OpenTok: Build Your Own Free Video Chat App

Host your own video conferencing sessions



Opentok was formerly called TokBox. Not only the name was different but the service as well – you had a video conferencing app and service like many others are offering. In 2011, the company renamed OpenTok, focused only on providing an API to allow users to develop their own video chat applications and place them on their websites.

You don’t need to be very skilled to build something; the instructions are given and the API is made as simple as possible such that users don’t need to bother about the technicalities of the primitives. Just follow a series of steps in the tutorials, after having registered, and you will be up and going in around 15 minutes.

What Can You Do With OpenTok?

OpenTok apps allow you to engage in unlimited and free video chat on a one-to-one basis. More users can be added, with up to 5 being visually and vocally active at any point in time. See the costs below for more details on that.

OpenTok doesn’t just make you communicate but also allows you to make others communicate. By building and placing video chat widgets on your website, you can build and manage a whole community of communicators. This brings great power to your website and to you (or your company), giving you the platform to unite people for communication and collaboration, and giving a competitive edge to your website that makes it stand out. Here are examples in which you can use OpenTok:

  • Set up meetings with your employees, business partners or clients on your website.
  • Provide live online help on your website, offering support for a service.
  • Have friends connect together for a chat, and here the topic can be anything from sports to glamor.
  • Hold student study circles or syndicates.
  • Have chat functionality on your website to make it stand out from others and subsequently attract traffic.
  • Hold lectures with students listening and viewing, in the context of online courses.
  • Broadcast yourself live to an audience.
  • And so many things more that allow you to take advantage of VoIP.

What Does OpenTok Cost?

The API and subscription are free, but you need the service to make the video thing work. The interesting thing is that OpenTok has a basic service that is free. In it, you get to build your app and talk 1-to-1 for free, unlimited. You can also have 50 persons in your chat room (that is chat session), but only 5 persons can talk and be viewed at a time.

With the free service, you can even have an audience of 1000 persons in your chat room, but only two of them can talk and be viewed. This just works for open lectures. Then comes the paid service (at $500 a month) for some upgrades. For example, 10 persons can talk at a time, with a silent audience of 50. This is good for corporate meetings. You can also have your video chat apps tailored to your needs, for the corresponding cost.

Getting Started

To get started, you need an API key and the API. This allows you to access the development environment and build your apps. You need of course to know how to do this. OpenTok provides good documentation on its site


Users who want to chat with your OpenTok app need to have the following:

  • A browser with Flash Player 10.3 or later installed.
  • Operating system: Windows XP, Windows 7 or Mac OSX 10.4 or later;
  • A webcam, microphone, and a hearing device.
  • A good Internet connection with at least 160 kbps bandwidth for each participant.

Users do not need to download or install any application on their computers. They only need to know the URL of your website and go there using their browsers.