Last week, AOL had an “employees only” message on a new video-conferencing platform attached to the Domain Name (http://www.aim.com/av) we all associate with AOL’s “Instant Messaging.” The “employees only” message is now off the page, so I guess that means we can all use it. (Although, nothing was stopping us last week either, if you want to know a secret that AOL obviously knew.)
While it’s on the AIM site (and this is the “it’s-so-great-it-must-be-something-evil” part), you don’t need an AOL Instant Message account — or even to be logged into any kind of account whatsoever, to use it. You launch it and the web-application provides you a URL that you share with up to three other users. You all then can video chat away (assuming, of course, you have some sort of web cam built in or hooked into your computer).
Now, I see this as an incredible tool for business collaboration, because at our company, we are all heavy users of IM. And, personally, I’m also a fan of face-to-face video chat whenever it’s an option.
(Note to people who are about to say this is nothing new: I’m not gushing over the potential of having multi-user video conferencing — I’m gushing over the potential of having a drop-dead simple way to do that with people who use Macs or Windows who can’t decide whether they want to use Google, iChat or Skype. I’m gushing over the obvious us of an existing “commons” — a browser and URL — this approach offers.)
However, while I see this as a very positive tool that can be used for everything from customer support to the ability to record “panel discussions” (using something like ScreenFlow or Camtasia to capture and edit the discussion) to post on blogs or YouTube, I’m sure others will find ways to use a “username-unnecessary” form of video conferencing in ways that will make local TV news departments leap with joy during sweeps periods.
That’s just the way it is when new stuff is just too good to be true.