There are plenty of companies that offer online video chat sessions. TinyChat and Dimdim are two of my favorites. But San Francisco-based TokBox has just added some specific features designed to handle meetings of, say, twenty people rather than three.
Tokbox vice president of marketing Micky O’Brien led a small session on Tuesday to demonstrate the new features. TokBox calls it Broadcast Video Chat, but to be clear, it allows up to 12 active participants and 200 passive viewers in one session.
The target audience is groups who “meet with intent,” rather than just hanging out. Typical customers, O’Brien said, might be small business owners, educational organizations or religious groups.
The core concept is the moderator, a person who has superpowers over the other participants in the conference. A moderator can hide someone’s video feed from the others, or block them entirely. The moderator can also accept short video questions from participants, and choose whether or not to show them to the entire meeting. The moderator can operate behind the scenes, like the sound man at a real-world conference, or can be present onscreen and clearly marked as a leader by a bright yellow icon atop his or her video image.
In our test meeting, I had trouble getting TokBox’s player to turn on my camera when I joined my first meeting. One we got past that hurdle, there were no other technical glitches.
TokBox isn’t cheap, at least not for large groups. Smaller groups can meet for free, but to host twenty or more participants in a meeting will cost $18.99 per meeting. Customers can also subscribe to the extra features for $9.99 per month, which cuts the price of meetings to $12.99 each.
The pricing is a refreshingly brazen bid that business users will pay for a reliable video conferencing service, if it can allow larger groups to meet. Twenty bucks is a lot cheaper than the time some teams waste fumbling with the speakerphone in a meeting room.
There’s still no substitute for an in-person meeting, bit TokBox makes the next best option manageable. And their business model is a welcome break from “we’ll figure it out.”
TokBox, founded in 2007 , has raised $14 million in capital, most notably from Sequoia Capital.