At Highfive, we are gratified to have been able to play a part in helping workers through the COVID-19 crisis, by providing services to continue keeping companies connected and productive. However, it should come as no surprise to our users and customers that “typical” Highfive usage is quite different now than it was a few weeks ago. To date, our product focus has been on providing a simple, integrated conference room video conferencing experience, while providing desktop and phone conferencing for people who couldn't be in a Highfive-equipped room. However, in many parts of the world right now, those conference rooms are sitting unused, as employees work from home to contain the spread of the virus. This change in work style has, naturally, led to needs and requests that are notably different than what we have heard from our users and customers in prior years.
The purpose of this article is to explain the most frequent of those requests, and what Highfive has planned to help address your needs.
1. “See more videos.” Our Highfive desktop app shows up to three videos from your fellow participants, based upon who is speaking at any time. We designed this behavior to minimize distractions with the conference room in mind, since historically most Highfive meetings have four participants or fewer, as many meeting attendees gather together in Highfive-equipped rooms. But when everyone is working from home separately, a 10-person meeting will always have 10 participants, rather than 8 people in one room and 2 participants joining separately. So although increasing the number of videos shown at once was already a high priority on our product roadmap, it has now leapfrogged the other items ahead of it. We are actively designing and implementing an approach to seeing more videos at once from our desktop app. We don’t yet have a timeline to share for when it will be available to you, but it is our top priority and will be made available as soon as possible.
2. “Better performance on home networks.” Let’s face it, not everyone has a great network at home. Sometimes bandwidth is limited, and even when it’s not, there can often be network packet loss that makes streaming media challenging. This doesn’t affect web browsing or one-way services like YouTube or Netflix, because they can buffer the stream to compensate for missing network packets. But in real-time communication, delay and buffering isn’t acceptable, so the conferencing service needs to do the best it can with the uncertain network conditions. For obvious reasons, this becomes a much bigger issue when your whole company is working from home, rather than just a few individuals. Highfive has multiple efforts underway to improve our service performance in poor network conditions and reduce bandwidth needs overall. Some of these changes are already rolling out to our customers, and others are still in development and being tested. Since there isn’t a big feature to see, we generally don’t announce these types of changes in our release notes, but you should expect to see ongoing improvements on this topic over the next few weeks and months.
3. “More than 125 meeting participants.” Our meeting size limit for our latest subscription plans is 125 participants in a single meeting. As with the first item, when everybody is working at home instead of gathering into conference rooms, it becomes more likely that a mid-sized company will have more than 125 separate participants expected for an all-hands or townhall meeting. We already had work underway to allow for larger meetings, with up to 125 participants joining in the main meeting, and an unlimited number of listen-only participants joining via a live stream. We are continuing those efforts to make that solution generally available to you. We have a very early version of this capability in a “pre-alpha” state that can be enabled, once you are briefed on the limitations. So if you’re in dire need of running a limited number of larger meetings now, please reach out to email@example.com and we can get you the necessary information.
4. “Hide my background.” Not everybody has a classy home office in view behind them when they’re on camera working from home. So another feature that has been requested more over the last several weeks has been for a background blur or replacement to hide the mess behind you while you’re in a Highfive meeting. Though our timeframe for having this capability within Highfive is likely further out than the preceding items, there are other good approaches. There are multiple virtual camera options available from other vendors that work well with Highfive and will provide background blur and replacement. Simply install the virtual camera software, use it to select your physical camera and desired background, and then select that virtual camera within Highfive. An example of a simple paid commercial solution is XSplit VCam. For free, SnapCamera provides hundreds of camera filters and does not require a Snap account. In addition to many ridiculous filters, you can find some simple background replacements in SnapCamera by searching for “Highfive.” And last but not least, ChromaCam offers both free and paid versions that do some particularly good automatic background detection.
Those are the top requests that we’ve been getting most often from you, our users and customers, since widespread work from home started in 2020. More broadly, we are increasing our focus on our desktop app, with other improvements coming besides just the list above. You’ll see some of these smaller improvements, such as the recent release of chat emojis and fixes to single-application screen sharing, over the next several weeks and months.
If you're interested in a full product roadmap discussion with the Highfive Product Team, we'd love to hear your feedback. Please reach out to your Highfive Account Executive to get it scheduled.
The Highfive Product Team