Difference between revisions of "BigBlueButton"

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(Created page with ''' <span style="color: red;">***Page is currently under construction***</span>'' ==BigBlueButton Overview== ===What is BigBlueButton?=== [http://www.bigbluebutton.org BigBlueB…')
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Try out BigBlueButton for yourself at http://demo.bigbluebutton.org/! Just log enter any user name in, and play around for yourself!
Try out BigBlueButton for yourself at http://demo.bigbluebutton.org/! Just enter any user name in, and play around for yourself!
==BigBlueButton Architecture==
==BigBlueButton Architecture==

Revision as of 18:06, 29 August 2014

***Page is currently under construction***

BigBlueButton Overview

What is BigBlueButton?

BigBlueButton is a free and open source web conferencing system, primarily targeted towards online lecturing, and small group collaboration. It provides a virtual classroom environment for instructors to teach, and for students to collaborate in small groups. However, BigBlueButton is by no means limited to classroom settings and small groups; it just means that the core features and components of BigBlueButton were developed with this target demographic in mind. The BigBlueButton name comes from the notion that starting a web conference should be as simple as pressing a metaphorical big blue button.

BigBlueButton contains a set of components, called "modules", each containing a bunch of features. Such modules include and features include:

  • The users module, that contains and displays the list of users in a meeting, along with their state (whether they are a presenter, moderator or normal viewer, whether they are sharing any media, whether their permissions are restricted in some way, etc..).
  • The video module, where people in a meeting can share their webcam to be viewed by everyone else in the meeting.
  • The audio module, that allows people in a meetings to share their microphone and speak to everyone else in the meeting.
  • The desktop sharing module, that allows the presenter in a meeting to have other users in a meeting view what they are doing on their screen.
  • The chat module, that allows users to broadcast chat messages to everybody in the meeting (public chat), or to send chat messages only to a specific user (private chat).
  • The presentation module, that allows the presenter of a meeting to upload documents (a PowerPoint presentation or PDF, for example) to be viewed by everyone else in the meeting.
  • The whiteboard module, that gives the presenter the ability to manipulate a canvass overlaid on top of the presentation window, allowing them to write, draw shapes, and insert text onto the virtual whiteboard.
  • The polling module, which allows a presenter to query participants, letting them vote on questions asked, and to view the results.
  • Lock Settings, which allow moderators of a meeting to restrict some users' access of the modules. For example, a moderator can disable webcam sharing, or chatting between participants.

Try out BigBlueButton for yourself at http://demo.bigbluebutton.org/! Just enter any user name in, and play around for yourself!

BigBlueButton Architecture

Background Information

BigBlueButton was initially a Flash application. The server, written initially in Java, sat on a Flash media server called Red5, and the main client was a Flash web application (the "Flash client") that was downloaded by the browser upon joining a BigBlueButton meeting. As a Flash client, this meant that users had to install a Flash Player into their web browser in order for them to use it (like old YouTube videos). Though the main BigBlueButton client is still Flash based, all of the new features that HTML5 requires browsers to be able to support natively (without having to install plug-ins) allowed developers to begin development of a second client for BigBlueButton, that used only the capabilities of web browsers (the "HTML5 client"). Additionally, around late 2013, development began on a cross-platform mobile application for Android and iOS that allowed people to join a BigBlueButton meeting from mobile devices (the "mobile client"). Both the HTML5 client and the mobile client are still under development.


Behind the scenes, the BigBlueButton server uses the following frameworks, technologies:

  • Red5: a Flash Media Server, with "room management" (a Red5 room corresponds to a BigBlueButton meeting) allowing easy handling of message sending and streaming to only those users who connected to a specific room. Red5 holds the following BigBlueButton components:
    • BigBlueButton-Apps: this IS BigBlueButton :) It holds the master state of all meetings on that server
    • BigBlueButton-Video: the video application, which sends webcam streams from one user to all the others connected to that meeting and using Flash video.
    • BigBlueButton-Voice: the audio application, which sends audio streams from one user to all the others connected to that meeting and using Flash audio. In order to send the audio data to clients using WebRTC audio (the HTML5 client, and now Flash clients have the option of using WebRTC audio if their web browser supports it), BBB-Voice connects each Flash client using Flash audio to FreeSwitch (see below), and sends the audio data to FreeSwitch which transcodes the audio data to a format that clients using WebRTC can use.
    • BigBlueButton-Desktop: the desktop sharing application.
  • BigBlueButton-Web running on Grails and Tomcat: BigBlueButton's web API, allowing programmers to create meetings, join meetings, get configurations for a meeting, get information to set the state of the client when joining a meeting, to use the presentation services for uploading presentations, and to use the recording services to record meetings.
  • Redis: a key-value database used by BigBlueButton to communicate between the different server-side components, and to record all of the events of a meeting. Redis provides a publish and subscribe ("pub-sub") messaging system, that allows applications to subscribe to channels, which means every message published to that channel will be received by all subscribers of that channel.
  • FreeSwitch: used by BigBlueButton as a VOIP server to manage voice conference calls between WebRTC audio clients, connecting them and streaming their audio data to others in the same conference. Additionally, since Flash Audio and WebRTC audio use different audio codecs (Speex vs Opus), FreeSwitch is used to transcode between these two codecs, and send the audio data to BBB-Voice for repackaging and delivery to those Flash clients that are using Flash audio (Flash clients needn't use Flash audio, but can now use WebRTC audio).
  • Meteor.js on Node.js: Node.js is JavaScript environment which is not a web browser. This is the server to which HTML5 clients connect. It communicates with Red5 through Redis.

BigBlueButton Development

For New Developers: Getting started on BBB

***Under construction: write something here!!***

BigBlueButton at Seneca CDOT

Current Projects

HTML5 Client

With mobile devices dropping Flash support, and HTML5 rising to replace Flash on the web, we are looking into adapting BigBlueButton to an HTML5 and JavaScript application. The first step in this is to develop an HTML5 client that can participate in an existing meeting (where the presenter is using the Flash client) at the most basic level. As of autumn 2014, the only core component missing is the video module. This is because, as of yet, there is no suitable WebRTC based video streaming media server (see the architecture section above for more details on this).

In the summer of 2014, Danny Perrone, a co-op student from Seneca, along with with Anton Georgiev, a co-op student from Carleton university working at Blindside Networks in Ottawa, rewrote the existing HTML5 client, moving it over to the Meteor.js framework.


Mobile Client

The BigBlueButton mobile client is a mobile application that allows users to participate in a BigBlueButton meeting from their smartphone or tablet. It was started in late 2013 by a team of software developers from [mconf.org/ Mconf]. Beginning in early 2014, the mobile project was taken over by a team of developers at Seneca CDOT. Chad Pilkey, Gary Deng, Stanislav Yeshchenko, and Adam Sharpe each worked on implementing features, rewriting components, and fixing bugs in the mobile client. In the summer of 2014, we:

Completed/Inactive Projects

Polling Module


Seneca's BigBlueButton Server




CDOT BigBlueButton Contributors

From left to right: Justin, Fardad, and Chad




Source Code Repositories

GitHub Help


Redis Database Documentation

Red5 server Documentation