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Have you ever tried to set up a video conference with people from different companies? Usually each business has their own, closed solution that only works for employees on the internal network. This usually results in significant time being wasted on exchanging and accepting contact details in order to get everyone into the call before each video meeting.
appear.in aims to make setting up a video conversation significantly easier. The new browser-based service enables video conversations with up to 6 participants, without any downloads, login or company-internal restrictions.
Users of appear.in enter rooms on a web page, rather than make calls to other users. Each room has its own unique link in the form: appear.in/roomname. The room name can be customized by the user, e.g. using their company, project or team name or the topic of meeting: appear.in/telenor or appear.in/future-vision2020.
To make the video room more personal or representative of the company or division, users can customize the look of their room as well as claim ownership of the room name so that they know the room is always available to them.
To invite people to a room, you can simply copy the room link and send it to the other participants in an e-mail, calendar invite, SMS or just tell it to them over the phone. Guests click on the link received and immediately enter the conversation.
appear.in is built on a new standard for browser-to-browser communication, called WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication). WebRTC enables web applications for voice calling, video chat, and peer-to-peer file sharing without any plugins. The standard is currently supported by the desktop browsers Chrome, Firefox and Opera, as well as Chrome and Firefox for Android mobile phones and tablets, thus making services like appear.in available on around 1 billion connected devices.
The engineering team behind appear.in in Telenor Digital has gained significant experience with WebRTC from having worked with the open source project for 1.5 years.
“We believe that WebRTC will become the dominant standard for communication on the Internet. It has been important for us to be at the forefront of this trend and build technological competence to allow us to identify opportunities for new products. appear.in is a great example of how easy it is to build new services with WebRTC” says Rolv-Erik Spilling, CEO of Telenor Digital.
Started as a summer project
During the summer of 2013, a group of computer science interns from NTNU and Chalmers University were assigned a project of experimenting with video calling over WebRTC. Two weeks after project started, they had a working prototype of appear.in running.
On August 5 an early beta version of appear.in was opened to the public to see if there was a need for a service of this kind. The feedback from users was unanimously positive, such as from this user on Twitter: “”appear.in is magical – online hangouts as they should be done”
Since August a team of 8 has been working hard to understand the ways appear.in is utilised and how to best make the user experience competitive to major services such as Skype and Google Hangouts. Without a marketing budget, the service has been used in 175 countries to date, spreading through activity on social media and viral recommendations.
The appear.in team is in frequent contact with other heavyweight global web development companies that are also pioneering the WebRTC standard. For example, the team has a good cooperation with Norwegian browser vendor Opera, whose headquarters are also located in Oslo. Furthermore, the appear.in team has benefited from the cooperation between Telenor and Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser.
The goal of appear.in is to make talking over video so easy and convenient that it feels as natural as picking up the phone. “We see appear.in being used for a lot of unexpected things both in the business world and for personal use; daily team meetings, parents tutoring their kids at university, monitoring sleeping babies, checking whether the coffee pot in the office is full – these are just some examples. In total, close to 50 000 unique rooms have been used to connect people across the globe,” says Svein Willassen, Tech Lead for appear.in in Telenor Digital.