SlideShare, a website that makes it easy for people to share presentation slides, is announcing a new product today that co-founder and chief executive Rashmi Sinha promised will offer “a whole new paradigm” for Web meetings.
There’s a good chance that you’ve sat through a Web meeting or two at some point. I usually end up doing at least two or three a week. And existing products like WebEx and Gotomeeting are, for the most part, okay. But they do create complications, where I have to load up the software every time I want to join the meeting, which can add five minutes to a 15-minute phone call. The process often includes little failures, like needing to install new software when my version doesn’t match the host’s, or rapidly emailing new information when it turns out someone gave me the wrong meeting code. And there’s even the occasional, “Oh, uh, I guess this doesn’t work on a Mac.”
With SlideShare’s new product Zipcast, everything is much easier and lightweight, as Sinha demonstrated for me yesterday. The meeting is represented with a straightforward URL that can be shared with anyone. You can log in with your existing SlideShare or Facebook account. You can incorporate any public presentation from SlideShare (not just your own) into the meeting.
Best of all, there’s no software installation needed, so the technical headache is reduced, and it runs without problems on a Mac. It doesn’t work on Internet Explorer 6, an older version of Microsoft’s browser that was dominant for a while, especially in offices. But Sinha said SlideShare has already seen IE6 usage drop dramatically among it visitors. The meeting can just run as one tab in your Web browser, allowing you to focus or to go about other tasks as desired. (Dimdim, the presentation startup recently acquired by Salesforce, probably came the closest to this approach, but it still required software installation for the presenter.)
Sinha acknowledged that in order to create this lightweight approach, SlideShare dropped some of the features that are common to other Web presentation services. For example, one of the most common uses for me is screensharing, where a startup might take me on a tour of a private version of their website via their computer desktop. Zipcast is very much an “80-20” product, Sinha said, where it built in 20 percent of the standard features which should serve 80 percent of possible users.
By making it much easier to join a meeting, Sinha said she’s hoping to see many more meetings created on-the-fly. That’s enhanced by social features that let you share the meeting, or share the chat from the meeting, on Facebook or Twitter. It could also be a tool for hosting webinars.
SlideShare will offer a free version of Zipcast, and another version for $19 per month. The main difference is that the pay version allows you to password-protect your meetings. (It’s still possibly to hold private meeting in the free version, as long as you don’t share the URL willy-nilly.) Sinha said she’s open to the idea of adding another pricing tier for big companies if they want to host their own branded channel for webinars, similar to some of SlideShare’s existing premium features.