Web Conferencing With Dimdim

For a while I’ve been wanting to write several articles on the power of open source and its potential covering multiple software applications that I have run into and this is definitely on of those cases.

In this economical downturn, the use of open source will be more attractive than ever as a strategy to keep costs under control when being asked to do more with less.

This industry was defined and dominated by a company called Webex in the mid nineties which was later acquired by Cisco Systems. Although a very powerful application, it remained accessible to only those who could afford its high price tag.

Over the years several companies tried unsuccessfully to dethrone Webex, which remained intact most probably due to its reliability and stability.

In 2004, Citrix Systems brought the capability of performing web conferencing to the desktop cornering an untapped consumer/smb market and reigning king.

At the time GoToMeeting emerged, WebEx, LiveNote and others catered mostly to large corporations and sales divisions, entering in six-figure contracts. Citrix Online released GoToMeeting on an “all you can meet” basis, with one monthly (or annual charge) based on the number of authorized hosts. This pricing model was unique at the time, but has since been copied by competitors.

Late 2006 I started looking at open source alternatives to the Webex’s of the world and stumbled upon Dimdim while browsing through the goldmines of Freshmeat and Sourceforge.

The software at that point was still in alpha version 1.6. Installation was pretty straight forward once tomcat was installed and a plus was the possibility of integration with Moodle, an open source Course Management System (CMS).

Unfortunately the stability of the package was not there. Another package I looked at was Yugma which is a web based web conferencing service. Again it just wasn’t there.

Two years later and Dimdim has gone from Alpha to Beta and now Dimdim has exited Beta with version 4.5.

Dimdim‘s installation is far more complicated than earlier versions requiring several Python packages, and building and compiling other applications that support Dimdim. My first attempt at performing the installation was unsuccessful but a VM Appliance which is also provided under GPL3 license came up without a hitch.

The web service Dimdim works right out of the box and appears to be reliable and stable. Scalability will be my next test on this VMware appliance with 1Gb of RAM, to determine if it can handle 2-3 conferences and upward of 50 users.

Promising features include integration with other open source industry leaders.

Dimdim’s commitment to open source software development is supported by integrations with industry-leaders:

  • Zimbra: Dimdim now offers a free zimlet for Zimbra’s open source email system;
  • Moodle: Dimdim is integrated with version 1.9 of Moodle’s Course Management System;
  • SugarCRM: Dimdim is integrated with the leading open source customer relationship management system,
  • Claroline: Dimdim is embedded within with the collaborative learning environment.