*** THE ORIGINAL POST CONTAINS UPDATES THAT ARE LOCATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST ***
Skype is great. Except when it’s not. Like when you’re late for a Skype call but have to wait for it to install updates. Or when you’re distracted by ads and notification messages. Or when the call drops out but you don’t realize it until after you’ve been talking to no one for 5 minutes. Or when you spend 10 minutes trying to get everyone into a group call. Or when the person you need to talk with doesn’t have or can’t use Skype.
Enter a new service, released just a few weeks ago called Airwave. It does much of what Skype does (and doesn’t). It’s intended to be a professional video meeting service for businesses. Where you can have a video meeting with one person or many, without having to jump through hoops and where everything just works, without any distractions.
Airwave uses WebRTC technology. This is basically the “new” technology that will be powering audio and video communication both on the web and in the mobile world. Google more or less developed it, Facebook is a big user of it and you’ve probably come across it without even realizing it.
In a nutshell, with WebRTC there is nothing to download or install (like with Skype, GoToMeeting/Webinar, etc.). Everything runs automatically in your browser. The only catch is you need to use a modern browser like Chrome or Firefox (sorry Internet Explorer users, you’re out of luck).
I’ve seen both really bad and really good implementations WebRTC technology. Airwave would fall into the really good category. It works as advertised, the layout, design and workflow are elegant and professional and the video/audio quality is good and reliable.
With Airwave, you can perform public or private group video meetings. To be clear, group meetings are NOT like webinars, where one person talks and everyone else is more or less invisible. Group means group, which means everyone is equal in a group meeting.
You can also do public and private one-on-one video chats or even schedule video chat appointments. One particular use I see for this is customer service, where you can put a link on your site and visitors have the opportunity to video chat with you live.
You can also do all the usual things like screen sharing and messaging. Because Airwave is browser based, the screen sharing works a little differently. When you share your screen, it doesn’t take over the other participants screen, rather it appears in a separate window…meaning you’re getting both the webcam image and screen share image at the same time. This can be a little confusing at first, as you may need to adjust your browser size (if it’s not full screen) to be able to see everything in the screen share.
Airwave is also super-secure and private. Your video meetings are never recorded and no logs are kept of any messaging that happens in a meeting. So if you want privacy, Airwave is for you. They also have an A rating from SSL Labs for security.
My only gripe is when it comes to getting people to join a meeting. To be fair Airwave was just released and is in beta, but the process is a bit annoying and goes like this. You invite someone to join a meeting (they get an email with a link). When they click the link to join the meeting, they are prompted to log into Airwave. Since they won’t have an account, Airwave allows them to create one using social media profiles or manually. Then the person gets an email requiring them to verify their new account. When they do that, they are logged into Airwave…but not in the meeting. Instead, they have to go back to their email program, find the original meeting invitation and click on the link in it. After all of that, they are finally in the video meeting.
I understand why Airwave forces EVERYONE to create an Airwave account – they are in beta testing and forcing account creation builds their user base. But I would much rather prefer that people invited to a meeting could skip the whole account registration thing…where they could just click the link in the invitation and immediately be in the meeting. Perhaps that is something Airwave will add in time or offer in their business version.
Speaking of that, Airwave comes in two flavors; free and business. With the free version, you get just about everything you’ll ever need…and hey, it’s free. But if you want to spend $5 a month, you can upgrade to the business version where you get extra goodies, including the ability to charge people to have a video conference with you (currently, the charges run through PayPal and Airwave keeps 10% of the fee for themselves). Ouch.
But really the best way to see if Airwave is or is not for your business, is to try it out for yourself. It’s free, there’s nothing to download or install and you can be testing it out in under a minute. Here’s the link to the site again: Airwave.io.
Let me know what you think.
*** POST UPDATES ***
I spoke with Olivier de Jong who is the founder of Airwave. From that conversation, there are 3 things I want to stress about Airwave:
- Airwave is in EARLY BETA TESTING. That means they are making sure the basics are rock solid and getting any bugs out before they start adding many of the features you might be familiar with in other products. But even as a beta product, I’m still impressed with how the basics perform.
- The Airwave roadmap contains a lot of features that will make the platform not only easier to use, but will make it more desirable to use too. That means it will have clear advantages over competing services.
- The people at Airwave want your feedback. That means they want you to try it out and tell them what’s good, what’s bad, what’s missing and what you want to see added. And they don’t want you to hold back. They are trying to build a premium platform and need your input to help make that happen. To contact them directly, use this email address: thenextlevel at airwave.io (replace “at” with the “@” symbol…I listed the email address this way so robots wouldn’t scrape the address and spam them).