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What is Co-Browsing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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Collaborative browsing or co-browsing is the act of simultaneously accessing and controlling web pages with one or more other people. Instead of simply supporting multiple users at the same time all doing different things without affecting each other, co-browsing allows a group of people to engage in synchronized activities, where actions undertaken by one person will be seen on the screens of other participants. There are a number of ways to set up co-browsing sessions, and they can be useful for presentations, conferences, editing, web design, and many other activities.

Early co-browsing required both parties to install software they could use in sessions together. As technology improved, people could co-browse with the use of a web page fitted out with scripts and other code designed to allow people to log in together. In some sessions, one person is the leader, essentially taking over and leading people through a series of activities. In others, people collaborate and can enter data, navigate, and engage in other activities simultaneously.

Designing functional co-browsing systems is challenging, as different browsers and operating systems do not always work smoothly together and a group of people working on different computers may encounter incompatibilities. Computer security is also usually reluctant to allow things like remote or external control and the system must be developed in a way that allows people to receive external input without compromising the security systems in place on a given computer.

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People may run chat or talk on the phone during a co-browsing session to talk about what they are seeing or doing. Comments can also sometimes be added in bubbles on the page, allowing people to tag various areas of the page with notes. People working on an editing or web development project may pass control back and forth, permitting all parties to make changes and present them to the group for discussion. In fully simultaneous working sessions, multiple people can work as editors on the project at the same time.

Websites offering co-browsing systems are available and people can also install software for this purpose. It is advisable to look up the system requirements before starting a session to confirm that all participants will be able to participate, and to use a system with a good reputation, as co-browsing can present a security threat. It is possible for browser hijacks and other malicious code to be embedded during a session, putting people at risk of security compromises.

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Monika
Post 3

@JaneAir - I feel like it's only a matter of time before chat software incorporates something like co-browsing. Social media integration is really hot right now, so surfing the web together with your friends seems like a logical next step.

I actually think something like this could have a lot of applications in the education sector. Imagine if you could work on a group project from home, but browse the Internet and use applications at the same time? I think it would make group work a lot easier, and cut down on travel time for some people who might live far away from the school they attend.

JaneAir
Post 2

@Azuza - I never thought about how useful co-browsing could be for technical support. But now that more and more companies are using cloud based applications, I think it's only a matter of time before most live support employees are using this technique.

I actually think co-browing could be used for fun too, rather than for productive activities like troubleshooting at work. I was using an online chat application awhile ago that let me and the person I was chatting with watch YouTube together and talk about the video.

However, one person had to initiate and control the video session. I think it would have been even cooler if we could both have controlled the YouTube screen.

Azuza
Post 1

We used cloud based web applications at the last office I worked at. They were pretty much essential for getting anything done. However, the application was kind of difficult to navigate, and when I worked there I had to call our live chat support a lot.

The live chat support system sometimes used a kind of co-browsing to fix technical issues. The person at the help desk would remote in to the computer and be able to control the mouse and everything else. But I would still be able to do the same! So if I had to input a password or something, I could.

Co-browsing for technical support is a great thing, in my opinion. It worked for me a number of times!

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