The History of Webinar Platforms and What it Means for the Future of Learning

Webinars are such a regular part of the professional world today, it seems like they’ve always been here! But like with all technology, there was a time when the webinar didn’t exist, and there are new webinar features being developed all the time.

Let’s take a look at a little bit of webinar history so we can see just how far we’ve come…

The first inkling of a webinar was introduced in the late 1980s, when the internet was still a baby. The first form of a webinar was merely through text — nothing like the available capabilities we have today. For context, web chat apps and instant messaging became available in the mid-1990s, around the same time the first-ever blog post was published.

The first “sharing software” that allowed users to share what was on their computer screen, was available in 1995. The following year, there was widely-used technology that allowed users to share data in real-time while communicating with each other.

The first actual webinar happened that same year! This software allowed one person to show a presentation to hundreds and thousands of participants from any place in the world. This initial webinar software even had additional features such as polling, private chatting, and the webinar presenter could also be an attendee.

One interesting tidbit about this is that it wasn’t called a webinar, it was simply called a web meeting. The term “webinar” was registered as a trademark in 1998 (however the trademark was abandoned in 2007). The following year, webinar software starting improving and made it possible for more and more participants to join a webinar simultaneously.

A feature that became popular early on was the ability to “whiteboard”, which meant you could share graphics and even edit them using digital paint tools. Of course, once people could actually speak to each other instead of type, that was huge.

But since then, nothing monumental has changed about webinars. The focus in technology has always been on making the software available to more and more participants. The other main change is that there are always new webinar platforms to choose from. At the time of this writing, there are nearly 50 different webinar software options out there!

With so many webinar platforms available, and at affordable prices, it seems like everyone is hosting a webinar. Technically, there’s no special training needed, and this means there’s thousands of webinars hosted every single day around the world.

Instead of the software or platforms offering up any drastic changes, the changes come from the people hosting them. Webinar hosts are getting more creative with the topics they choose to speak on, and how they are engaging with their participants.

Today, webinar hosts can also record their webinars and offer them “on-demand” to registrants, which is a level of convenience that wasn’t available in the 90’s.

With the fast-paced way that technology moves today, who knows where webinars might be in ten or twenty years. One thing is for sure though, that if history has taught us anything, it’s that people are always going to find a way to share information with each other, no matter where we are in the world.