In February 1998, Starlight Networks released StarLive! (the exclamation point being part of the product name). The press release said "customers can access familiar Web browser interfaces to view live and pre-recorded corporate presentations, along with synchronized slides. End users can communicate directly with the presenter using real-time chat technology and other Web-based collaboration tools."
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.
Real-time text chat facilities such as IRC appeared in the late 1980s. Web-based chat and instant messaging software appeared in the mid-1990s. The PLATO computer learning system allowed students to collaborate on networked computers to accomplish learning tasks as early as the 1960s, but the early networking was not accomplished via the World Wide Web and PLATO's collaborative goals were not consistent with the presenter-audience dynamic typical of web conferencing systems. PLATO II, in 1961, featured two users at once.
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." PlaceWare Auditorium was formally announced in March 1997 at a price of $150 per simultaneous user.
In December 2003, Citrix Systems acquired Expertcity, giving it the GoToMyPC and GoToAssist products. The acquired company was renamed as the Citrix Online division of Citrix Systems. In July 2004, Citrix Online released GoToMeeting as its first generic web conferencing product. In June 2006, GoToWebinar was added, allowing additional registration and reporting functionality along with larger capacity in sessions.
You’re already a big winner when you’re in front of your webinar audience. Participants were interested enough in your content to register, hold space on their calendar, then show up attentively to your webinar. They have self-qualified themselves as being in the market for the type of product or service you offer, and think you’re the God of SEO (or whatever your schpeel is on).
So instead of meeting with prospects one-on-one, and making dozens of presentations, a better option is to schedule a Webinar for each Wednesday night for example. Just invite your prospects and tell your team members to invite their prospects to the Webinar too. This way, you, as the best presenter gives the best live presentation, and answers questions. Then each person takes over, and talks to their own prospects and directs them to their web sites to sign them up or make the sale. It’s been done for years, and some of the top recruiters benefit greatly from online Webinars.
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.
A trademark for the term WEBinar (first three letters capitalized) was registered in 1998 by Eric R. Korb (Serial Number 75478683, USPTO) and was reassigned to InterCall. The trademark registration was cancelled in 2007. Learn.com filed a claim for the term "webinar" without regard to font or style in 2006 (Serial Number 78952304, USPTO). That trademark claim was abandoned in 2007 and no subsequent filing has been made.
Unveiled in 1996 by InSoft Inc., CoolTalk was a multimedia software tool that let PC users view data displayed on a shared whiteboard, exchange real-time messages via a chat tool or speak with each other via a TCP/IP voice connection. The product worked with Microsoft Sound System-compatible audio boards and was available in a 14.4-kbit/s version or 28.8-kbit/s version. CoolTalk was later packaged with popular Web browsers of the time. CoolTalk 14.4 and 28.8 sold for $49.95 and $69.95, respectively, in 1996.
In general, web conferencing is made possible by Internet technologies, particularly on TCP/IP connections. Services may allow real-time point-to-point communications as well as multicast communications from one sender to many receivers. It offers data streams of text-based messages, voice and video chat to be shared simultaneously, across geographically dispersed locations. Applications for web conferencing include meetings, training events, lectures, or presentations from a web-connected computer to other web-connected computers.