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Web Meeting Service Startup Takes On Cisco, Microsoft

Dimdim will be showcased at this week's DEMOfall 07 conference as a free alternative to WebEx or PlaceWare.

Dimdim, a startup made up of entrepreneurs and technologists, on Monday launched a free Web meeting service that's meant to compete with Cisco Systems' WebEx and Microsoft's PlaceWare.

The service, also called Dimdim, will be showcased at this week's DEMOfall 07 conference where new products, technologies, and companies make their debut. The free service is offered as a private beta for now, but will be widely available on registration basis in two to three months.

Dimdim is browser-based and doesn't require any software to be installed, which makes it easy to use, said DD Ganguly, the company's CEO and co-founder, in an interview. "A customer once told us: 'This is just like visiting a web site.' Anyone who can use a browser irrespective of technical ability can use Dimdim," Ganguly said.

Dimdim uses a rich Internet application with advanced collaboration features. The service allows people to share their desktop files, show slides, and chat using a webcam. Cisco and Microsoft offer similar capabilities as part of their Web meeting services. Cisco acquired Web conferencing company WebEx earlier this year, with plans to integrate its own voice and video products into the WebEx offering.

CEO Ganguly said what makes Dimdim unique is its open source foundation. "We're about democratizing collaboration," Ganguly said.

The service integrates open source components, such as the Google Web toolkit for Ajax applications, the Red5 open source Flash server, and the Tomcat application server, with Dimdim's open source software.

Additionally, it works on computers that run different operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.

There are three versions of Dimdim available: a free browser-based version, open source server-side software that can be downloaded from Sourceforge.net, and an enterprise version that can be purchased for a fee by small and medium-sized businesses.

The enterprise version is customizable and scalable. For example, it allows hundreds of participants to be on a Web conference at the same time, whereas the free version doesn't. Dimdim also offers 24/7 support for the enterprise version.

Schools and universities can integrate Dimdim's server-side software with e-learning apps, while companies can integrate it with customer-relationship management (CRM) apps for a better collaboration experience, said Ganguly.

Dimdim is supported by venture funding from firms that also have invested in Skype, Hotmail, and MySQL. The investors include Draper Richards, Index Ventures, and Nexus India Capital.

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