All roads lead to VNC

There's one thing I wish screensharing systems would do well: screensharing. I watch a lot of demos projected to my computer. It's always a struggle, both for the presenter and for me. Windows or Mac? IE or Firefox? Who has the latest version of the client? Who's the host? Which application is shared? Can you see my screen?

While we answer these questions, the first five or ten minutes of every meeting swirl down the drain. I've used every screensharing system and, from this perspective, they're roughly the same. None performs its basic function simply and well. All are determined to add whiteboards, chat, and filing systems. In principle these are useful features. In practice, for most people most of the time, they're just not usable. [Full story at]

Several readers have pointed out, in email, that Glance delivers the "do one thing well" experience. Having just tried it, I agree. The VNC-based projector is for Windows-only, but anyone can connect using VNC's Java viewer. It's nicely done. For companies doing lots of demos, the $120/month corporate rate is reasonable. At $50/month, though, the personal rate is too pricey for occasional ad-hoc use.

Other readers ask: Why not just use VNC directly? I do, all the time, but most civilians don't control their own firewalls and so VNC is a non-starter for them. Which leads me to a question of my own: Are there free or less-expensive solutions for firewalled VNC projectors?

Update: Glance founder/CEO Rich Baker reports:

Our initial version used VNC's engine inside a wrapper. We built a proxy that allowed the engine to connect using our call model, added tunneling, multipoint, etc., and eventually changed out the VNC engine as well. So today's Glance service runs entirely on our own code base.

Glance sessions still start using TCP on VNC's 5500 port. Failing that, it automatically tunnels HTTP to port 80. If a guest on a PC doesn't have Java (or has a version of Java that has a nasty bug or is slow (Microsoft's old JVM) or is damaged in some way), Glance automatically pushes a tiny ActiveX viewer or an executable viewer. This allows us to connect to nearly any PC. Macs come with a great version of Java. Likewise, most Linux folks have a Java-enabled browser. So we can connect to nearly anyone.

Our goal is to keep the UI spare and the footprint light. We are adding some capabilities in the near future, hopefully without compromising simplicity.

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