A new chatroom service is on the scene. TinyChat claims to take the “ugh” out of bulky videoconferencing.
“Tinychat delivers dead simple video conferences without the extraneous ad-ons and inconvenience, making video conferencing an accessible, uncomplicated experience.”
I tested it twice today, once with Steve Garfield in the morning, and once this evening with one of the TinyChat founders, Dan Blake. Dan had 12 of us video conferencing at once, including users like twitter.com/jowyang, twitter.com/chrissaad, twitter.com/theagent and others you might recognize. There were a ton of people in the chatroom watching the 12 of us on video.
It’s a new app, so it obviously has kinks to work out. Here are some I noticed:
Echo: Everyone MUST wear earphones, or the echo is overwhelming.
Audio: Pretty good but tricky: I faded in and out in the big conversation and my Mac Book Pro’s built-in mic wouldn’t work. I had to attach an external USB Logitech mic.
Price: After a while, Tinychat sends a pop-up window promoting pro service. $14.95/month seems a bit high for the single user. I would never, ever pay that. I can see if a company may want to pay for it as that subscription rate gets you 5 video chatrooms, but I’m a single person and will only use 1. I need a cheaper option for that, even if they limit me to 5 chats a month or perhaps a limit of 6 people in the room instead of 12.
Policing: The owner of the room must be able to kick people out and mute others.
Conversation management: Right now if you have a full 12 people in the room, it is difficult to see who is talking. Someone mentioned programming some sort of visual signal on the person’s video stream, but I can’t imagine how that can be coded with the current tech. If you have the owner click on a user, perhaps then, but the owner would have to keep clicking on each new speaker. I say TinyChat just needs to give the owner of the room standard chatroom moderation powers.
Chatroom: Standard chatroom, worked fine. Need moderator powers there too.
Desktop sharing: This was a fantastic and so-easy-it-is-revolutionary feature. Any user (or “broadcaster”) in the video chat can share their desktop with the group. And not just screen shots, actual moving, LIVE DESKTOP. I showed a video, clicked around, etc. This blew my mind in terms of the various ways tech support staff could help users. Yes, there are many various remote-desktop sharing programs out there but they are bulky, stand-alone, not-end-user-friendly applications. TinyChat integrates it into the service so well that even the STUPIDEST-I-forgot-to-plug-in-my-computer end-user could share their desktop. It is truly brilliant. I can see families getting together, solving mom’s computer problem, sharing videos, collaborating on vacations or choosing which pictures go in the scrapbook they are making for Grandma. That little add-on will be the killer app part of TinyChat. It’s what separates it from the other video chatrooms (like yahoo live, etc.) that I’ve come across.
Way to go, TinyChat guys. Fix yer bugs and you’ll be golden! And please, offer a “semi-pro” plan for the little ol’ single users among us. We’d like passwords to protect our chats too.