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User Story

I want to run a weekly non-commercial group that works together (over the Web) on separate screens that are displayed all at once in split screen mode.

Examples of Use

Social gaming, study groups, pair/team programming, writing group, genealogical research, passive mentoring.

Requirements

  • See at least three or four screens at the same time in a split view like Mario Kart.
  • Everyone sees each others' screens at the same time.
  • A user does not see their own screen, they only see others' screens.
  • They can work quietly together or watch or ask questions when needed.
  • No video cameras required.
  • Audio and chat ability.
  • Can click to expand one particular screen to see details, then switch back to split screen.
  • Works on multiple-monitor computers (user can select monitor to display).
  • Creates a feeling of people doing something together without leaving their homes/offices.
  • Does not need to be secure.
  • Does not need remote desktop control ability.
  • Needs to work on PCs, Macs, iOS, and Android.
  • Easy for novice users.

I'm having a hard time finding applications that will allow this—especially free or open source—but it seems like a powerful user story.

What I've Tried So Far

This question: Multi user screen share solution suggests Dead Simple Screen Sharing which did not work when tested, and was very confusing for users.

This question: Many user remote desktop / screen share solution? suggests an app (Veyon) that appears to be one-to-many rather than many-to-many. That app has more complex remote control features for an instructor, which is unnecessary for this use case.

20 Jan 2019: Zoom (https://zoom.us) claims to allow multiple users to share screens (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt-tcvaQ9I4). HOWEVER:

  • You can only see one screen at a time (you need to click faces to switch between screens, and you can't see beforehand what's on their screen).
  • Inexplicably, you can't view other screens when you are sharing your screen. You must disable your own screen sharing to see other screens.
  • The free version limits group meetings to 40 minutes, after which you need to restart the meeting or upgrade to US$15/mo per host.
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It took awhile, but I finally found an app that fills this need: Discord.

Perfect for the use case described above.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Very robust.
  • Can be run in browser or as a downloaded app.
  • View all screens at once, either tiled or as thumbnails if you zoom into one screen specifically.
  • Solid chat and group capabilities.
  • You can expand any shared screen to full screen mode.
  • You can selectively mute or amplify different people without muting them for other users.
  • People can share either their screens or their webcams.

Cons: - Only allows 9 people at a time in a video chat. - Designed particularly for gamers (however, anyone can use it).

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