Cobrowsing is a browser-based technology, or technology that works exclusively with Internet browsers, that allows two or more computers to view the same Internet page at the same time. This differs from screen-sharing programs that send a large amount of screenshots to emulate movement, because cobrowsing actually synchronizes the computers to work together and show the same Web pages. No software is needed to cobrowse; the computers only need to be connected. This is useful for technology support or presentations but can also be used by hackers to infiltrate computers and invade privacy.
When cobrowsing is used, two or more computers will show the same websites at the same time. There are normally two types of cobrowsing technologies: one that allows both users to control the Internet application, and others that assign one person as the controller while everyone else watches. This allows all participants to see the same thing the presenter does, or allows agents to bring users to the correct website.
Screen sharing technology is similar to cobrowser technology. Screen sharing works by assigning one person as the controller. When that person moves the mouse, opens an application or does anything, the screen-sharing program takes screenshots and transmits them to the other computers. Cobrowsers have the advantage of using less power and memory. Screen sharing has an advantage in that it allows presenters or controllers to make annotations or show more information than just that from the Internet.
Cobrowsing is most often used for presentations or by information technology (IT) teams. For presentations, it allows presenters to display important information to everyone attending the presentation without some people falling behind. For IT, it allows the professional to see what the user is doing and correct any errors. Some websites that sell products use cobrowsers to help customers purchase products.
Hackers can also use cobrowsing to infiltrate computers. Most cobrowsers do not allow sharing of personal information, such as credit card numbers, but others may not have such limitations. Even if sensitive information is not shared, it still allows hackers to view everything the user is doing and is an invasion of privacy.
Some websites use complex scripts and coding languages that block the use of some programs. Cobrowsers normally do not encounter this problem. As long as the user’s computer is able to view the script, then the cobrowser will be able to display and work with the coding language.