TL; DR: In the crowded web conferencing space, Whereby stands out with its peer-to-peer encrypted framework designed to reduce the friction that makes professionals dread video meetings. Its service functions more like a virtual office than a formal meeting space with persistent URLs, a simple interface, seamless joining, and other quality tools. Its Whereby Embedded solution offers that experience in a hosted, embeddable, and white-label app. Next up on the company’s road map are deeper calendar integrations and asynchronous audio and video messaging.
In a remote corner of western Norway, one company with a distributed workforce needed to communicate more effectively. In those days, videoconferencing was becoming a high-frustration activity.
After some experimentation, a team within the company explored the then-new WebRTC standard and believed it could develop a videoconferencing solution that was better than anything available at the time.
The solution was Whereby, and from the outset, it was meant to solve a specific problem for distributed teams. Unlike many other solutions, Whereby isn’t a general-purpose video communications platform. Rather, the developers wanted to reduce all the little headaches surrounding the routine use of telecom platforms within the workplace. And that started with the company’s own team.
“We’re all about the freedom to live and work wherever you thrive,” said Ryan Bonnici, Chief Marketing Officer at Whereby. “It’s about integrating work and our lives. At the heart of our DNA is the idea of being distributed as a team. We wanted to get the very best people — as opposed to the very best in a certain location.”
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted the global workforce in 2020 and many employers migrated to cloud services for the first time. Work-from-home arrangements also meant that employees who had never worked remotely found themselves at the kitchen table mastering new videoconferencing technology.
The Whereby team, however, had already built a scalable infrastructure for its hosted video communication.
“With the pandemic, everything went into hypergear, and hypergrowth with video communications and video meeting platforms,” Ryan said. “So, overnight, Whereby was having a million people meeting on the platform, every day and every hour.”
Today, Whereby is a vital tool for virtual meetings and team management — one that earns high marks from businesses and their workers.
Conferencing Technology Converges on the WebRTC Standard
The first wave of videoconferencing technologies used large cameras that converted the stream into a video format then transmitted it through a rendering engine and across a network. Often, the video codecs were proprietary, so a company that deployed videoconferencing remained locked into a particular vendor’s ecosystem.
Eventually, a hardware-first approach ceded ground to software implementations, including Skype and other Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) frameworks. Those often used proprietary technology, as well, so professionals could only interface with people who used the same hosted service or paid extra for external access.
A truly open-source, platform-independent videoconferencing tool didn’t arise until WebRTC. The standard came from a 2011 Google acquisition. Most desktop web browsers, including Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera, support it natively. It is also supported on Android, iOS, iPadOS, Chrome OS, and many other mobile platforms.
When WebRTC first circulated, the Whereby team identified its potential.
“We saw WebRTC was growing as a tech-stack feature within a lot of the newer browsers,” Ryan said. “We decided to innovate off that protocol.”
The company introduced new features and performed a massive migration to more robust infrastructure just before the pandemic hit and the company’s volumes increased.
Although WebRTC forms a core standard for Whereby’s platform, its software suite includes significantly more. It also includes a mix of tools and design choices that can meet the needs of distributed workgroups in Norway and millions of global users today.
Video Solutions Built for Teams Improves User Experience
Software intended for remote teams is often different from software that remote teams find easy to use. That difference, although subtle, can have a significant impact on user experience. Most videoconferencing solutions are, by necessity, general-purpose tools optimized for a wide variety of use cases.
Whereby designed its platform for a purpose. It offers an end-to-end encrypted experience, so communication stays private. Its peer-to-peer framework can improve speed and privacy, particularly within an intranet or for users with reliable high-speed connections. Communication isn’t routed through a centrally hosted server, with all the extra network overhead that such an arrangement requires.
One major differentiator is the availability of user video links.
“Your room is always on, unlike with other platforms, where you need to create a new room for each meeting and supply a different URL,” Ryan said, “It’s like a digital office for you. You can knock on my door, and I can let you in, but it’s always the same digital destination.”
Knowing the persistent URL for every member of a team makes impromptu meetings simple.
Whereby delivers the common tools teams use without cluttering the interface with bells and whistles that make the experience complicated. For example, users join meetings with one click, without downloads, registrations, or logins. Workers can share their screen during a meeting or even record to share with others later.
The interface includes an in-room chat feature and live reactions. Subscribers can add their own custom branding or join conversations through an Android, iOS, or iPadOS app. Each user can host up to four participants in a meeting room, with optional upgrades for 12 or even 50 people.
Roughly half of Whereby’s business comes from platform subscribers. The other half comes from Whereby Embedded is a hosted, white-label, embedded experience featuring the company’s software in an organization’s web portal.
“If you’re in the United Kingdom, for example, and you wish to speak to your doctor in the National Health Service, then you meet through the NHS platform. It’s powered by Whereby, but you’d never know it,” Ryan said. “We run the backend for lots of people who do online video, one to one and one to many, but no one knows that it’s Whereby underneath it all.”
Whereby: Delivering Efficient Meetings with Less User Fatigue
Early web conferencing solutions tended to be clunky, proprietary offerings prone to glitches and a high degree of user friction. Eventually, those hardware-first approaches yielded to software-based solutions, and the industry settled on the open WebRTC standard for cross-platform video communication.
Whereby’s platform leverages WebRTC, and it was designed from the bottom up to meet the needs of distributed teams. With its peer-to-peer encrypted framework, persistent rooms with simple URLs, and easy access to virtual offices, it streamlines workflows and reduces user fatigue. Pandemic-era research shows that Zoom fatigue can adversely affect the mental well-being of employees. A persistent room that supports audio-only and text chat reduces those stressors, including visual sensory overload.
An upcoming enhancement aims to reduce that fatigue even more.
“We believe that meeting fatigue doesn’t come as much from the meeting call as from people just doing too many meetings,” Ryan said. “So we’re building some asynchronous functionality that I’m excited about. Imagine being able to come to my room and leave a video or voice message asynchronously without the need for us both to go live.”
Whereby is working on calendar integration and contextual intelligence to help plan meetings. For example, a regularly scheduled meeting may use one set of synced shared notes to boost efficiency. Deeper calendar tools can synchronize agendas so that all meeting participants start on the same page.
“We’re interested in connecting the dots that no one else is,” he said. “Like optimizing the whole operating system from pre-meeting to meeting to post-meeting. Some exciting stuff is coming down the pipe.”