Join.Me is like a tragic pop idol.
Like a James Dean. Like a Marilyn Monroe.
Beautiful, stylish, but ultimately flawed.
The browser-based video conferencing platform is so close to being a perfect partner for a small business that when it falls short of the mark, it’s a real disappointment.
It offers the nearest thing to instant video conferencing you’ll find anywhere, letting callers join a meeting simply by entering a password. No downloads. No waiting. No preferred video platform. Once inside the meeting room, the callers’ faces float gently in elegant little bubble-shaped chat windows around a background that is entirely customizable to suit any occasion.
But this reviewer just couldn’t get more than a few minutes of talk time in before lags and frozen visuals punctured the serene setting.
Even dismissing those issues as just a bad day for Join.Me, there are others which cannot be so easily ignored or forgiven. The UI is far from intuitive, there are caveats on most of the major features, and the desktop app to launch a meeting as a host can sometimes just plain disappear.
The Power of Browser-Based Video
But let’s begin with the positives. And there are plenty of them.
For starters, you can set up a free video call in seconds if you’re happy to do without the features of the Pro and Business versions. All you need do is download the Join.Me app and then email a direct meeting room link to the person you want to call.
Alternatively, you can pass on a code that the caller then enters in the Join.Me homepage. Thanks to the flexibility of browser-based video calling, that person can join instantly from a PC, iPad, or smartphone without having any kind of video conferencing app pre-installed.
If you do create an account—and it costs nothing but an email address to use the free version of Join.Me—you can customize that code or email however you wish and use it time and again.
Sign up for the Pro version—$240 a year—and you can customize the background of your meeting room and use it as a splash page for your waiting attendees. If you’re a small business, this is where Join.Me’s true potential lies.
Video Conferencing for Small Business
A small business can really make a Join.Me meeting room its own.
I was able to create a branded VC Daily room by customizing my meeting link and throwing up a simple screenshot from our site as a background.
Now we have a little space all our own should we want to interview someone or chat to software and hardware providers.
And Join.Me goes beyond form. It will handle up to 10 video callers in the free and Pro modes—250 if you go for the Business version—and you can record calls to make sure nothing is missed.
You can download plugins to sync up with the calendars of Outlook, Office 365, and Chrome. You can share screens easily, and hand over control of your mouse to let callers explore anything you can present on a desktop. And you can pass this function to other callers and let them open up their desktops as well.
Finally, if you’re on an iPad or iPhone you can use whiteboards to sketch out ideas and proposals. Combined with a robust chat service and free audio calls within the U.S., that’s just about everything a business needs to create a personalized, functional video call, be it internal or external in nature.
And the browser-based nature of the system means you can speak face-to-face with anyone who can seat themselves in front of a video conferencing camera—which is what makes the Join.Me drawbacks so frustrating.
So Close, Yet So Far
Those lags and frozen faces I mentioned earlier are a death knell to a small business trying to impress online. I used a combination of laptop, PC, and iPhone as both host and attendee, and tried a broadband connection and Wi-Fi—all with similarly poor results.
But let’s assume those are local network problems.
While making a basic video call is flawlessly simple, just about everything else is convoluted.
Yes, you can use whiteboards, but only from an iPad or iPhone. While 10 callers can join a meeting, only four can use a whiteboard.
Yes, you can sync up with those aforementioned calendars, but everyone you’re linking to also has to be a Join.Me member. Yes, you can join a meeting from your iPhone or Android smartphone, but you can’t start or host one.
And then there’s the UI.
It takes a lot of trial and error to find your way around Join.Me, and sometimes it can be hard to tell if you’re even still logged in, such is the generic, commercial feel of the site and the small text.
I had repeated problems launching a meeting as the site seemed unable to access my desktop app despite telling me it “looked like” I already had the app installed. After waiting for minutes, I was repeatedly forced to download the whole thing again several times.
It’s true that these problems are real, and they could prove fatal to an otherwise promising service.
But there is a risk-free, 14-day trial of the Pro version available that requires nothing more than your email address. In fact, you can add an extra week to that trial by handing over a few more particulars.
So my conclusion is: give it a go. Have a little patience, and hope for a solid connection. Believe it or not, there really is a stylish video conferencing package hidden away in here somewhere.