CrossLoop — free desktop sharing

CrossLoop, a company that lets two people easily share their desktops while working in different locations, has raised $3 million in a first round of capital.

We’ve covered CrossLoop before (see our coverage). This is great for giving tutorials, for example. CrossLoop lets you reach virtually into your student’s screen, even though they’re working miles away from you, and control their cursor, open their files, and do anything they can do on their own computer. That’s all fine if they trust you. It’s scary for them, though, if they don’t, but then CrossLoop gives them a dashboard that lets them shut down your access at any time.

The challenge for CrossLoop is to stay above the noise created by the multitude of companies (see one list here) offering online Web conferencing tools, some of them with very similar features.

Yugma, for example, offers a service that lets people take over each other’s screens. However, Yugma’s free version doesn’t offer this. You have to pay $10 a month, but with this comes several other features, including planning online meetings, recording sessions, and highlighting features. Only one of the two people communicating needs to buy Yugma’s software, since they can connect with someone who has the free version, and can manage the controls from their end. Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Yugma has about $2.5 million in angel funding. Both Yugma and Crossloop let you transfer files too. They both require downloads.

A few months ago, we heard that eBay’s Skype was negotiating a partnership with Yugma, because Skype’s own feature, called Unyte, doesn’t support Linux/Mac like Yugma does. Skype wouldn’t comment. Otherwise, Unyte offers similar features to Crossloop and Yugma. Skype also offers something called Convenos, but like many other competing products, it offers Web-based collaboration and so doesn’t allow access to desktop.

Back to CrossLoop. It’s hard to tell how the company will make money, since the basic version is free. For now, chief executive Lisa Alderson says the company is focused on getting users, and that it’s too early to talk about the company’s revenue plans. CrossLoop’s advantage is that it’s interface is very easy to understand.

Since launching last year, more than 300,000 people have used the software, she said (Yugma reports a similar number of users, though for both companies the number of “active” users is significantly lower). A paid version of Crossloop lets you manage a history of your sessions on your desktop.

The funding comes from El Dorado Ventures. CrossLoop is based in Pacific Grove, Calif.

A demo of how CrossLoop works is below (RSS readers won’t be able to see it).