TokBox – A Useful Video-Conferencing Tool Or Something Sinister?
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 19 September 2007
The TokBox Video Chat Tool
The TokBox instant video chat tool was reviewed by TechCrunch in August 2007. As with several of the Web 2.0 services I’ve mentioned on this blog, Tokbox is very easy to set up and use: simply register for a (free) account and, assuming you have a Webcam and microphone available, that’s about it. You can simply invite your friends to visit your area on the ToxBox Web site and they can then have a video chat with you, as illustrated below (in which I’m chatting to my colleague Paul Walk).
As is the norm for many Web 2.0 services, TokBox can be embedded in other Web pages or blogs. And ToxBox makes use of tagging for identification of users (I’ve used the ‘ukoln’ tag to identify myself).
It also seems that ToxBox can support more than two users (the icon in the top right window shows the number of users).
The Hidden Dangers
Last week when I started to evaluate TokBox I used it with a number of colleagues in. On one Later on Paul came into my office, telling me that he had been watching me and it was obvious that I was unaware that Paul had connected to my ToxBox account and was viewing the video and listening to me talking to myself!
I had expected to approve anyone who wished to view my video feed, so I was surprised when this happened – although I realised that I would have missed a sound alert as I had turned down the sound on my loudspeaker.
Should we be worried about the privacy implications of TokBox? My view is that this is an educational issue and, once we understand how the application works, we will use it in ways which reflect our particular requirements (indeed, one person commented on the TechCrunch article that TokBox is “going to force me to blog in something other than my pajamas.”).
Although many video chat tools are available (including Skype) TokBox is interesting as it requires no software to be installed locally. Rather the integration with the Web browser is carried out using Flash. For me I think it could be a useful ‘just-in-case’ or ‘just-in-time’ communications tool, rather than something that I’ll use on a regular basis.I was also interested to read that a TokBox application for Facebook is now available.
I was also interested to read a post on the Advercation blog which is “aggregating as many people’s TokBoxes as possible on one page” – an experiment which has some interesting possibilities. I have to admit that it reminds me of University Challenge, but I’m worried that, as a number of people have already commented, its killer use may be for the porn market :-(.