Dimdim Web meeting service adds collaboration options

Some of the update's features, however, are only available with paid versions of the service

As businesses turn to cloud computing and Web conferencing to save money, online meeting service provider Dimdim looks to capitalize on both movements with its latest product upgrade.

Dimdim 6.0, released Tuesday, updates the service's desktop screen-sharing and video conferencing features and adds collaboration tools.

The service works by hosting Web meetings in the cloud, so using Dimdim only requires a browser -- software downloads are not necessary. Users are given a permanent URL, hosted on Dimdim's servers, that allows them to conduct or join meetings. Dimdim works with all browsers and OSes, according to the company, which is located in Lowell, Massachusetts.

"We live in the browser," said Steve Chazin, Dimdim's chief marketing officer. "Anything you can do in-office looking over someone's shoulder you can do online."

With businesses cutting travel budgets, companies are turning to online meetings, he said.

Chazin emphasized the updated desktop screen-sharing option, called MyScreen, as one of Dimdim 6's new additions.

MyScreen now allows meeting organizers to select what portions of their desktop they share with participants. The person running the meeting moves a pop-up window around the desktop, allowing only the areas of the desktop they select to appear on the screens of other people in the meeting. The updated MyScreen function also permits the person running the meeting to share applications with other attendees.

In earlier versions of Dimdim, the video conferencing function only allowed participants to see one other person in the meeting. Dimdim 6 permits four people to be visible and adds a full-screen video conferencing feature.

Chazin also talked up Dimdim's collaboration features, calling the service's ability to share documents "one of its strongest features."

Dimdim 6 gives users a secure library to store all their documents, the company said. Dimdim supports all document formats so users can upload, for example, a Microsoft Word document or PowerPoint presentation to Dimdim's servers and then share the files with other participants.

Other new collaboration options include a polling feature and the ability to share Web content.

The polling option allows the person running the meeting to create a poll to vote on during a meeting to gage participants' reactions to a meeting's progress.

Meeting organizers can share URLs to YouTube videos and Picasa photo albums by pasting a link to the page in their MyScreen display. Other Web content can also be displayed by pasting the embed code.

A basic version of Dimdim is free for a conference of up to 10 people.

For larger meetings and to use the more advanced options, such as four-person video chat and application sharing, businesses need to purchase a premium version of the service. Dimdim's paid versions, which offer more advanced features, can serve larger conferences. Dimdim Pro costs US$25 a month for a meeting of up to 50 people. Dimdim Webinar sells for $65 a month for a meeting of up to 50 people and events with 1,000 participants. Dimdim Business is $33 per user per month for unlimited meetings of up to 100 people.

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