A Brief History of Online Meetings

From Day 1, the Internet was about communication. Almost from the beginning, the Unix operating system behind the Internet allowed system administrators to message one another via command line with minimal lag time. The first real online meetings as such took place in the late 1970’s when an English student named Roy Trubshaw wrote a computer program he called Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) that allowed a network of players to access a Dungeons and Dragons-like fantasy-based text game from their individual computers.

Online Meetings from Day One

The first online chat services were introduced by a subscriber-based company in 1980; the first Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was implemented in 1988. The popularity of online chat, texting and Internet chatrooms exploded in the 1990’s. What these first generation chat and online meeting platforms lacked was any means to share more than simple text.

Enter the world wide web. And Java, a programming language designed to allow the insertion of dynamic graphics and applications into initially static web pages.

Software engineers quickly saw the business opportunities. If online chat could be coupled with the sharing of point-to-point business documents, then at least some face-to-face meetings could be replaced by online meetings and virtual conferencing.

In the early nineties a computer scientist named Pavel Curtis was working at a research and development company in Palo Alto. In his spare time, Curtis liked to play with MUDs, but he gave them a twist by introducing object oriented techniques to manipulate the various constructs in players’ virtual databases. Expanding upon and refining these techniques, Curtis eventually developed the first robust online meeting product and brought it to market in 1996. Other developers quickly followed suit with early prototypes that attempted to incorporate video conferencing and came bundled with popular browsers. The code for some of these early online meeting products is the backbone for some popular conferencing software still used today.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, other companies were working on products that would allow participants to schedule online meetings and share documents across synchronized desktops without client software, a distinct advantage. At last online meetings had become a viable (and less expensive!) alternative to face-to-face meetings.

Today’s Online Meetings

However the real explosion in online meeting software had to wait for the widespread proliferation of high-speed broadband. Today there are literally dozens of online meeting solutions, some providing enhancements like audio, video and video streaming as well as document and file sharing to streamline the online meeting experience. Consumers today are now presented with a wide selection when looking to select a software solution. Not only have greater features resulted in further options, but consumers can now benefit from online meeting software for a range of use cases, such as web conferencing, webinars, remote assistance, online presentations, etc.

Online meetings have come a long way from their humble beginnings as games.

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