Even before the Internet as we know existed, predictions of life in the future involved video calling. How many sci-fi movies or futuristic TV shows did you see when you were a kid that depicted one person seeing another person on a screen and talking with them in real time? Thunderbirds are go!
The interesting thing is that even though the technology exists on the Internet today that allows us to chat to each-other on video in real time, this service has still not really taken off. Most of us thought that Skype would be ‘all over’ the growth in the market, however, the uptake of real time video calling seems to be relatively slow compared to other web based communication technology and services such as the text and image based IM and email.
New start-up Tokbox think that this is all about to change. Tokbox is a free service that allows users to talk with their friends via video web-cams in real-time. Unlike Skype, Tokbox users do not need to download client software. This is a key feature of the Tokbox service offering as it simplifies the process of video calling online for the masses.
With Tokbox, the process of setting up a real-time video conference with anyone is as simple as sending a link to the person that you want to speak with. I signed up for the service today and it was super simple. Name, email address and password is all that is required and you are all set to video call for free.From a business perspective the investment and advisory resources that Tokbox have acquired are impressive to say the least. The are, in a lot of ways, a YouTube protege’. The co-founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim, has a financial stake-holding in Tokbox and also sits on the board. Sequoia Capital who made billions by investing in and then selling YouTube also plan to announce a $4 million investment in Tokbox today. Tokbox are also currently using the same office space that YouTube grew out of, that’s gotta be a bit of a good omen right?
Obviously, there are a number of similarities in the challenges that Tokbox will face compared to those that Youtube faced as it grew like crazy. There are serious levels of investment required in the area of data storage when an organization builds a business around free online video services. From this perspective the partnership between Sequoia and Tokbox seems like a match made in heaven.