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.
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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.