join.me Offers Cool, Free Alternative for Virtual Meetings

Technology has advanced the way we communicate, especially in the workplace.  The simple conference call has given way to virtual meetings via video.  At my company, we use GoToMeeting for webinars, conference calls and product demos.  But a competitor is looming on the horizon that might give other market players a run for their money.

join.me is a free screen sharing service that is very simple to use.  You don’t have to register or download anything to use join.me. Participants on a PC or Mac go to join.me and type a multi-digit code or "personal link" in the join box.  Then the presenter’s screen opens in each attendee’s web browser, which can be up to 250 participants. 

You can pause screen sharing, text with visitors, share documents and allow participants to take control of the screen.  You can also kick out visitors!  Mobile device users can join meetings once they have the free mobile viewer, but the mobile version doesn’t allow for screen sharing.  So essentially with join.me, you can connect to a meeting anywhere quickly and easily.

So where does join.me excel compared to GoToMeeting?  GoToMeeting takes a while to boot up, while join.me is very fast.  I also like the fact that I don’t have to exit my web browser to view a screen.  Since join.me is free, I can easily see it being widely used by employees, while GoToMeeting has to be purchased before use.  The consumerization of IT is all about employees evangelizing the product and convincing corporations that the product needs to be used within the company. 

Once join.me is being used on a widespread basis, employees will probably want to upgrade to the Pro version so they can have the ability to schedule meetings, switch presenters and use the product internationally, which would be great for my company so we could communicate with our European division.

The price for upgrading to the Pro version of join.me is either $19 per user per month, or $149 per user for an annual subscription. They do offer a free 14-day trial.

But old habits are hard to break.  We’re very used to conducting our webinars in GoToMeeting, and we have the ability to download attendee reports easily, which is important for follow-up.  GoToMeeting can record meetings and webinars.  We keep an archive of recorded webinars that anyone can watch at a later time.  GoToMeeting is $30 more per month than join.me, but given the extra features, it probably makes paying an extra $30 a worthwhile investment.

GoToMeeting is ideal for external conferencing and for companies who know the value of virtual meetings and educational opportunities.  join.me seems like a great internal resource.  It’s easy, there is no registration and it allows you to be spontaneous with your meetings.  

My company has a history of trying many different screen-sharing products – we used to use a product called Dimdim before Salesforce acquired it.  Externally, we’ve also used WebEx, but found GoToMeeting to be a better fit. 

Any market players today have to offer a free service along with an upgraded fee-based service since free options are widely available.  When a service is free, there is less excuse to refuse to use it. 

But here’s what products like join.me make me think of:  if a service is free and employees start using it because it’s easier, what kind of security issues will arise?  How will the CIO deal with this situation?

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