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What Is Multi-User Video Conferencing?

By Jo Dunaway
Updated May 17, 2024
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Multi-user video conferencing employs personal computers, computer peripherals such as webcams and headsets, and fast Internet connections to let multiple parties in various locations chat with each other in real time. The video chats include video and sound and may allow participants to share files. Some video conferencing applications must be downloaded to a host computer; others are online solutions using Flash code. Some common uses for multi-user video conferencing include business meetings with multiple offices, business or educational training programs, and family chat sessions

With some multi-user video conferencing programs, a user can copy the conferencing code, provided by the developer or hosting company, to a website, social networking profile page, or blog, or send an email link with an invitation to a conference session. Participants can then click a link and enter a username and password to join the conference. It is also possible to have a list of participants preprogrammed to select from and initiate a videoconference. With some programs, all participants need to download software; with others, the solution is hosted in one location and participants can call in through a website.

Whether it is a free or for-pay multi-party video conferencing application, the number of users possible depends upon the particular application; however, the range typically spans four to 100 participants. In most programs, users can share files and photos as well as chatting by voice and text. Most video conferencing technology allows several phone bridges for those who will be participating by phone and audio only.

Though several are free, some personal multi-user video conferencing programs cost the host to establish. Some companies offering applications make it a condition that all participants must have accounts, though the host would be the one who pays the largest amount for the facility of conferencing. Businesses holding regular departmental meetings or regular training classes using videoconferences may need to include a large number of participants without accounts. For these, business-level multi-user video conferencing applications are available that are capable of not only holding conferences, but also allowing host recordkeeping and flexibility in the supervision of each meeting.

For businesses needing hosting recordkeeping, there are administrative consoles built into the video conference applications, which allow roll call contact lists; whiteboard presentations to customers, vendors, and prospects; and real-time text chatting capabilities as well. Companies can offer live support for their customers and prospects and modify roles and permissions for differing levels of users. In essence, regardless of the application used, it is possible for anyone, anywhere, to connect and conference at anytime.

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Discussion Comments
By strawCake — On Jul 23, 2012

I think the best multi-user video conferencing solutions are the ones where people can participate by following a link online. It doesn't make a lot of sense for everyone to have to download software when you can just host the whole thing online.

I can only imagine the headaches of trying to make sure all the users have updated versions of the software and compatible operating systems. Using an Internet-based program gets rid of both of these problems.

By eidetic — On Jul 22, 2012

@indemnifyme - That doesn't sound like the best way to do online web video conferencing for a business, but I imagine they had some reason for doing it that way. At least I hope so!

I've never done a multi-user video conference for work, but I have done a multi-user video chat online. A few different social networking sites allow multi-user video chats now, and it's pretty cool. I actually taught two of my friends to knit using a multi-user video chat. It was especially neat because all three of us were in different states!

By indemnifyme — On Jul 21, 2012

I actually participated in some multi-user online video conferencing that also utilized telephones when I worked at my last insurance office. The video was shown online to all the participants, but it was narrated over the phone line. Also, none of us were actually on video, only the presentation.

It was kind of an interesting system, but I think it might have worked a lot better if everything was done online. It was cumbersome to try and use the phone, and it also tied up the phone lines at our office. It would have been nice to have at least one phone free.

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