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A few years ago, I was attending a fine family wedding yet managed to upset my wife. How? Because even though it was her family’s big day, I rushed home early to tend to something monumental – Draft Day for my fantasy league!
Of course, when I got home, my trusty laptop rudely crashed. “No problem” I thought as I booted up my reliable desktop … but that’s when I realized that it didn’t have a built-in camera. How old is this thing anyway? I then frantically ran around the house for a few minutes, found and dusted off an old USB camera/mic which the kids had cracked (playing some online wizard game) but was otherwise in working order.
It was at that moment that I discovered that my desktop didn’t have Skype video chat software installed. A minor nuisance as the draft was via Skype and I had previously used only my laptop for video chatting, with its built-in camera and all. However, when I attempted to install Skype, I ended up getting several weird error messages that required me first to update Windows. I again waited impatiently for this process to complete before manually downloading and specifying the drivers for my USB camera which Windows could not readily find.
As a final indignity, I had to wait for my “reset password” email to arrive, since I’d stored it into my laptop to permit easy Skype access, and in my haste, I could not remember what it was.
Ultimately, what should’ve been a relatively simple and rapid two-minute “boot up and call” process wasted 30 minutes of my one-hour draft. Half the draft! For those of you who’ve not invested their pride and reputations on such things, you may not know that the first rounds are the most important of any draft, and during my absence, the core of my team was selected for me by one of my rivals, and not even one of my good buddies. Great.
So, over the next few weeks, and as I started falling fast in my league standings, I complained unfailingly about this travesty to anyone who would listen. Ignoring their initial eye rolls, I was surprised to learn that most people had similar tales of video chatting woes – it’s just that theirs were not as acute and weren’t going to cost them championships. Others spoke of their nervousness before work or client meetings and not knowing whether their calls would connect. If they did connect was the video going to be fuzzy and would the audio cut out intermittently? Had they remembered to pray earnestly to the networking gods to guarantee a smooth experience?
Seeking to salvage my fantasy league reputation and to better prepare for the following year, I asked around and looked for video chat alternatives. What was everyone using these days to communicate online? Was their service reliable at critical times, but more importantly, just *simple* to use? Basically, the options I discovered fell into two different categories
- Applications (Skype, Zoom): Proprietary apps that require user accounts for all participants. Download, install, login hell. Please see my rantings above.
- Browser based (Google Hangouts, Appear.in): Create a “chat room” and then pass a link to participants via email or text IM.
So, to video chat on my computer on which I don’t have an email client installed, I must pull out my phone (another device) and then email/text them a link? And then go back to my first device (computer) to participate in the call?
What didn’t exist was a service where I could just type the name of the person that I was trying to contact into the browser and simply JUST TALK TO THEM!!! Well there wasn’t one … so we built it.
And that’s how this journey started.
P.S. my wife’s happier now that she uses urLive to chat with her family 😊