SightSpeed Business Upgrade Adds 9-way Video

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Tom Keating
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SightSpeed Business Upgrade Adds 9-way Video

Today, SightSpeed will announce a significant upgrade to SightSpeed Business, which was launched last fall. The new version offers simultaneous 9-way video and text chat. I'm a huge fan of SightSpeed, which doesn't get nearly the amount of attention that Skype gets yet has some features Skype lacks. Check out my 2006 review of SightSpeed 5.0. It was impressive then (2 years ago), with cool Slingbox functionality, and support for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so I'm sure it's much better now.

Certainly with 9-way video and text chat that puts SightSpeed in a league of its own. I'm not aware of any 100% software-based videoconferencing solutions that scale up to 9-way videoconferencing. I'd be curious to know what video codec SightSpeed is using to keep bandwidth relatively low. Also, are they using a centralized server/MCU to mux the 9 video streams and then send the muxed video to the 9 participants? Or is it 100% peer-to-peer (P2P)?

If it is P2P, then each PC/Mac/Linux SightSpeed user has to send their video (& audio) to 8 other SightSpeed users. Assuming 200kbps per video/audio stream that's 8 X 200kbps = 1.6Mbps of upstream & downstream bandwidth required per user. DSL users are often limited to just 512kbps or even 256kbps upstream. I know SightSpeed uses SIP and is a big proponent of P2P SIP. Well, I came across an article where Aron Rosenberg, Founder & CTO of SightSpeed says, "SightSpeed uses central servers for the signaling and authentication protocol and Peer-to-Peer for the actual video and audio traffic." Hmmm, I guess I'll have to find out more about how this new version is able to squeeze 9 video/audio streams using P2P for high-quality videoconferencing.

In the meantime, here's a screenshot of SightSpeed 5.0 just to give you a feel for their nice interface.

Update: Found a screenshot of the 9-way video and some other info I thought I'd share:

In addition to the 9-way feature, SightSpeed Business includes new audio codecs, resulting in enhanced wideband audio for conferences, array mics and improved performance for Windows Vista users. Interestingly, their press release states, "While other providers of business-grade, multi-party video conferencing require dedicated, high-capacity bandwidth - often T1 and above - or a co-located server to make their systems work, SightSpeed Business requires nothing more than consumer broadband." Hmmm. So even a DSL user with a paltry 256Kbps upstream can participate in 9-way video? What sort of mysterious video compression magic are they doing? Lastly, SightSpeed Business is priced at $19.95 per user per month.

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