One of the earliest and most successful solutions to meet the need for remote collaboration and desktop sharing, especially for the business community, was the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) developed and incorporated into the Windows operating systems in the form of Microsoft’s NetMeeting. Apple OS users used the Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) for the same purpose.
While these solutions, and other solutions such as the open-source Virtual Network Computing (VNC), met the needs of businesses in years past, there was room for improvement. Importantly, technology does not stand still and is ever-evolving. In May 2011, Google released the Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) protocol that standardized browser-based rich multimedia communications.
The set of protocols and interfaces developed for the WebRTC standards made real-time browser-based audio-visual communications possible, by setting up connections without the need for custom hardware, applications, or plugins. Essentially, the WebRTC protocol introduced to the world the very first click-to-start browser-based conferencing standards.
In the same light, the standards made browser-based desktop sharing possible with the added benefit of including audio. Given that the WebRTC standards are designed for use in browsers, using WebRTC-powered desktop sharing allows users to collaborate, regardless of the operating system and the devices they are using.
Importantly, this technology makes desktop sharing free. WebRTC APIs and the associated standards are open-source. While Google may have been at the forefront of WebRTC development, the standards are free for any third party to use. As such, developers, individual users, and businesses have access to high-quality desktop sharing capability and solutions for free. Today, WebRTC standards are embraced and embedded in Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, and many other browsers on the market.
As you can appreciate, this capability is very powerful and benefits both individuals and businesses. Herein, we will explore the advantages of using Chrome-based desktop sharing software in intricate detail to give you a better understanding of what you can gain by using this technology.
As mentioned above, there have been attempts at developing desktop sharing applications and tools in the past to enhance collaboration among remote teams. However, these tools had shortcomings: Many were proprietary, expensive, or annoyingly difficult to use – if not all three.
Many of the tools required users to download and install a proprietary application to use their new desktop sharing solution. Beyond downloading and installing, perhaps the difficulty of using the dedicated apps was what made legacy desktop sharing unwieldy. Since there were no standardized solutions, every tool had its own approach to desktop sharing. This meant that users had to spend time learning how to use the applications, an endeavor that few people or businesses were interested in even trying.
With browser-based desktop sharing solutions, the users do not have to download anything to be able to collaborate remotely; the only thing they need is their standard browser. Chrome-based desktop sharing does not require users to download plugins, codecs, or third-party APIs to function. Everything needed to share a desktop via the browser is embedded into the browser. This does away with the complexity of installing and setting up an app when preparing to collaborate.
Moreover, there is no need to familiarize oneself with a brand-new user interface: Having been using the browser for regular internet browsing, most users will have a fairly good understanding of the browser. As such, most collaborators will find WebRTC-based desktop sharing to be far more accessible and straightforward.
The simplicity and ease of use that Chrome-based desktop sharing provides must be applauded. But perhaps it is the secure connection between all the devices in the meeting or conference that make it an unsung hero. Whether you are holding an internal staff meeting with your remote employees, a board of directors meeting, or reaching out to customers and clients, the security of the connection is of critical importance.
Information shared via desktop sharing in a meeting will often be sensitive or private. It might be private customer data information, proprietary information that must be guarded to keep a competitive edge, or other company secrets. In a world where cyber-crime and hacking are rife and increasingly becoming a common threat to our digital lives, securing our communications is a challenge, but critical.
Chrome-based desktop sharing software is secure by design. For starters, unlike third-party plugins and applications that you have to download, WebRTC standards are built into the browsers, in this case, Chrome. As such, you do not have to worry about the legitimacy of the application publisher and its safety.
You do away with the risk of installing viruses or malware, a risk prevalent when downloading applications from unrecognized parties. Downloading your browser and its updates from the official publishing site ensures that your collaboration and interactions via desktop sharing are secure and private throughout all sessions.
That said, you should use applications that use and deploy the latest and greatest security protocols and tools. Securing data shared via desktop sharing should take a multi-prong approach. It is for this reason that leading professional WebRTC-based software, such as MegaMeeting, is designed for secure business communications.
We go a step further than typical software in securing your interactions by encrypting the connections between communicating parties, and the peer-to-server communications used for signaling purposes, by encrypting the data shared.
Mega Meeting uses Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP) to the voice and video data transmitted through the connection. Only parties with a decryption key can access the data exchanged in the stream, ensuring that data shared via desktop sharing does not get into the wrong hands.
In a nutshell, the SRTP protocol negates the risk of eavesdropping by hackers and attackers.
The earlier iteration of desktop sharing apps, such as Microsoft’s NetMeeting and Apple’s Apple Remote Desktop, were operating system (OS) dependent and did not have cross-platform compatibility readily available. Lack of cross-platform operability made for a problematic remote collaboration experience, especially when team members and meeting attendees used different operating systems.
Moreover, as you can appreciate, desktop sharing was only available on certain computers. In some cases, some applications required businesses to invest in dedicated hardware designed and optimized for desktop sharing and collaboration. The apps also typically required one to pay a prohibitive licensing fee. The initial cost outlay was sizable, a factor that deterred many people and businesses from using these tools for collaboration.
Today, the standards that power WebRTC-based communications are embedded in browsers. Importantly, they are not specific to any operating system or device. Users have access to the WebRTC APIs running on a wide variety of operating systems, allowing use on all laptop computers, all desktop computers, and all modern mobile devices, whether they be iPhones, Android phones, tablets or something else. As such, the desktop sharing tool is available for use irrespective of the operating environment of individual team members. All one needs is a browser and an Internet connection. This improves accessibility to the collaborative environment.
There are several reasons why customizing Chrome-based desktop sharing software is inherently easy. Chief among the reasons is its open-source nature. Unlike other solutions that are proprietary to specific companies, WebRTC is open-source for any individual or business to utilize as they please. As such, when you want to customize the desktop sharing experience to suit your brand or your business environment and needs, you do not have to ask for permission or pay a licensing fee.
Additionally, the standards have been designed to be as customizable as possible without negatively affecting the security of the streams. For instance, the implementation of signaling protocols has not been specified with WebRTC. In taking this approach, developers have leeway to choose the signaling protocol that best suits their case.
It is also essential to appreciate the benefit of the open-source nature of the standards. There is a huge active community of developers who are continuously working on WebRTC to improve the APIs. Therefore, should you need to customize your desktop sharing solution, there are ample developers with the skills to customize your software.
At MegaMeeting, we have made our software inherently easy for the end user to customize. Our desktop sharing solution can be white labelled and is fully customizable to meet your needs.
In a perfect world, we would get perfect and uninterrupted high-speed internet. However, as we all know, the world is not perfect. Internet connections are hardly ever perfect or as “high-speed” as may be advertised. This can be a challenge, which affects how desktop sharing is delivered to various users within an online meeting.
With that in mind, the WebRTC protocol has been designed to adapt to a wide variety of connection conditions by deploying internet connection negotiation. The standards are inherently capable of negotiating the stream parameters to every endpoint. Every connection to a user begins by streaming video and audio at low quality (low bitrates). Thereafter, the quality of the stream is adjusted to match the available bandwidth. If there is ample bandwidth, improvements to the quality of each stream are implemented to give users the best possible meeting experience.
Moreover, the network and media engines in the APIs continually and dynamically adjust the quality of the streams throughout the stream, thereby adapting to bandwidth fluctuations, network jitters, and packet loss. This approach to desktop sharing ensures users can sustain a desktop sharing stream, even in changing and challenging network conditions. In the end, this improves the user experience of the Chrome-based desktop sharing software, as well as an online web meeting, whether it be a video conference or webinar.
Browser-based desktop sharing software also offers some of the highest quality audio and video streams, owing to the advanced codec the standards use. For instance, WebRTC uses Opus codecs for audio compression. Opus is a scalable audio codec based on Skype’s SILK codecs and CELT. The open-source codec is designed with high compression, low encoding latency, and variable bitrate being the main qualities of interest. As such, it is uniquely capable of handling variations in internet bandwidths. Some devices can also support the G.711 codec.
For video encoding, WebRTC uses VP8 and H.264 as its two default video codecs. Modern browsers support either of the two codecs, and you only need one codec to use web-based desktop sharing. VP8 codec is an open-source codec featuring improved video frame-loss protection and high-speed video decoding. It has been designed to be easy to implement, making it one of the most prominent video codecs to use.
The H.264 codec, on the other hand, is a proprietary video codec that features high video compression and high video quality. It is very prevalent, hence its use as one of the default codecs. Both of these codecs are renowned for their high-fidelity video, thereby giving users high-quality videos in their online web meetings.
It is important to note that all the codecs used for audio and video compression are part of the standards that WebRTC uses. Users do not need to download any codec to participate in any desktop sharing sessions, improving the ease of use of Chrome-based desktop sharing software.
Importantly, doing away with codec downloads negates the risk of downloading malicious software that hackers may embed in the downloadable codec.
Video conferencing has taken a place as one of the leading communication tools in business and personal communication. The media-rich, high-quality audio and video stream you get from WebRTC-based communications make collaboration more interactive and comprehensive. Making use of software developed from the WebRTC protocol improves the overall conferencing experience.
While improved user experience is beneficial to users, it is the fundamentals of accessibility, impeccable security, cost-effectiveness, operating system and device independence, and interoperability that make WebRTC-based software the best choice for web conferencing, video conferencing, webinars, and desktop sharing software.
That said, it is important to note that the particular software you choose can make a world of difference. Invest in software that not only uses the WebRTC technology, but also allows you to make full use of the inherent security, flexibility, and customization. MegaMeeting is designed to help you gain the full range and breadth of benefits that come with WebRTC.