Date

Authors: 

1. Introduction

Year 2017 was marked by 10th anniversary of the project. To highlight this date we've summarized the experience of Russian developers team. OpenMeetings  has become a prominent representative of open web conferencing solutions and  has acquired interesting story and multiple user acceptance. Its example enables to trace how this type of free projects arise, live and evolve.

2. Open-source web-conferencing systems

About five open software solutions for web conferencing are world-wise known. They serve not only as applications, but also as educational specimens, enabling interested engineers to understand the stuff of such software solutions and to create their solutions on their basis. Table below presents the comparative technical characteristics of four known free web conferencing software systems: 

System, licenseProgramming technologiesServer Requirements

Client Requirements

Server OSs

Support

OpenMeetings (OM),

Apache [1] 

Red5, Java, Adobe Flash,

HTML5 

Java, Relational Database

(MySQL, Derby,...), OpenOfficea,

swf Toolsa

Flash Pluginb, JRE 8a

Linux, Win,

macOS

BigBlueButton (BBB),

LGPL [2]

Red5, Java, Adobe Flash,

HTML5, WebRTC, Redis

Java, MySQL, Redis,

OpenOfficea, MongoDBa,

swf Toolsa, FreeSWITCHa

Flash plugin

Linux

MConf =

BBB + own development,

LGPL+ AGPL [3]

Red5, Java, Ruby, Adobe Flash,

HTML5, WebRTC, Redis

Java, Ruby on Rails, Chef,

MongoDB, MySQL, Redis,

OpenOfficea, swf Toolsa

Flash plugin

Linux

WebHuddle, GPLv2 [4]

Java, JBoss

Java, JBoss, OpenOfficea,

Xvfb a

Java plugin

Windows, Linux,

macOS
a  optional requirements for extending the system functionality  
b  the latest versions of web browsers include Flash Plugin by default, for older versions it may be necessary to install it
c  presence of a web browser on the client machine is implied

OpenMeetings and BBB

These products are close in terms of software technologies used and the requirements for server and client software. But OM requires only one database for its server part, and for BBB it is required to install at least two different databases. Both systems have mobile applications. The main differences for users are in the interface and suitable operating systems.

MConf

The distinctive feature of this project is that it arose on the base of the BBB project. MConf developers made an additional large component, a web portal that helps to monitor and balance load within web conferencing servers net, thus optimizing it.

WebHuddle

The project is less developed than the three discussed above in both technological and functional aspects. For example, it does not support the transfer of video. It works as browser java applet however java applets technology is not supported by the last versions of browsers by default.

What’s important for user 

Audio/video transfer quality can be reliably compared only by sequentially launching OM, BBB and MCоnf under the same conditions. Their declared parameters do not differ much from each other.

The maximum number of people in one web conference is roughly the same - about 100 users in webinar / lecture format. This implies one or more conference leaders speaking, while others listen and can ask questions in chat, or become active by video/audio. However, in general, the maximum number of participants depends on video windows size and number used and the network bandwidth between the server and participants.

License. OM, BBB and MConf have free licenses permitting commercial use. Our team for >more than 5 years has implemented dozens of such projects for customers from all over the world.

Open source code of these projects provides additional opportunities - this is a complete security check, integration and customization.

Integration with other systems is well performed for OpenMeetings and BBB. These projects have ready plug-ins for most modern site management systems (CMS): Moodle, Drupal, WordPress, Bitrix, etc. Plugins help users switch from the site/portal to virtual room by a direct link without a password. Due to integration with the site/portal user management system, web conferencing system allows user to enter the room with the same name and requisites that he uses on the site/portal.

Besides, an engineer can integrate system, similar to OM, with a set of other systems, using open SOAP/REST API web services as a tool. Our team has experience of integration with SIP/VOIP, CRM, Wiki systems, project management and payment systems.

Customization is significant for those who need to accent their unique branding or make some change of functionality. Power users with good computing skills can do it on their own.

Security check. Though the integration and customization through various APIs already has become the market proposal of some closed projects, the security of the code is a priori advantage of open projects in which all the code can be checked for 100%. In combination with the ability to install on the customer's own server under the control of the desired operating system and use of secure protocols, this gives a complete check and control over the web conferencing channel. For certain categories of customers, security is a crucial factor of choice.

3. OpenMeetings History and Development

The author of the project German developer Sebastian Wagner released the first version of OpenMeetings in 2007. The project has been successfully developed through the introduction to a number of German universities to support the education process.

Since 2009 the project became open which helped to involve other developers from different countries. Since May, 2009 the project has been developed and implemented also by Russian programming developers. The Telecom-Express company which localized the project for the Russian customers was the first. Then the same design team continued development of the project with Dataved company. Gradually the main program development and project technical support moved to Russia. Few years ago, Novosibirsk center of information technologies Unipro became the corporate evangelist of the project.

In the meantime, web conferencing services based on OpenMeetings formally are offered by about a dozen companies around the world. Since 2012, the project is being developed under the auspices of open-source devoted Apache Software Foundation (ASF) [5] possessing the same license, which allows it to be used in commercial projects. The chair and architect of the Apache OpenMeetings project in ASF is Maxim Solodovnik.

OM project is presented on a regular basis at the international conference ApacheCon. During 4 years project has been participating in Google Summer of Code attracting talented students, who put to good effect knowledge of new technological trends for project development under leadership of project programming architect with Apache Chair status. 

Apart of its popular free license ASF provides free projects with a variety of convenient services, eliminating the need for developers to install a large set of software on their servers and to support the appropriate technical processes. OM project uses almost all of Apache ready-to-use services, which significantly facilitates project workflows, thus allowing to focus more effectively on the development process.

4. OpenMeetings (OM) Functionality, Architecture, Usage tips, WebRTC alternative, Ongoing technical re-factoring, Users variety, Service types   

are described below in according Child pages in their state related to 2017