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Caption by: Charles McLellan
Launched in 2007, UK-based YuuGuu (the name is derived from the Japanese for 'fusion') is an online collaboration tool comprising instant messaging (with integration of external accounts, including Skype), screen sharing, remote control and audio conferencing.
Up to now, YuuGuu has been available in three versions: Free, Plus and Teams. The Free version lets you host meetings with up to five participants (who don't need the desktop client software, just a Flash-enabled browser) and allows up to 100 minutes of screen sharing per month. Plus ($15 [£9]/month) allows web conferences up to 30-strong with unlimited screen sharing, while Teams ($25 [£15]/month/seat) supports groups of up to 20 Yuuguu desktop clients and adds group setup and administration tools (for a single administrator), remote support and an integrated audio conferencing service.
These are now joined by YuuGuu Corporate, which is aimed at larger companies wishing to involve hundreds rather than tens of users, with multiple administrators.
To host a Yuuguu session, you need to download and install the client, which is a small (~10MB) application available for Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac (OS X 10.4 or higher) and Linux (including Ubuntu 8.04 and Fedora 9 or later) systems. To participate in a session, all you need is a Flash 9-enabled browser — the company lists Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, and states that 'many others are known to work'.
Importing contacts from external IM accounts into the YuuGuu client.
You can import contacts from your email address books, from Skype or from a number of external instant messaging accounts (AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo!). These then appear in an IM-style window with icons identifying the different accounts.
Administrators can add easily add or remove licensed YuuGuu users.
Administrators can set up and manage groups, which is essentially a way of managing a pool of licenses. Admins simply log into the Account section on Yuuguu's web site and add the email addresses of the required group members: if they have already installed the desktop client they'll be added to the group right away; if not, they'll be prompted to download it via email and added later. Group members can be removed and added as required.
To set up a conference, you can open an IM window with a contact and then kick off other services and/or add users as required. Alternatively you can click Web Share at the top of the YuuGuu window and either start or schedule a meeting. Setting up a Web Share generates a URL and a PIN for the session, and, optionally, a phone number for audio conferencing.
Yuuguu sessions can involve can a mixture of instant messaging, screen sharing, remote control, Skype and audio conferencing.
YuuGuu makes an effective IM aggregator, adding successive individual correspondents as a series of tabs at the foot of the chat window. You can also kick off an IM conference by holding down Ctrl and highlighting the relevant contacts: any that do not have the desktop client will receive a URL over whatever IM system they're using, which they can then click to start a Web Share session in their (Flash-enabled) browser. This initially shows a blank area ready for screen sharing and a messaging panel on the right-hand side. You can still use the original IM channel for one-to-one communication too.
Web conferencing in YuuGuu: using the desktop client (top); screen sharing and messaging via a Flash-enabled browser, with MSN Messenger running alongside (bottom).
When it comes to screen sharing, the host can opt to show his or her entire screen, choose one from a list of running applications to display, or ask to see another participant's screen. Anyone viewing a remote screen can ask to take control of it, allowing the possibility of shared document editing.
Unfortunately all this is rather slow, even with shared screens displayed in 8–bit rather than full colour. Also, even when testing with a three-person web conference, it became confusing enough to juggle repeated competing requests for screen control — we'd hate to have to manage 30 unruly participants.
Audio conferencing is catered for, via local dial-in (participants pay) or toll-free (YuuGuu licence-holder pays) numbers. Obviously the bigger the installation and the wider the usage of toll-free numbers, the bigger the monthly bill. YuuGuu Corporate costs the same as Teams ($25 [£15]/month/seat) up to 20 users, with volume-related discounts available for larger roll-outs.
For the Corporate version, YuuGuu has beefed up its security with random session code generation and 128-bit AES encryption for potentially sensitive IM and screen-sharing data. Companies will also be able to embed a YuuGuu meeting entry page into their web sites, and use their own branding on web conferencing sessions.
One feature that's missing is the ability to record, save and replay a web conferencing session. However, we're told that this is on the 2010 roadmap.
YuuGuu Corporate offers IM aggregation, screen sharing, remote control and audio conferencing. These are all useful collaboration tools, and the ability to include ad-hoc participants via a browser is particularly handy. At about £15 per month per seat, YuuGuu's pricing compares well to WebEx, for example, which costs £30/month/seat (or £24 if you pay a year's worth up front). However, Cisco's product is undoubtedly more polished and supports some features missing in YuuGuu (including session recording and video conferencing).
Caption by: Charles McLellan