Issue No. 02 - March/April (1999 vol. 3)
Effective teamwork is the key to the success for most organizations. One barrier to teamwork in a global economy is the geographical separation among team members, and hence the need to travel long distances. Fortunately, the unprecedented growth of the Internet is quickly reducing this barrier. Using novel Internet collaboration tools, a group of geographically dispersed co-workers can be "telepresent" in the same virtual information space without ever leaving their own offices. Grabbing the same files that co-workers a thousand miles away are working on, engaging in face-to-face conversations with them, visualizing and manipulating the same data objects at the same time, and controlling remote laboratory instruments are now just a few mouse clicks away. There seems little doubt that Internet-based collaboration technologies will revolutionize our daily activities, not just in our workplaces, but also in our homes, schools, and other social arenas.
Many recent advances in Internet technologies add diversity and new dimensions to computer-supported collaboration:
- the development of a multicast communication infrastructure, such as the Mbone, and of platform-independent languages, such as Java, encourages a paradigm shift from small-scale intranet collaboration to large-scale, synchronous group work involving potentially thousands of participants from all over the world;
- advances in multimedia streaming and computer graphics enhance our ability to create the illusion of telepresence;
- rapid growth of the Web and advances in multiagent systems have coupled with asynchronous collaboration technologies in workflow applications that support around-the-clock teamwork.
This issue of IEEE Internet Computing presents a snapshot of this dynamic area of development in five articles. The articles describe the status of collaboration-enabling technologies and tools. They include case studies and experience in the implementation and use of multimedia collaborative environments over the Internet.
Large-scale collaborative sessions always face the issues of scalability in data delivery and heterogeneity in the systems that receive it. Thus, we begin with Steven McCanne's authoritative survey of multicast technologies and their associated protocols for addressing these issues, such as IP Multicast and lightweight session control. The protocols have been implemented in Mbone conferencing tools that are now in daily use by the large and growing Mbone user and research communities.
Of the four remaining theme articles, three describe case studies and implementation experience and the fourth introduces a protocol for sharing resources in large multicast environments. We hope you enjoy this snapshot of multimedia collaboration—Internet-style.
Injong Rhee is assistant professor of computer science at North Carolina State University. He received a BE degree in electrical engineering from Kyung Pook N. University, Korea in 1989, and his PhD in computer science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1994. His research interests include synchronization, group communication middleware, congestion control, robust video transmission, and video compression. He received the National Science Foundation Faculty CAREER Award in 1999. Rhee has published numerous articles on multimedia systems and networking, reliable multicast, distributed systems support for Internet-based collaborative computing, synchronization, and real-time systems. He was a member of the program committee for the International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS 97), and he is a member of the IEEE and the ACM.Readers may contact him via email at rhee@csc. ncsu.edu.