In 1996, PlaceWare was founded as a spinoff from Xerox PARC. In November of that year, PlaceWare Auditorium was described in a public talk at Stanford University as allowing "one or more people to give an interactive, online, multimedia presentation via the Web to hundreds or thousands of simultaneous attendees; the presentation can include slides (made in PowerPoint or any GIF-image editor), live annotation on the slide images, real-time polls of the audience, live audio from the presenter and those asking questions, private text and audio conversations in the auditorium's "rows", and other features."[18] PlaceWare Auditorium was formally announced in March 1997 at a price of $150 per simultaneous user.[19]
"I invested $10,000 to learn similar content from another well-known industry leader a few years ago. I left Tamara's two-hour online workshop even better equipped and ready to take action to step up my game of leading successful webinars. Being able to learn the content and how-to information by webinar without having to drive or fly anywhere is a huge value. And I invested about $9500 less to boot! I highly recommend this training."
The term "webcast" derives from its original similarity to a radio or television broadcast. Early usage referred purely to transmission and consumption of streaming audio and video via the World Wide Web. Over time, webcast software vendors have added many of the same functional capabilities found in webinar software, blurring the distinction between the two terms. Webcasts are now likely to allow audience response to polls, text communication with presenters or other audience members, and other two-way communications that complement the consumption of the streamed audio/video content.

In May 1995, PictureTel announced LiveShare Plus[15] as a general-use data collaboration product for Windows-based personal computers. The software allowed application sharing, user-granted control of a remote PC, shared whiteboard markup, file transfer, and text messaging. List price was given as $249 per computer. PictureTel referenced an agreement with Microsoft in its announcement press release, and a May 26, 1995 memo from Bill Gates to Microsoft executive staff and direct reports said "Our PictureTel screen sharing client allowing Window sharing should work easily across the Internet."[16]

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