Not too long ago, videoconferencing and webcasting/screen sharing were two very distinct categories. With almost all videoconferencing solutions now offering some sort of screen share, and most traditional screen share solutions quickly adding video, the lines have blurred to the point where the categories have almost completely merged. In fact, if you search online for lists of top screen sharing applications, the list will likely include a few solutions that we generally think of as videoconferencing solutions (such as Google Hangouts and Skype), in addition to the expected pure screen sharing applications.
While we are seeing convergence, the two categories are still somewhat distinct for now. We still have some solutions that are clearly in the screen share camp, like Screenleap and ShowMyPC. Others, like Join.me, have recently added video to their offerings. So, what’s the appeal of these solutions? From my perspective, these are basically videoconferencing solutions without the videoconferencing. Is there still a real need for pure screen share offerings? I believe it comes down to a three main issues.
Remote Desktop Control
While almost all videoconferencing solutions now offer some sort of screen share, very few offer the ability to allow remote parties to control your local desktop. This gives screen share solutions a clear role for remote troubleshooting. It can be a bit disconcerting to give someone else control of your computer, all while watching your mouse pointer moving around clicking and opening files. However, it can be a massive time saver. If you have ever tried to help a less tech savvy friend troubleshoot his/her computer without remote desktop control you know what I am talking about. The session will start with you calmly instructing them to “click this, then click that” but it soon starts to fall apart and pretty soon you are yelling “No! Not that! Go back! Please just stop clicking things!” Being able to take control and show them how to fix the problem is a key advantage for this type of technology.Camera Shy Users
We are now a video society. In general, people are far more comfortable being on video than they were 10 years ago. In addition, we’re using video in newer and more innovative uses cases every day. However, some people still aren’t ready to work over video and they need to be accommodated. Whether it’s a teacher looking to hold a class with remote students, or a team leader looking to hammer down business plans for the next quarter, we can’t force people get in front of a camera if they aren’t comfortable doing so. Some videoconferencing solutions are trying to address this by giving users the choice to join a meeting without sharing video, further blurring the lines between videoconferencing and screen sharing. If you aren’t going to use video, then a simpler screen share solution certainly does the trick.
This is becoming less and less of an issue, but has not completely gone away. Video requires a lot of bandwidth, while screen sharing doesn’t. If you need to host an online meeting and you (or your remote participants) are stuck on a weak connection, it might be preferable to have a solid screen share session, rather than a compromised video meeting. Again, this is becoming less of an issue as bandwidth becomes more readily available.
In conclusion, I continue to think that the distinction between screen sharing and videoconferencing solutions makes less and less sense as we move forward adding similar features and capabilities to both realms. Soon, we will just have remote meeting solutions, which will have all the capabilities from both categories. However, as long as we still have people who aren’t comfortable on camera, but still want to share in the increased benefits of collaboration, there will be a place for screen share only meetings.