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Web conferencing is used to conduct live meetings or presentations over the Internet. In the early years of the Internet, the terms "web conferencing" and "computer conferencing" were often used to refer to group discussions conducted within a message board (via posted text messages) therefore not live, but the term has evolved to refer specifically to "live" or "synchronous" meetings, while the posted message variety of discussion is called a "forum", "message board", or "bulletin board
In a web conference, each participant sits at his or her own computer, and is connected to other participants via the internet.
Web conferencing can be particularly effective for applications such as salesforce training or presentations to large, dispersed groups. Web conferencing usually requires only a computer with an Internet browser and an Internet connection of 56kbps or above. Web conferencing may also offer several other options such as web-based chat, tools to annotate presentations, streaming audio and video.
A webinar is a type of web conference, that tends to be mostly one-way, from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction, such as in a Webcast, which is transmission of information in one direction only, like watching a concert on the internet. A webinar however, can be very collaborative, and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. A webinar is 'live' in the sense that information is conveyed according to an agenda, with a starting and ending time. In most cases, the presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, pointing out information being presented on screen, and the audience can respond over their own telephones, preferably a speakerphone.
Web conferencing as a technology is highly complementary to both video and voice conferencing. Web conferences are nearly always accompanied by voice or video conferences. Web conferencing can also be an ideal supplement to a video conference for participants who do not have access to a video endpoint.
Adding web to video communications extends a meeting beyond the conference room. Audio participants can be involved more fully by sharing the desktop or viewing the same presentation that video participants are seeing.