What are the best screen sharing APIs

Office & collaboration

Video conference systems and other collaboration tools are currently very popular due to the coronavirus pandemic. But tools for remote meetings are not only valuable for companies in times of crisis: They drive productivity and efficiency and ensure lower (travel) costs.

As practice shows, a notebook or a desktop PC with a webcam is often sufficient for a meeting with individual members or the entire team - regardless of where they are physically located. We will introduce you to some of the most important platforms for video conferencing and their scope of services.

Zoom Meetings: Freemium Collaboration

After its successful IPO in 2019, Zoom positions itself as one of the leading providers of video conferencing. The keys to success are ease of use and an attractive freemium offer. With the free basic version, users can hold an unlimited number of video conferences with up to 100 participants - but only for a maximum of 40 minutes. 1-to-1 meetings are possible indefinitely.

Features include HD voice and video playback, speaker view, local recording, full screen view, participation via telephone, TLS and AES256 encryption, waiting room, as well as collaboration features such as breakout rooms, private or group chat, screen sharing and whiteboarding. Anyone can dial in or attend Zoom meetings if they have the appropriate link.

With the Pro version for 13.99 euros per month and moderator, the basic functions come with things like an unlimited meeting duration (30 hours) with up to 100 participants, an individual personal meeting ID, the possibility of streaming via Facebook and YouTube Live as well as reporting and recording or storage in the cloud (1 GB) are added. You can also conduct surveys or assign a co-host or alternative host to the meeting.

In addition, you have access to a marketplace for add-ons via a REST API, which are useful integrations into all possible applications, including Slack or Teams. The Business and Enterprise subscription plans (each 18.99 euros per month and moderator) differ primarily in the number of hosts, the possible participants (300 or 500/1000 for Enterprise +) and the cloud storage space (1GB per license vs. unlimited). There is also single sign-on (SSO), an admin portal, the ability to embed Zoom in an online learning program (Learning Tools Interoperability - LTI), branded domains and an interpreter function. In all three plans you can also book free calls and local dial-in numbers, premium support, up to 3TB cloud storage / month and up to 1,000 participants as add-ons.

Microsoft Teams: Video chats with Office 365

The successor to Lync and Skype for Business is not a stand-alone product, but part of the Microsoft 365 suite (formerly Office 365). However, anyone with a Microsoft account can sign up for the free version of Teams. The free teams version is also suitable for small companies with up to 300 members and a maximum of 24-hour meetings (currently until June 30, 2021) and supports guest access as well as individual and group video calls, whiteboards and the planning of meetings. Screen sharing and collaborative work in the web versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are also possible. However, the storage space for shared files is limited to 2 GB per user and 10 GB per team.

However, Microsoft Teams only makes sense as a video conferencing solution in conjunction with the business or enterprise versions of Microsoft 365. With these, team members can hold an unlimited number of video conferences in HD resolution with up to 300 participants (E3: 10,000). Share up to 1 TB (E3: 5TB) files per user, integrate productivity apps (except Business Basic), record meetings and collaborate online on documents with the desktop office programs and SharePoint. In turn, admins have a whole range of administration, security and compliance tools at their disposal.

Google Meet: G-Workspace video conferencing

The positioning of Google Meet (formerly Hangouts Meet) is comparable to that of Microsoft Teams, because the solution is firmly integrated into Google's Office product Workspace (formerly G Suite). Actually, because in view of the strong demand for video conferencing, Google Meet has been available to all users free of charge since May 2020. The free version of the service allows web-based video and telephone conferences with up to 100 participants - limited to 60 minutes. Features include real-time subtitles in different languages, an individual layout, screen sharing and the setting up of appointments. Like most Google services, Meet is designed for Google Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers (https://meet.google.com) and works here without plugins. Mobile applications for Android and iOS are also available. Gmail users will also find the Meet function integrated in their mail program (browser and apps).

In order to differentiate itself from Zoom, Teams & Co., Google refers to a high level of security measures, but many of them can now also be found at Teams, Zoom & Co. New features are also continuously being added to Google Meet, such as the ability to conduct surveys

GoToMeeting: More than just remote meetings

LogMeIn completely redesigned its GoToMeeting video conferencing software at the end of 2019. A whole range of new functions has been implemented. Among other things, the solution now works in the browser via WebRTC and via desktop and mobile apps. In addition, the hub for scheduling and starting meetings has been redesigned and now shows all available meeting information, diagnostics and chat options. According to the manufacturer, meetings can now start around 65 percent faster than before.

The subscription plans start at 10.75 euros per month and host for the professional version. This supports unlimited meetings with up to 150 participants, features such as HD video, screen sharing, personal meeting room, waiting room as well as various plugins and integration options are already included. In the business version for 14.33 euros per month, there are another 100 possible participants. In addition to the now possible recording of the conference as a video file (locally or in the cloud), the user can also take notes directly in the application, as well as capture presentation slides from a meeting and make them available in a PDF file for later download. Other features include drawing tools and the ability to transfer keyboard and mouse control.

In addition, there is a special enterprise offer for up to 3,000 participants, here you can connect the video conference solution with the existing room system. LogMeIn also supports the introduction through customer-specific onboarding and training.

Cisco WebEx: Video Conferencing System Veteran

Founded in 1995 and taken over by Cisco in 2007, WebEx is the veteran among conference solutions, even though it has announced some innovations for 2021 (and some have already implemented). The Cisco subsidiary is also one of the providers who respond to the spread of Covid-19 and the increased work from home with free offers. The free version of WebEx supports meetings with a maximum duration of 50 minutes and up to 100 participants until further notice and offers features such as HD video, audio dial-in, personal conference room, screen sharing on desktop and mobile devices, breakout sessions, 1GB Cloud storage and recording on.

WebEx also offers the versions Starter (12.85 euros per user and month), Business (25.65 euros) and Enterprise (depending on requirements). The main difference lies in the maximum number of participants, the additional cloud storage and various management and integration functions.

Jitsi Meet: Open Source Alternative to Zoom & Co.

Jitsi Meet is an easy-to-use solution for video conferences that still offers many functions. The free 8x8 solution is based on the open WebRTC standard and can be used directly on the PC without registering in the browser (e.g. Chrome). Apps (Android, iOS) are available for smartphones and tablets.

To start a video or telephone conference, simply go to https://meet.jit.si/ or another instance (https://github.com/jitsi/jitsi-meet/wiki/Jitsi-Meet-Instances) Enter the name of the meeting room or use the randomly generated room name. You can then set a password and invite other participants via link or dial-in number.

Although free, Jitsi Meet has numerous features that commercial video conferencing solutions also offer. These include encryption, chat, HD video, dial-in audio, screen sharing, and recording. In addition, the video conference can even be streamed via YouTube. However, there is a small catch: While the conversation on the network is encrypted, the operator of the video chat server can theoretically see it. The possibility of running your own Jitsi Meet instance with little effort and expense could therefore be of particular interest to companies. In this way it is also possible to integrate Etherpad for joint editing of documents or other add-ons.

In addition, 8x8 with Jitsi as a Service (JaaS) offers companies the option of integrating the meeting solution into their own apps and websites. This should enable (potential) customers, for example, to contact them quickly and easily. JaaS is free as a developer version with up to 25 active users per month (JaaS Dev), there are also plans for up to 300 active users per month (JaaS Basic, 99 dollars), 1500 users (JaaS Standard, 499 dollars), up to 3000 Users (JaaS Business, $ 999) and more (JaaS Enterprise). Recording and RTMP streaming (e.g. on YouTube) are also offered as add-ons for $ 0.06 per minute each. The video platform supports the usual features such as full HD, screen sharing, end-to-end encryption, admin console or custom UI.

BlueJeans: pioneer of browser video conferencing

Similar to WebEx, BlueJeans is also a pioneer, namely in browser-based video conferencing via WebRTC. The company, which was taken over by Verizon in April 2020, focuses specifically on spontaneous connections via an app or the browser (without download). In addition, the meeting solution from BlueJeans also supports conference systems (depending on the subscription plan) and can be embedded in business applications such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. Another feature is the integration of Dolby Voice for improved audio playback.

There are three service plans: "Standard" is designed for individuals and small businesses at $ 9.99 per host per month (paid annually). The entry-level offer supports an unlimited number of video conferences with a maximum of 100 participants and offers five hours of video recording in the cloud as well as a range of functions for smart conferences. "Pro" for $ 13.99 a month (paid annually) includes an additional 25 hours of cloud recording and supports up to 150 participants in a meeting. There are also numerous integration options, for example into the Slack and Microsoft Teams collaboration suites, as well as Okta and Splunk for incident management.

The "Enterprise" solution for $ 16.66 per host per month also offers integration into H.323 or SIP-based room systems from Cisco, Lifesize & Co. The plan also includes an unlimited length of cloud recordings Possibility of own branding and supports up to 200 participants. The price for "Enterprise +" with extended support, brand customization and optional product add-ons is negotiated individually.

Slack: video conferencing with limitations

In a collaboration toolset like Slack, the ability to make video calls should of course not be missing. The company calls the whole thing Slack Calls, but the matter is a bit complicated. One-on-one conversations in the form of audio and video calls between team members are free of charge. But if you want to use screen sharing or hold an audio or video conference with several team members, you need a paid subscription (from 6.25 euros per month) and even then the number of participants is limited to 15 team members.

If you want to hold a virtual meeting with more than 15 people, you have to set up a workspace and send out invitations. Guests also need to set up Slack accounts to join the video conference. Another option is to configure Slack to work with services like Zoom, Bluejeans, WebEx or GoToMeeting. However, not all video services can be set as the default conferencing app for a workspace.