Google+ Hangouts have recently ignited interest in Web-based tools for videoconferences with multiple participants. Hangouts are particularly good for spontaneous meetings between contacts on the social network. But Hangouts' tight integration with Google+ is both a strength and a weakness, since participation requires establishing a Google+ account.
"One of the major reasons for using Watchitoo is the ability to embed it in your own sites, or in Facebook, to increase exposure to the maximum," Rony Zarom, CEO of Watchitoo, said in an interview. "Think of it as live streaming where you can also ask viewers to join in and ask questions."
The size of the audience is also a factor. Google+ allows up to 10 people at a time to participate in a Hangout. Google has embraced the idea of broadcasting view-only connections to a Hangout beyond the 10 participants, but that Hangouts on Air product currently is only available to a small pool of test users.
Watchitoo allows up to 25 people at a time to participate in the video session and "potentially hundreds of thousands" to watch the live stream, Zarom said. Spreecast has a somewhat similar product that allows four simultaneous users but a larger audience of viewers.
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One of the early uses of Watchitoo has been for live streaming of public events such as fashion shows. NBA teams such as the New York Knicks have experimented with using it for online conversations between players and fans. Zarom also shared a mockup of an integration with the CBS Sports website.
When I spoke with Zarom in January, Watchitoo was gearing up to support a TEDx event in New York City, where the organizers wanted to offer remote participants two-way interaction rather than a passive video stream. "They were really adamant about expanding their event outreach beyond the boundaries of event hall, since only 300 ticketed attendees will have the privilege of attending this."
The Watchitoo enterprise edition allows online event organizers to share multimedia content such as PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, videos, music files, and interactive polls, in addition to live camera feeds. Sessions can also be recorded for later playback.
The high-end versions of Watchitoo are custom priced. The entry level personal plan is $39 per month for sessions that can include up to 25 participants and an allowance for up to 500 viewer hours.
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