Below is a brief description of ReelPortal's purpose and design. If you just want to see some usage directions, click How to Use.
What is ReelPortal?
ReelPortal is an easy-to-use video chat and conference system. ReelPortal is intentionally designed for a future where small, efficient, yet powerful video-capable computing devices are ubiquitous inside every home and office, replacing the traditional telephone. As such, these devices will always be on, and serve as standard communication tools between users, regardless of their physical location.
ReelPortal users can call each other directly via their nicknames, which can be anything of their choosing (given name, phone number, etc). Just like the traditional telephone, there is no need to log in with an account and password to place a call. So how would the callee identify the caller, you may ask. Like the traditional telephone, ReelPortal assumes the callee can identify the caller by voice, and perhaps by their face.
Beyond the calling aspect, ReelPortal users can opt to create a unique private room, where they can invite friends and family to join for a multi-way video conference. Users joining a room need only to know the room name, and room key (if any). Once in, they are automatically connected to everyone in that room. Thus, there is no need to even know the nicks of the participants. Again, the participants are identified by their voice and face. Users may adopt a personal room as their own, where friends and family can join and check whether they are available.
Within the home or office, ReelPortal can also serve as an active, local video intercom system. But with an adequate internet connection, this system can be extended globally, effortlessly. Starting a conversation would be just a click away. As an intercom system, ReelPortal maintains connections between devices indefinitely, with fault-tolerant logic to detect and retry any broken connection. With this capability, users can move in and out of networks (3G/WiFi) with minimal disruptions.
How is ReelPortal different than Skype & Yahoo Messenger?
ReelPortal is created using a different paradigm than the account-based systems such as Skype or Yahoo Messenger. Conceptually, ReelPortal is closer to the telephone system than to these video chat programs. It is designed to be always running (much like how the telephone is always plugged into the wall), and can be used quickly. As with public telephones, ReelPortal doesn't require logging into a private account before making a call or connection. Thus, there is no security risk when using ReelPortal on a public computer at the coffee shop, library, or internet cafe. Speaking of which, ReelPortal can be run on any computer that has Flash, which is installed on practically every computer. Unlike the other chat software, there is no need to download and install, which is not possible with public computers, as installation requires administrator privileges.
Because it doesn't use accounts, ReelPortal users can have as many sessions open on as many devices as they want, not unlike installing multiple telephones on multiple phone lines in your house. This capability enables ReelPortal to be set up as a multi-point home video surveillance system when desired. Another unconventional use that can easily be done with ReelPortal is to video chat with multiple webcams. Why limit to just one when you have multiple and the bandwidth to support them. Since each session allows you to stream from one webcam, just open another session to stream the second webcam. There is no need to create fake accounts to achieve such tasks.
Unique to ReelPortal is the availability of the free ReelPortal Server software, allowing anyone to run their own video conference hosting service, independent of the ReelPortal server. There are many benefits to this capability, such as avoiding the single-point of failure scenario. Another improvement would be performance, if the intended users are near each other, but considerably far from the ReelPortal server. Additionally, not depending on someone else's server means better security for the connection.
Reelportal also provides the flexibility of changing the transmission method dynamically. Users can choose Peer-to-Peer (P2P) mode for better performance and security, or switch to Client-Server mode when P2P is not available, or when their uplink bandwidth cannot handle the multiple webcam streams.
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