Tokbox Videoconferencing Review

by Reads (14,683)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 6
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 7.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Seamless IM integration
    • No client to download
    • Up to 20 users per chat for free
  • Cons

    • Clunky social network tie-ins
    • Hard to share chat URLs
    • No desktop-sharing

By Dustin Sklavos

Tokbox aims itself clearly at the free consumer videoconferencing market, which sounds like an oxymoron. Is Tokbox really a paradigm-breaking success, or a solution in search of a problem? We break it down in this review.

In many ways, Tokbox feels like the consumer-bred cousin to Adobe’s ConnectNow; the large desktop-style interface speaks more to keeping up with friends and family than holding an important business meeting, and one of the most intriguing features has to be its integration with Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Google Chat.

Set Up

Tokbox IM friend add screenSet-up for Tokbox is just as easy as it is in Adobe Connect Now, if not a little easier. After signing up for an account (it needs only your first and last name, email address, password and age), it brings you to the window shown at the right.

Admittedly, this is pretty cool. And it works that easily. When you finally get into Tokbox, whichever services you signed in to will have their buddy lists pop up on the right side of the screen.

Tokbox desktopFrom here, it’s fairly easy to message someone to invite them to a video call.

Tokbox, like Adobe ConnectNow and Google Talk, immediately recognizes your webcam, microphone, and speaker configuration. As a result, the configuration is about as simple as it was in Adobe ConnectNow.

Popping into the set-up is easy enough and assuming your microphone was already properly configured — remember this is more likely to be a Windows issue than a video chat software issue — everything should be good to go when you get into it. I was a little confused by Tokbox locating two camera options on my machine since I only have one connected to the PC. Nonetheless, it was easy to choose the correct (as in real) camera.

In Practice

I’m going to admit that after using Adobe’s clean, spartan interface, Tokbox’s admittedly still spare desktop felt a little busy to me.

Tokbox video chatEschewing using the built-in chat clients, starting a video chat was actually a little more troublesome than I would’ve liked. While Adobe ConnectNow produced a very simple, easy-to-remember URL that you could tell someone over the phone, Tokbox’s invite URL had sixteen random letters and numbers in it, clearly designed to be copied and pasted. Worse, in fact, was that the window that pops up to allow you to copy and paste the URL don’t even show the entire thing; you actually have to copy and paste it into another window just to see the complete address.

Starting the video call offers you a plethora of options; Tokbox has its fingers in as many social pies as it can, with connections to MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter (ignoring the four IM clients already available to it).

Once I got into video chat, it was pretty basic and intuitive, though I don’t totally understand the predilection for showing your camera as large as the person you’re chatting with. This is something Adobe and ooVoo did, too.

One major step forward for Tokbox is the ability to chat with up to nineteen other people simultaneously — and for free. While the other clients have similar multi-chat functionality, Tokbox is the only one where it doesn’t cost money. Tokbox’s monetization scheme is a little different: They charge $9.99 a month for the ability to moderate video chats. It’s an interesting choice.

Using Tokbox wasn’t quite as easy as I would’ve liked, though. The only people I personally video chat with are on Gmail/Google Chat, and signing into Google Chat didn’t pull up my buddy list like it ought to have. The login and everything worked, they just didn’t show up, offline or otherwise.

Tokbox also doesn’t include a desktop-sharing feature like ooVoo and Adobe ConnectNow did, and that’s a feature that’s potentially very useful for people collaborating over a distance on any project large or small or even just sharing images with family and friends.

Conclusion

I think that despite the initial incredible ease-of-use with Tokbox, the interface doesn’t do a whole lot for me, and the spidering into other networking services is going to be a major factor in whether or not you want to use it. There are a lot of options in terms of messaging services, networking services, and so on; I personally use Trillian on my desktop to manage mine. Tokbox feels like a kind of a patch, or like a cherry placed on top of your communications sundae.

What really irked me, I think, was the length of the invite link. It seems like a small thing to copy-and-paste, but after the cheerfully obvious ones that Adobe ConnectNow produced, it feels backwards and unintuitive. Remember that this is how you’re getting other people to video chat with you; it might be easy enough to copy and paste into an IM window, but then there’s overlap with the integrated chat functions, or maybe you have AIM open in addition to…and you kind of see my problem.

It could be that I’m just a moron, but I’ve always felt like software that’s too feature-rich threatens to overwhelm the user. I don’t want thirty options if I can have just one really good one. But that’s a matter of personal taste, and Tokbox’s integration with other services may be a boon to you. The nice thing is that you can try it out for yourself for free (just like ooVoo and Adobe Connect Now), and their pricing scheme is both reasonable and entirely possible to do without. If you’re heavily invested in all manners of social networking, Tokbox could very well be the client for you.

PROS

  • Seamless IM integration
  • No client to download
  • Up to 20 users per chat for free

CONS

  • Clunky social network tie-ins
  • Hard to share chat URLs
  • No desktop-sharing



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