You’ve heard the phrase, “an overabundance of choice?” We’ve reached that point for video conferencing solutions.

After I did the Video Interop Server post, I looked around a little more at video conferencing solutions. I found an enormous selection out there: Zoom, MegaMeeting, Join.me, Google Meet, MeetMonk, GoToMeeting, Vox.io, WebEx, WhatsApp, and so on…

Video Conferencing Discussion
Okay, it’s Tuesday. That means we’re using Google for today’s meeting, right?
Photo by Rachel Danner on Unsplash.

We don’t need this many. Which compelled me to blog about the topic…because it can cause a serious problem with business-to-customer communication. Let me illustrate.

Too Many Video Conferencing Alternatives Clog Up Real Communication

In Ye Olden Conferencing Days, you used the phone lines. Conferences focused on audio first, and later, emailed files. Video came from an expensive equipment add-on, or not at all.

Now we’ve swung way off in the opposite direction. Video’s easier than audio to start up, on dozens of different platforms.

The market drives some of this, I know. Seems like we’re outpacing the market though, in a mad dash to find ‘the next video innovation’ before anyone else does. Problem is, this leaves a pile of mostly-functional, good-enough video solutions on the table from which businesses must pick.

Even worse: Some of these conferencing solutions won’t/can’t talk to each other!

For instance, Skype for Business and Zoom will integrate for video.
If you want to join a Skype Meeting with a GoToMeeting client? Got some bad news for you…

What Too Many Solutions Results in for the Video Conferencing World

In terms of ‘boon’ or ‘brambles,’ I think we’ve passed the boon stage. Video conferencing is ubiquitous; any business can run its meetings from virtually anywhere. That’s the good part.

The bad part is, we’re in a ‘Brambles’ stage now. Too many solutions, not enough interoperability. A thousand islands with not a bridge in sight.

This causes the major problem I referenced above: If your business uses one video conferencing solution, and your customer uses a different one, odds are high you won’t be able to use video in your communications!

Video Conferencing Solution Tug-of-War
“I’ll send you a Skype Invite.” “Sorry, we don’t use that. Let’s use our solution instead!” “Uhm…”
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

“But Chris,” you might ask, “We have Zapier now! This isn’t a big deal anymore.”

True! We do have the Zapier connectors/”Zaps”, and I’m very glad for those. They have a good number for video calls.

However, this goes around the problem instead of solving it. An add-on can’t always match native functionality. Some internal networks won’t allow add-ons either.

Now, Zapier can’t halt the spread of video solutions, nor should they try. They’re responding to an existing market with their apps, and I wish them continued success.

Unfortunately, the brambles continue to grow.

Companies making the video solutions want to ‘own’ their customers’ communications. Interoperability, for whatever reason, doesn’t appear a high priority. Even though it could easily extend a solution’s long-term use.

Where does this go? I see two possible paths:

1. Continued Fragmentation. People keep their platforms. The existing software gains more users. A few may choose to inter-communicate, but mostly keep to their own systems. This preserves the frustrations of one business having conferences with another. We end up with a minefield of video solutions, each jealously guarding ‘their’ user base.

OR

2. Slow Consolidation. People begin to move to similar platforms, for the sake of integrated communications with other companies (e.g. vendors). Some platforms die out, whether by choice (Microsoft retiring Skype for Business in favor of Teams) or by withering (users move away from the platform to another option).

If one of these seems more likely to you (or you have a third option), please comment below.

In the meantime, if a business doesn’t have a video conferencing solution & wants one, what should they choose?

2-Minute Guide on How to Pick a Video Conferencing Solution

This by-no-means-comprehensive guide should help you select a few video solutions to test. That way you’re not spending hours comparing features, fiddling with hardware, or stressing over connection issues.

  1. Do you use Office 365? Go for Teams.
  2. Which of these features do you use the most?
    • Video Calls (1-to-1) – Skype for Business, Skype Consumer, and Zoom work well.
    • Video Conferences, Scheduled – See Question 3.
    • Video Conferences, Impromptu – Skype for Business again, as well as GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx.
  3. Ask 3 customers what they use.
    • This gives you a couple options, but not too many.
    • If 2 of your customers use the same video conferencing solution, that one’s your best pick.
  4. Need a free video option, at least to start? Try out Zoom or FreeConference.

(Note: Not all of these solutions have additional team communications tools, like chat. I focused just on video.)

What do you think? Should we aim, as a group, to consolidate? Stay fragmented? Work on interoperability? Just wait things out?

What’s the best way out of these video conferencing brambles?

Video Conferencing Fragmentation: Boon or Brambles?
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