In today’s world, business is global. Especially given how close the internet has made everything from supply chains to technical partnerships, communicating with people in other parts of the world is part of our everyday professional lives.
Two technologies, in particular, are often used to facilitate this communication and collaboration: video conferencing and web conference. What’s the difference?
Defining Web Conferencing and Video Conferencing
Before diving in, it should be noticed that as technologies evolve, previously separate types of video communications tend to converge, so the question of video conferencing vs. web conferencing might better be thought of as technologies on a spectrum rather than as completely separate things. That being said, today the technologies still generally fall more on one side or the other, and serve different purposes according to their relative strengths and weaknesses.
What’s Video Conferencing?
Generally, video conferencing is all about the quality of video delivery. The goal is to connect people in different offices, with very high quality video and audio, so it’s as if they were really in the same office, all sitting around a large conference table together, as it were. For this purpose, dedicated cameras and microphones (often designed specifically for the meeting space in question) are used, to get complete video and audio coverage of the participants in the room. Large screens for displaying the remote rooms are used for viewing. The video+audio information is often managed by local servers installed in each location, and sent across dedicated network connections for maximum fidelity. In a way, the idea of the video conferencing tool is to simply remove the walls between one conference room and another.
What’s Web Conferencing?
Web conferencing, on the other hand, tend to start more from the premise of the easiest technology for everyone to use, so that anybody, anywhere, on almost any hardware, can join—even while driving in the car, using a mobile device. Web conferencing, therefore, tend to start with the baseline of a conference call, with video (and some other collaboration features) added as optional, in order to see people’s faces and expressions or to share documents or computer screens.
Because web conferencing generally uses each participant’s computer audio + webcam and sends the information across public internet (rather than using dedicated cameras, microphones, servers and network), there are usually some compromises that need to be made. For instance, the picture quality won’t be as good as with video conferencing. If bandwidth is constrained, the system will always prioritize audio quality over video quality, for the simple reason that low-quality audio will quickly become incomprehensible; whereas video can still be acceptable even if choppy.
However, web conferencing tools, in addition to being more universally usable, also have some advantages in the other kinds of information they can include. Most web conferencing tools will include chat, polls, and screen sharing capabilities; the most advanced ones will have advanced recording management features, transcriptions, and interface with media management systems for a complete meeting experience. The reason is that, in contrast to video conferencing tools that simply try to remove the walls between physical spaces, a web conferencing tool creates a “virtual” room that anyone can join, and collaborate with each other and with documents inside that newly-created virtual space.
Choosing Between Video Conferencing and Web Conferencing
Pros: Very high-quality video, the next best thing to being in the same room.
Cons: Requires specialized hardware, often does not have many built-in collaboration features (because the assumption is that the collaboration will happen in the physical rooms and can be watched from all the other rooms)
Pros: Accessible from any device that has an internet connection, provides a collaboration space, and allows recording for later.
Cons: Less than perfect video quality
In general, if what you want is a meeting with very high resolution video, where the participants are very “present”, and you are using visuals in the room(s)—say on flipcharts or wall text—a video conference solution will be more your direction. If what you want is a universally-joinable new virtual space in which to share, present, or work together, a web conferencing tool will be more your direction.
Of course, in the world of COVID19, where everybody is working from home, web conferencing tools may be the only option. Once people can return to an office, the choice will once again present itself whether video conferencing or web conferencing is the best tool to use.
Here you can find more information on Kaltura’s web conferencing solution.
Here you can read more about the differences between web conferencing and webcasting.
Want to learn how to create a webcast from home?