or more participants could engage in verbal communication over the telephone. Certainly an effective means of conversing but, as we all know, dealing with a person face to face is far more preferable. Body language conveys so much more than just a voice alone.
Trace it back, and you will find the roots of web conferencing in localized intranet systems. Document sharing and collaborative working was developed from this and the software for these systems was developed further still.
The development of the internet and its capabilities - greater bandwidth capacities, for example - made web conferencing a viable method of communication and developers forged ahead with refining their systems.
The expansion of the internet saw not only big players trading in the global markets but small and medium organizations also found themselves trading with partners across the globe. The need for effective methods of communication had to address the needs of all potential users, from multi-nationals to home- workers.
Web conferencing applications have now reached a sophisticated level. Going beyond the brief of providing a virtual meeting place, some applications now provide fully interactive capabilities, document and file sharing and the ability to communicate with not just one, but hundreds of participants at the same time.
Where Does The Future Lie?
Of course, refinement of web conferencing applications is ongoing. As a relatively new phenomenon, there is plenty scope for developers to enhance and improve their software packages. The needs of businesses are constantly changing and the shift in trend towards home rather than office-based employment will place a higher demand still for virtual meeting facilities.
It is hard to predict the future of web conferencing. There are so many avenues this exciting technology could explore. The popularity of mobile technology - cell phones, laptops and hand- held computers, for example - provide the software developers with new challenges. An increasingly mobile workforce demands software that will work for them rather than them having to work round the technology.
The web conferencing market place is become increasingly competitive and providers will have to stay ahead of the game in order to survive. As it increases in popularity as a means of communication, users will become more demanding in terms of the sophistication of the software they are using. With so many routes web conferencing technology can take it will be interesting to see the diverse range of software solutions on hand to solve the communication problems of the global business community of the future.