PLATO: The Ideal Form of Webinar-ness
The earliest iteration of collaboration programming was undoubtedly the PLATO computer learning system, which was launched in 1960 at the University of Illinois.
Its focus was on education and student success, and featured some of the earliest versions of online message boards and remote screen sharing. Such features would become commonplace in later products.
PLATO remained in use well into the 1990s, and some of its developers went on to make the video games Quake and Doom.
Communicate with Communique
The first public teleconference product to be released was called Communique. Launched in 1992 by InSoft, Communique featured application sharing, audio controls, and an early form of whiteboarding.
An update in 1994 added a “Virtual Conference Room” feature that showed participants as icons. At the time, the product was seen as a must-have for computer-connected businesses. In 1996, Netscape purchased Communique, and InSoft at large, for $161 million.
CU-See-Me was also launched in 1992. It allowed schools to connect across continents via audio and video, at 1-2 frames per second.
Web Collaboration Goes Mainstream
In May 1995, PictureTel launches LiveShare Plus, a Windows-based data collaboration system. It cost $249 per computer and came on a large ol’ floppy disk. The following year, Microsoft announces NetMeeting, “the internet’s first real-time communications client.” It is included in Internet Explorer 3.0 and was discontinued along with Windows XP.
The first large-scale webinar software was PlaceWare Auditorium, launched in 1997. It allowed for up to 1000 real-time attendees and was the first to make use of a separate “audience” that the presenter could poll and take questions from. It was launched in 1997 at $150 per simultaneous user.
WebEx launched in 1999 and was acquired by Cisco in 2007 at a value of $3.2 billion!
The WEB...inar is Born
A trademark for the term WEBinar was registered in 1998 by an Eric Korb, and reassigned to InterCall. It would lapse in 2008. The word "webinar" is a portmanteau (a word itself created in the Jabberwocky poem) of “web” and “seminar,” and is actually despised by linguists.
See, “-inar” is not a valid root phrase, and was listed in Lake Superior University’s 2008 list of banished words. However, cooler heads prevailed, and it was included in that same year’s version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
"Jabberwocky" is considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English.
Webinars are everywhere
A webinar happens every 2 seconds*. That's like creating a new Netflix every ten days. The speed and affordability of webinars compared to live events make them the most popular choice to reach audiences. No timezones, borders, or expense reports make them ubiquitous. "Simu-live" becomes the biggest trend of the year when brands pre-record webinars and play them at scheduled times with live Q&A.
Cisco Webex, GoToMeeting (GoToWebinar), Zoom, Adobe and On24 are the top 5 webinar platforms.
*Based on research by Cisco, GoToWebinar and Parmonic.
2019 and beyond
The distracted society
Unread emails, Slack notifications, texts and countless back-to-back meetings drench people in constant diversions. Attention spans go down as everyone is always running or on their smartphone. Netflix introduces mini-episodes and businesses now compete with TikTok for viewer attention.
Parmonic launches the Webinar Snackification Movement.