Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hello World: Video Email & Web Conferencing Technical, Business & Consumer Review

I recently have become aware of a company called Hello World. Hello World provides video email and web conferencing (webcasting). I've read a lot of posts from technical people wondering what others think about it, so I thought I'd take a moment to share with you my knowledge.

In the past 4 weeks, I've spoken with six (6) reps from Hello World. The first, I met at the Event Planner's Expo. The second was a cold call. The third was the caller's supervisor. And the final 3 were personal friends of mine.

I had my first experience using my everyday email: Eudora. The rep sent me an email with her streaming video email "attachment" -- not really an attachment, but a link to a file on the server where the streaming could begin. Unfortunately, the link did not work and the images within it were broken. After two hours of troubleshooting, she asked if I had another email address to which she could email the video. I gave her my web-based email account with Yahoo!Mail where I was able to view the email video sample.

I thought, "Hey, this is pretty neat! A great tool for someone who wants to send a very personalized message by email."

When I began to ask to ask some basic technical questions about the web conferencing part of the service (e.g. How many simultaneous users will a basic account support?), however, she was puzzled. We partied in someone who could help.

This person (person #3) gave me the same "pitch" as the first two -- tried to impress me with "we're having a conversation with Best Buy." I had to explain that doing business with Best Buy doesn't impress me. He tried to overcome my objections and finally came to one that I could really take to heart, but by this time, I could sense he was "working me."

As it turned out, real answers to questions were not easy to come by. As a web consultant for small businesses and Fortune 500 companies, questions like these can't be halted with "I don't know." So after the call (and after 3 friends already involved contacted me), I did my homework.

Here are some important facts:

*When I finally got the technical details, I learned that their system actually supported 6 users, not 25 as was promoted by 4 of the 6 people I spoke with. They were *planning* on being able to support 25 at the next release.

*Hello World is not actually the company providing the technology. Hello World is the 3rd tier below the actual providers: a company called Razorstream.com for which very little information is available on their web site. Vmdirect2.com is the 2nd tier. These tiers represent levels of a Multi-level Marketing (MLM) structure -- a "network marketing" structure -- or pyramid scheme.

*Hello World is holding a conference in Las Vegas. (Why not hold it by web conference?)

*I've been contacted by 6 different people in a matter of 3 weeks about this technology, which means they are growing very rapidly.

Here is my overall estimation:

Hello World Not so Wise for a Business Market
Business-wise, the video email service offering from Hello World is not adequate:

  • In order to use the video email services, you receive a helloworld.com email address. A business cannot benefit from the brand that their own web site domain offers them.

  • Customer service is, ironically, by form, not video mail, video chat, or even plain chat.

  • Why not just pick up the phone?

  • Rapid growth is one of the dangers of small businesses and usually result in a few things:

1) Little Razorstream.com is going to have trouble keeping up with the demand and the service will suffer.
2) The market will be saturated, making any business (becoming a sales rep) investment worthless.

Hello World Better for a Consumer Market
For consumers, the video email service offering from Hello World is more appealing. It's fun to use. However, web conferencing services would require you to sell the services to your loved ones. So if this doesn't bother you, it sounds okay.

My total assessment is that Hello World is a get-rich-quick, MLM scheme, which I don't prefer to patronize either as a consumer or as a business person.

Even though I like the services, I'm willing to pay plenty more for a company who is willing to be responsible for their own offering and not sail on the enthusiasm and innocence of their referral marketers and customers.

Other Links of Interest:

Review by Karen Gedney