A brief history of webinars

Evolution of webinars infographic

Webinars or online seminars have become integral to our life long ago. Yet, few of us had ever thought about the webinar history, e.g., when and where they appeared or what their predecessors were. Today we offer you a brief insight into this wonderful technology.

The Beginnings of Webinars and Video Conferencing

The so-called “web conferencing” appeared already in the 1960s. In the 1950s, the technological revolution was raging. The rapid development of this field caused deficits in the IT market. There needed to be more experts, and the needs were much higher. Additionally, universities could only ensure a faster influx of people educated in this field if they had a limited number of places. As we know, an idea will appear wherever there is a need.

Extensive research in the USA led to the creation of the PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) system. It was the first system (pretty similar as modern webinar platforms) in history to enable people worldwide to learn. For this reason, we can call it the prototype of modern webinars. It offered, for example, a chat, a forum, and the possibility of exchanging documents. The PLATO system proved adaptable, undergoing modifications and remaining in use until 2006.

In 1975, the PLATO system allowed 100 — 150 people to participate in a meeting at the same time. It may seem unbelievable, but there was one catch — to operate this system, you needed a very expensive computer, the price of which reached $12,000 (in 2018, it would be the equivalent of about $60,000).

PLATO was undoubtedly a groundbreaking system. We can consider him a true forerunner. Interestingly, the creators created the computer games Quake and Doom!

Breakthrough ideas ignite fast-paced development. This led to an explosion of remote solutions in just a few short years.

We owe the foundations of today’s Internet to the creator of the World Wide Web, an Englishman, Tim Berners-Lee. You had to enter a specific address to find the information you were looking for.

Communication systems

The first real-time text communication systems, such as IRC, appeared in the 1980s. In the mid-1990s, web chats and programs for instant message exchange appeared. The years 1993-95 were the time of the first streams, such as rock concerts.

The 1990s saw the creation of a system that connected schools throughout the USA. The CU-SeeMe system also enabled conferences between participants. In addition, it was possible to conduct remote classes in real time… Sound familiar?

1992 marked the debut of the Communiqué system. It was the first teleconferencing system available to users. It allowed for sharing applications, using audio, and an early form of whiteboarding. 1994 marked a major update for the program. From then on, Communiqué represented participants as icons, earning a “must-have” reputation among businesses embracing computers. Its success led to a $161 million acquisition by InSoft in 1996!

First programs

In 1995, PictureTel introduced its new LiveShare Plus program. It was an application that allowed you to show and share your screen, send files to other users, and communicate in chat. The program is compatible with Windows computers. It was on a floppy disk!

The first open web conferences appeared in May 1996, thanks to Microsoft, which released NetMeeting. This program looked like a built-in plug-in for Internet Explorer 3.0. NetMeeting allowed for the exchange of information in real-time. However, there was a hurdle here as both programs did not support voice sharing.

A year later, in 1997, a program called Auditorium revolutionized communication. It paved the way for the voice calls we know today. His license cost $150 per computer. In addition to this function, sharing graphics, presentations, and chat was possible. Later versions of the program allowed as many as 1,000 people to participate in the conference. The program was the first to enable the creation of an individual set of participants. The presenter could ask survey questions there.

This period saw the creation of similar programs, and the term “webinar” entered popular use. In 1998, Eric R. Korb registered a trademark for the term “WEBinar”. InterCall currently owns this sign. Later, in 2006, Learn.com also registered a trademark, this time written only in lowercase letters, “webinar.” InterCall and Learn.com ended in 2007. Since then, the “webinar” name has entered the general lexicon and lost its trademark status.

The first-ever webinar app

PlaceWare was the first webinar application that Xerox PARC released in 1996.

Thanks to this program, one or several users could give an online presentation to hundreds or even thousands of listeners worldwide. In addition, the PlaceWare application offered other videoconferencing possibilities: surveys, private chat, and invitations to other webinar participants to speak during the broadcast.

In 1999, the company Cisco developed WebEx Meeting Center software. It offered the possibility of holding webinars for up to 1,000 simultaneous attendees.

From 2000 on, more and more webinar service providers started appearing on the market: MyOwnConference, GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and ClickWebinar. Webinar software gets more functional yearly, with added value features by understanding users needs.

To sum it up

We see that the history of webinars goes back only several dozen years, but during that time, webinar technology and websites for conducting them have developed dynamically, transforming their impact on communication and education. Early forms of webinar technology emerged in the 1960s, evolving into the powerful tools we use today. The idea of remote learning and connecting from different places in the world has long fascinated humanity, which resulted in a very dynamic development of this field. In 2017, a new webinar started every two seconds.

What is webinar and when it appeared?

Webinar or web conferencing has a pretty long history. First it appeared already in the 1960s. The first real-time text communication systems, such as IRC, appeared in the 1980s. In the mid-1990s, web chats and programs for instant message exchange appeared. The years 1993-95 were the time of the first streams, such as rock concerts.

What opportunities give webinars?

Webinars give us a lot of opportunities, especially for people who, for example, due to their location, would not be able to participate in stationary classes. There are many reasons that may block access to education: lack of money to change the place of residence in order to attend university, illness, or even the current pandemic.

Simplified online meeting and webinar software platform MyOwnConference
Dan Daemon

An expert behind the simplified online meeting and webinar software platform, MyOwnConference. In today’s flexible work environment, Dan offers invaluable life hacks, in-depth reviews, and savvy tips for organizing, promoting, and excelling in virtual conferences and webinars.

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