Software for Interactive On-line Conferences
Author(s)Sarin, Sunil K.; Greif, Irene
A layered architecture for the implementation of real-time conferences is presented. In a real-time conference a group of users, each at his or her own workstation, share identical views of on-line application information. The users cooperate in a problem solving task by interactively modifying or editing the shared view or the underlying information, and can use a voice communication channel for discussion and negotiation. The lower layer in this architecture, named Ensemble, supports the sharing of arbitrary application-defined objects among the participants of a conference, and the manipulation of these objects via one or more application-defined groups of commands called activities. Ensemble provides generic facilities for sharing objects and activities, and for dynamically adding and removing participants in a conference; these can be used in constructing real-time conferencing systems for many different applications. An example is presented of how the Ensemble functions can be used to implement a shared bitmap with independent participant cursors. The relation between this layered architecture and the ISO Open Systems Interconnection reference model is discussed. In particular, it is argued that Ensemble represents a plausible first step toward a Session-layer protocol for "multi-endpoint connections," a neglected area of communication protocol development.