Web conferencing may be used as an umbrella term for various types of online collaborative services including web seminars ("webinars"), webcasts, and peer-level web meetings. It may also be used in a more narrow sense to refer only to the peer-level web meeting context, in an attempt to disambiguate it from the other types of collaborative sessions. Terminology related to these technologies is inexact, and no generally agreed upon source or standards organization exists to provide an established usage reference.
Presentation of visual materials most often is accomplished through one of two primary methodologies. The web conferencing software may show participants an image of the presenter's computer screen (or desktop). Again, depending upon the product, the software may show the entire visible desktop area or may allow selection of a physical area or application running on the presenter's computer. The second method relies on an upload and conversion process (most commonly consisting of Microsoft PowerPoint files, other Microsoft Office electronic documents, or Adobe PDF documents).
In April 1999, Vstream introduced the Netcall product for web conferencing as "a fee-based Internet software utility that lets you send business presentations and other graphic information via e-mail to a Vstream server. Vstream converts the content, again using streaming technology, and makes the presentation available for viewing by up to 1,200 people at a time." Vstream changed the company name to Evoke Communications in 2000, with a further change to Raindance Communications in 2002. In February 2006, Raindance was acquired by the InterCall division of West Corporation.
Using Webinar software participants can share audio, documents and applications with webinar attendees. This is useful when the webinar host is conducting a lecture or information session. While the presenter is speaking they can share desktop applications and documents. Today, many webinar services offer live streaming options or the ability to record your webinar and publish to YouTube and other service later.