Home TokBox & EtherPad: Video Chat Gets Real-Time Document Editing

TokBox & EtherPad: Video Chat Gets Real-Time Document Editing

TokBox is one of the most fully-featured video chat platforms available. Like TinyChat, ooVoo, and other services, it has a close connection with social networks and other forms of sharing content. But it didn’t have the kind of document-handling capabilities that could make it useful for more than just talking with friends and family or holding meetings. Now that’s changed, because by integrating with EtherPad, you can now collaborate on documents in real time right within a TokBox group chat. Soon you’ll also be able to add TokBox video chats to your private company EtherPads as well.

Filling Holes in Both Services

TokBox is basically a video chat service that adds a flavor of a social network. You can friend other TokBox users, embed it in Facebook, or use the desktop Adobe AIR app. What it didn’t really have was an easy way to work with others on a document. Including EtherPad is the ideal way to fill that hole in the service. Alternatives to TokBox include Tinychat (which recently got an upgrade), Gmail and iGoogle video, and ooVoo.

EtherPad is one of the most innovative collaboration tools available on a SaaS basis. Simple color coding of text keeps track of who’s doing what in a way that Google Docs and Zoho Writer can’t, making it perfect for quick collaboration in a small group. Originally it was a side project built as a demo, but the company behind it recently folded up its other endeavors to make EtherPad a useful tool for consumers and in the enterprise.

While the technical mechanisms for tracking revisions and such have always been decent in EtherPad, it can be difficult to get good feedback from people you collaborate with. There’s a chat feature included, but it’s just bare bones. EtherPad needed something more social to tie in with its textual features. That something is video chat from TokBox.

Really Real Time

Adding an EtherPad to a video chat was extremely easy. You just open an EtherPad, copy the URL, and paste it into a drop-down menu for sharing in TokBox. Your document then automatically becomes a part of the chat, and revisions are saved that you can access when you’re done.

The integration worked quite well in terms of quality. There was very little lag in the video after adding an EtherPad. The document editing was just as fast as using a regular EtherPad as well. For a service that dubs itself the only “really real-time” editor, maintaining that characteristic is vital.

If I were to make one criticism, it would be that it could be easier to adjust the screen real estate of either part. People are going to want varying ratios based on personal preference, so click-and-drag resizing would be a nice addition.

The next step for the roadmap of the two companies is using the TokBox API to include chats directly within EtherPads. Since TokBox is oriented to consumer use, that will be the avenue for businesses to get the privacy they need. That will make the integration really useful in our opinion, and keep EtherPad afloat with paid versions.

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