Last Friday I posted about a co-browsing extension for Firefox called jybe, and asked if anyone wanted to test it out. I got a couple of takers (thanks Greg and Shelly) and we gave it a try this morning. Summary: not gonna help you with your distance students.
We were all able to join the same session easily enough, and when browsing the open web it worked just fine. All three people were able to type in a URL and have the other two see it, but this is a drawback too as any one of us could take control of the browser at any time. Not a big deal with only two people, but could get confusing / frustrating with more.
The two big problems we discovered were:
- jybe won't follow a new popup window. So if you're trying to show SFX or if your database links open in a new browser window, the person who clicks the link will see a new window open on his/her machine, but the remote user will still be staring at the launching screen. Could be overcome by copy/pasting the new URL into the original window, but a little cumbersome.
- The bigger issue is with database authentication. Greg was able to choose a link to a database here at the U of C, and because I'm sitting on campus my screen passed me right through, but he was shown a U of C authentication screen. It's not the fact that he was shown that screen that's the problem - you could walk your distance student through the login process. The problem was that we were being shown two different screens, and didn't realize it until it was mentioned in the chat window. Greg gave me a temporary password to one of his databases and I was able to follow along, but it really seemed to get buggy at that point, and eventually I got kicked out too.
So it doesn't seem to be able to co-browse authenticated sites, which has to be a deal-breaker for library support of distance students. Too bad - maybe that'll improve with later versions. I'm going to point their support people to this post and we'll see if they address it.
Thanks again for your help Greg and Shelly!