Zipcast from SlideShare Makes Web Presentations Oh So Easy

SlideShare, the popular presentation hosting, sharing and perusal website, launched a new feature today that allows users to host a live one-way video presentation right next to the deck they are discussing. The feature, called Zipcast, allows users to do video beside any presentation – their own or someone else’s.

The feature is free and ad supported for basic users – SlideShare says it now sees an amazing 45 million unique visitors each month. Premium users who pay $19 per month have ads removed and can password protect the presentations. I just tested it for 30 minutes with between 30 and 40 people, viewing from all around the world. The verdict? Video quality could be a little higher (that might be my connection) but overall an excellent experience.

Participants can watch and listen in their browsers and use a text chat box. They can also call in to listen, through a partnership with Presenters can control the advancing of slides, but viewers can go back and forth themselves as well.

As part of the launch of the new feature, the company has lined up 20 well-known tech industry presenters who will be giving deck ‘n’ vid chats throughout the rest of the week.

SlideShare says it has developed the ability to record videos for replay alongside presentations, but will release that feature at a later date. Two way video communication is also in the works, but latency is far less an issue when it’s one person speaking to many. More advanced ZipCast-specific analytics may be forthcoming, but hair and make-up as a service isn’t anything to hold your breath for.

The video transmission is performed in part with HTML5 web sockets. Slideshare is using video chat API OpenTok and London-based PusherApp. The resulting display is in Adobe Flash. SlideShare’s Ross Mayfield says more HTML5 is on the way, too.

Will I use ZipCast in the future? I’d sure like to. I’d like to use it regularly, it’s really fast, easy, effective, compelling and fun to use. The fact that it was able to handle 40 viewers at once made me happy, too. Good job, SlideShare.