New Skype Alternatives for Internet Broadcasting

Skype-alternativesI have an issue with “meta“ things. I blog, but I’m not engaged with the broader realm of bloggers. Blogging about blogging baffles me. Similarly, although I’ve been involved in the VUC since 2008, I’m not really engaged in the world of podcasters/internet broadcasters. I’m trying to work on this by sharing some of the techniques that I’ve discovered in doing VUC calls.

Last fall I was advising podcaster Mike Phillips with some issues of audio quality with respect to remote participants in podcasts.  He appears to be a frequent contributor to the blog of the IAIB. It was there that I stumbled upon a post recommending Skype Alternatives For Internet Broadcasting.

This post implies that Skype is tremendously popular in this space, and yet there is some desire to seek out functional alternatives. The author, Andrew Zarian, offers the following list of alternatives; Google+ Hangouts, Zoom, Apple’s FaceTime and Cisco’s Jabber. All are certainly worthy of consideration.

However, time moves on and in just six months there are a range of new options also worthy of consideration, some arising from the fast-evolving world of WebRTC. I’d like to add a few additional services to the list;

1. Talky.IO

Talky.io is a WebRTC-based service built by &Yet largely as a proof of concept project. It was, as far as I know, one of the first of a handful of such services. It works well, providing multi-party video chat to anyone with a WebRTC-capable browser (Chrome or Firefox.)

All such services deliver audio using the Opus codec, which can provide excellent audio quality. The service allows you to name the meeting room as you like, then pass that address to participants as a simple URL. You can lock the room and share your screen.

At around the time of Mr. Zarian’s original set of recommendations WebRTC-based services were not yet sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of many people. In particular, the browsers lacked any way to select the desired microphone and camera. That problem was addressed some time early in Q4/2013. Since then I’ve had no trouble at all using such services, even though I have a diversity of audio and video I/O on my desktop computer.

What Talky.io lacks is any kind of recording capability. That you must provide locally to the producer, which isn’t entirely unexpected.

Finally, none of the current crop of web-RTC based services presently support central, producer control of participant mute state. That means each person has local control of their microphone mute. It’s should be said that diligent self-muting is next to godliness. Just be sure that all your guests know to do the right thing.

P.S. – There are a handful of free WebRTC-based chat services out there. I like Talky.io because &Yet were early to the party. They have been supportive of the community, hosting a very well-received west coast conference on real time communications. They seem like a genuinely nice bunch of people.