The Pros and Cons of Browser-Based Collaboration
Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of buzz regarding browser-based collaboration systems. The promises offered by browser-based collaboration can certainly be compelling. As a result, there has naturally been a ground swell of activity created around this technology. This has proven to be particularly true given the new capabilities for multimedia communications offered by HTML 5-based browsers, such as WebRTC. With this type of technology, it is possible for users to make both voice and video calls within the browser without the need for the plug-ins required by services such as Google Hangouts and Skype.
While such technology may seem new, RHUB has supported a browser-based model for more than seven years. During that time, RHUB has gained a great deal of experience as a pioneer with this approach. Even before HTML 5 was made available as a browser technology, RHUB invested in ensuring that HTML 4 was an effective meeting platform. Additionally, RHUB recognized early on the limitations of Flash and developed a capability that would make it possible to work with or without Flash.
The Advantages of Browser-Based Solutions
As previously mentioned, the advantages offered by a browser-based solution can be compelling, including:
- No Download Necessary- By using the built-in browser engines, screen sharing is supported without the need for the attendee to download client software. This can be a great advantage for attendees with download restrictions.
- Easy and Quick to Join- By joining with a browser, all the attendee needs to do is point the browser to the meeting server and then log into the meeting. This usually only takes about 10 seconds.
- Platform Independent- Any compatible browser is able to join the meeting.
- Audio and Video Supported- HTML 5 makes it possible to support audio and video using the facilities within the browser.
The Disadvantages of Browser-Based Solutions
Certainly, the list of advantages associated with HTML 5-based browsers is impressive. But, with those advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks. Just a few of the issues we have discovered over the years that could impact these advantages include:
- Browser Compatibility- Although every browser is supposed to be HTML 4 or HTML 5 compatible, we have found that this is not always the case. Variances in browser implementation can affect compatibility. As different versions usually have differing levels of compatibility, this can create problems. If a version is compatible with screen sharing and video algorithms, but is not compatible with audio, the meeting could be affected.
- Connectivity- Real-time collaboration, particularly when it comes to audio, relies on a high-quality Internet connection. Browsers are inherently asynchronous. As a result, they simply are not designed to maintain a connection with the server. This can result in intermittent performance in some instances. Additionally, browser-based meetings conducted over WiFi tend to suffer from drops in the WiFi connection. This can result in a choppy experience for the meeting participant.
- Platform Dependency- While there is the promise of platform independence, the browser on that platform must be compatible. This means, for instance, that if Safari does not support the latest features that Chrome supports, users on Safari could experience issues. In the case of WebRTC, this can become even more complicated. While it is currently supported by Firefox, Opera and Chrome, it does not yet have the support of IE. Furthermore, while Microsoft has announced that it does have plans to support WebRTC, there has been no such announcement forthcoming from Apple’s Safari.
- “Keeping up with the Jones”- In order to be truly platform independent, the host must use a version of the system that is compatible for all popular browsers. Furthermore, the developers of those browsers must make sure that the features are in sync with one another. The reality is that this is not often the case. Mozilla is not likely to be concerned about the features that IE is planning to release.
Are you interested in learning more about the advantages offered by RHUB? If so, call us today at 866-758-0984 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quick demo.