History of Webinars

A brief webinar history

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 Videoconferencing

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.

Thanks to long-term research, the PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) system was created in the USA. 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. Interestingly, the PLATO system was used in a modified form 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!

Once a breakthrough idea is created, development occurs very quickly, which is why the following years resulted in even more remote solutions.

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.

In the 1990s, a system connecting schools in the USA was also created. The CU-SeeMe system also enabled conferences between participants. In addition, it was possible to conduct remote classes in real time… sound familiar?

In 1992, the Communique system was created. It was the first teleconferencing system available to users. It allowed for sharing applications, using audio, and an early form of whiteboarding. In 1994, the program was updated. From this point on, the participants were shown as icons. Communique was considered a “must-have” in companies or businesses that used computers. In 1996, Communique was bought by InSoft for $161 million!

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 could be installed on computers running Windows. 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.

The beginnings of voice calls were made possible by a program that appeared a year later, in 1997. It was called Auditorium. 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.

Other similar programs were also created around this time. The term “webinar” began to be used. In 1998, Eric R. Korb registered a trademark for the term “WEBinar”. Currently, this sign is assigned to InterCall. Later, in 2006, Learn.com also registered a trademark, this time written only in lowercase letters, “webinar.” In 2007, both InterCall and Learn.com were discontinued. Since then, the name has not been assigned as a trademark and has come into general use.

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: GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, ClickWebinar, and MyOwnConference. Webinar software gets more functional yearly, with added value features.

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. Webinars have only recently existed, but as we can see, their prototypes were created already in the 1960s. 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?

First of all, 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.

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