Desktop conferencing refers to video conferencing performed from a personal computer (PC). Video conferencing refers to communicating with another person using audio and video feeds that allow participants in the conference to see and hear other participants. This technology is used in government departments, schools, and private businesses to make it easier to schedule meetings with people who would not be able to physically attend. Desktop conferencing can involve a group of people holding a conference using desktop computers to communicate with off-site employees, or it can be as small as a conference between two associates, each on a separate PC. The hardware and software that a user needs to start desktop conferencing is basic, and usually requires only a webcam, a microphone and a free or cheap video conferencing program.
The act of having a video conference over the Internet is called web conferencing, which can refer to desktop conferencing or video conferencing over the Internet in a conference room setting. Software available for desktop conferences ranges from free, basic programs to more expensive video conferencing programs designed especially for businesses. Business video conferencing programs often use higher-end video and audio hardware than free webcam conferencing software. Software programs that can be used for desktop conferencing include Skype®, WebEX®, iVisit®, and Google Voice and Video chat®.
Web conferencing can be convenient because it allows people who are in vastly different geographical locations to make video and sound contact with one another. One of the benefits of desktop conferencing is that it offers a PC user an inexpensive way to have a face-to-face conversation with friends, family, or business associates, which can be more personal than the telephone. Desktop conferencing also allows the use of visual aids and gestures to communicate. One drawback to desktop video conferencing is that technical issues, including Internet connection problems and computer glitches, can interrupt the flow of the video conference. Using a wired Internet connection instead of a wireless connection can help alleviate some of the connection problems associated with video conferencing.
Video conferencing at a PC usually centers around the use of a webcam. A webcam is a video camera that connects to a computer, usually using a USB plug. Webcams are often equipped with built-in microphones, but some users find a microphone attached to the camera too limiting in movement and in sound quality. A desktop conferencing user must also have a connection to the video conferencing service he wishes to use. In most cases, all participants in the web conference must have the same video conferencing software as the rest of the group.