Some of you may still remember Netmeeting. It is still a component of Microsofts operating systems, but not a very well known much less popular one nowadays. It was the first mainstream method to communicate online with a web cam. It was designed as a point-to-point application and directories to find others were spread out over the internet without any central database.
Fast forward, almost ten years later. It’s rarely called video conferencing now, but web cam chat. It’s still the same thing, it just has a different name and has become quite a hype.
Most cam chat rooms utilize Adobes Flash for the chat front end with the Flash Application server as back end. The technology is good, but expensive, as the flash application server does not run very cheap and needs quite a bit of server power to do its job. There are several large cam chats working with that technology already, providing decent resolution real time video.
However, not long ago a new player entered the ring: Red5. Red5 is an open source flash application server much faster and more accessible than the monster created by Adobe. It is in beta state, but already is so stable that several sites have been launching self-made video chat rooms.
Once a technology becomes available to the open source community, commercial products often need to step back. Red5 proves this on one site in particular: Vagipe. Vagipe is a completely free web cam chat site allowing users to view up to five high resolution video streams at once, something unthinkable before. No cost for the application, very low resource use, and one lonely hobbyist can give away for free what needed quite a lot of money and manpower before.
Red5 is still not too well known, but it will be interesting to see what others come up with once the developer community starts to focus on this new piece of software.