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.
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.