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What developments in video conferencing do you expect, and when?
-- Claudio Gatti, December 22, 1996
I got my present email address ("firstname.lastname@example.org") in 1976. Email was reliable, fast, practical, and about 10 years old at that point. But there weren't too many people to whom one could write. I guess I could install video conference hardware on my computers at home and at work but none of my friends have it so I'd never talk to anyone.
I suppose video conferencing will reach some sort of critical mass the way email did in the early 1990s and the Web did in 1994. Then we'll need a serious technical development: smarter routers.
I have an ISDN line at home, 128 Kbits/second. That's barely enough to support one video stream. My friend Peter has a 10 Mbit connection from his cable TV company. Suppose we're involved in a 6-way video conference. The Internet backbone routers should figure out that "this Greenspun guy is on a wimpy ISDN connection; we'll throw out most of the data right here before doing our best to combine the most relevant bits to fit into a single 128 Kbit stream." Then they should say "but Peter is on a 10 Mbit/second connection so we can feed him all six streams and let his computer sort them out."
-- Philip Greenspun, December 22, 1996