Is co-browsing doomed?

I’ve been wondering lately if co-browsing is really such a great technology. I’m not just thinking of the weirdness that ensues when you try to co-browse a database like Factiva, which resists all attempts to be shared with patrons. These days, I’m wondering if the growing number of users who have firewalls (both at work and, more to the point, at home) is going to get in the way of this gee-whiz technology. As I’ve seen many times, a user’s firewall usually prevents any co-browsing from taking place. The suggested solution–convince the user to disable the firewall while we co-browse–is not too attractive these days thanks to all the viruses, worms, and malware out there.

After seeing my college’s computers taken down all day last month thanks to the Sasser worm, I’m not too comfortable asking a user to drop whatever paltry security they’ve set up to protect them from the evils of life online.

And then there are pop-up stoppers to worry about. Those interfere with co-browsing, too (another piece of technology we have to ask users to disable before we can start sharing our browser). So if some poor user has both a pop-up stopper and a firewall running, I have to ask her or him to turn them all off before I can start really helping them.

Almost makes me want to go back to just simple chat.

4 Replies to “Is co-browsing doomed?”

  1. I have thought about this as well. However, for different reasons. We have a pretty good success rate with our co-browsing software, but I wonder how often co-browsing is really necessary. Often times I can accomplish what I need by pushing pages and talking the patron through the search. It would be interesting to examine how frequently we use the co-browsing feature.

  2. How many of these problems really have to do with co-browsing and how many actually affect the user when accessing those databases even outside a dig-ref session? VR is my “moonlight” job, but in my “day job” one of the things I do is administer our library’s system for remote patron authentication for databases. There are lots of things that may be installed on the user’s computer that could be interfering. One that I’ve been coming across more and more lately are download accelerators/managers.

    In the case of firewall products, I have found that products that perform the “classic” firewall role of port-filtering really don’t interfere; it’s the ones that try to be “helpful” by including other “features” — like stripping the HTTP_REFERRER header from outgoing requests — that just kill remote database access for those users (Norton and ZoneAlarm are two particular culprits). Fortunately, in those cases, a patron who is willing and able can simply reconfigure their software instead of disabling it completely.

  3. Please delete if this is inappropriate for your blog as it could be deemed commerical, but our design team at http://www.velaro.com has thought about this a lot and I was very interested to find someone talk about this subject. We have implemented a solution that does not enable form filling (which we think can make the user feel like it is an invasion of their privacy). I describe it to our users as co-browsing type one (co-browsing without form filling) or really collaborative browsing. We do this using standard JavaScript/HTML. The user is not required to download any Java Applets or Applications, so firewall restrictions are very rare. I agree that push pages or co-browsing in this manner is more than efficient for the average user. In other cases, we can customize more javascript to turn on and off certain form attributes if absolutely necessary. Once a session is established, essentially all pages are pushed back and forth between visitor and agent. We find users that don’t use our product because we won’t release application/applet based software, but we hope in the long-run the market will recognize that our lack of form filling is really a feature addition, not a lacking at all.

  4. There is a new cobrowsing solution called Clavardon mainly targeted for eCommerce, it allows visitors to “co-shop” in a virtual store. The concept is very nice.

    Plus their cobrowsing features are great. I’ve never seen such features in other solutions.

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