A new start-up company now enables those with Webcams and broadband Internet connections to have face-to-face talks inside their Web browsers. The new company is 6-month-old TokBox (www.tokbox.com), which allows users to have a live video chat via Webcam with other users.
Users can go to the TokBox site or can add it as a module to their “pages” on Web sites such as MySpace. The Beta program on the TokBox Web site allows users to have free live one-on-one conversations, or if the other party is not online at the time, a user can leave up to a 5-minute video message that the other party can retrieve later through the TokBox Web site. Personalized video voice conversations and video mail! This is a concept that everyone has talked about for the past 50 years as the next greatest coming, but it wasn’t really available until now.
Some of the same forward thinking (and now financially well connected) folks who brought us YouTube video are supporting TokBox, including Jawed Karim, a YouTube co-founder, who sits on the TokBox Board of Directors and is providing his own financial resources to the start-up company. And Sequoia Capital, the venture capital firm that started YouTube in its own offices, is expected to announce that it is investing $4 million into TokBox to help it become the next big communication tool on the Internet. It is also interesting that TokBox is located in the same office space at Sequoia Capital where YouTube had its beginning.
Other services, including Skype, AOL's AIM and Yahoo’s Messenger, permit live video chats but each party must first download the software and also must be online at the same time of the video chat. Being able to leave a message on TokBox is definitely a huge step forward. However, with new technology come new problems, such as massive storage requirements that will be needed to store video chats.
And, how is TokBox going to pay for the site? Currently, the beta is free, but we all know there is no free lunch for technology, even on the Internet. Somebody has to pay for the servers, the bandwidth and the storage to make the service work and continue to work. Advertising will likely be an avenue. So will services contracts that will require advance payment in order for companies to be able to use TokBox services to speak directly with their customers online.
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