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Tokbox gets super-sized group video meetings

Video chat service Tokbox is launching a new meeting service that lets businesses and large groups set up large-scale group chats.

Video chat service Tokbox is about to get bigger--like hundreds of people in one chat bigger.

The new service, which launches Wednesday morning, lets users host a meeting for 200 people or less, and in an orderly fashion no less. All while using the service's existing technology to facilitate several talking heads up on the screen at once.

It's not free though. It will cost $18.99 per session, or $12.99 for people who are already subscribers of Tokbox's premium service. What that gets you is a control panel with space for up to 12 people on stage for all the viewers to see. These can be swapped out at any time by the meeting administrators, letting audience members get a shot at asking a question. There's also a chat window below the video, as well as the option to play back prerecorded messages made by audience members.

Tokbox's new meeting tool combines 12-person video chat, with text chat too. Meeting organizers are also able to take recorded questions and swap out audience members with those on screen. Tokbox / CNET

Interestingly enough, this is not a product aimed at consumers as much as large groups. In a video chat with CNET last week, Tokbox VP of marketing Micky O'Brien said the company is still keeping its consumer roots with its free service, but is going after what are known as "SMERFs"--an acronym for social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations. O'Brien said these users have been pining for something that would let them hold large scale, virtual meetings outside of a typical conference call line.

So what about users who still want to use a phone instead of having to log into the service on their computer? O'Brien says a conference call line will eventually be a part of this so that users will be able to listen in while on the road. The company is also exploring options to share computer screens and archive chats for later use, which for right now means people who aren't there cannot go back and rewatch a meeting.

A notable competitor in this space is Venuegen, which launched at last week's DemoSpring conference. Although instead of multi-user video chat, it sticks everyone in a Second Life-esq 3D world.