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Co-Browsing vs Screen Sharing?

Decide which is best for your business with RemoteHQ's breakdown of the fundamental differences between co-browsing and screen sharing.

3 min read

As the global trend towards "remoteness" continues to go full steam ahead, more and more software solutions are cropping up to match demand - predominantly as co-browsing or screen sharing software.
And although both these tools share similar functionalities, the two services differ in the way they approach the various requisites demanded by remote undertakings.

Overview

To help you decide which is best for your business, allow us to break down the fundamental differences between co-browsing and screen sharing.

What is screen sharing?

What is a co-browser?

Screen sharing is the duplication of computing screens between two devices. Essentially, screen sharing allows one user to share the content of their device’s screen to another user’s screen - all in real-time. In layman’s terms, when a user shares their screen using screen sharing software, it's as if one party is holding a mirror up, reflecting their computer’s screen onto the other party’s screen.

Whether it be collectively viewing a document or file, running a tutorial, or providing remote support, screen sharing is mostly used for educational, videoconferencing, and customer support applications.

For more info, check our post about shared browser sites vs. screen-sharing websites.

Co-browsing software is the next step in the evolution of remote work, taking the fundamental capabilities laid out by screen sharing tools and adding a whole layer of industry-leading functionalities on top.

Think of it like this: unlike screen sharing, where one user holds up a mirror and the other user sees a reflection, co-browsing is more like a window. Both users not only being able to see through to the other side but also having the ability to reach through and interact with each other’s work space.

This omnichannel approach to customer support not only allows support agents to provide a personalized experience to their customers. But also gives remote teams the ability to collaborate on work-based tasks in real-time - just like they would be able to in a physical workspace.

Learn more about co-browsing through our What is Cobrowsing Guide.

Co-browsing vs Screen sharing: Capabilities

The distinction between co-browsing and screen sharing is fairly straightforward. Screen sharing is an extension of collaborative browsing. Meaning, screen sharing is just one of the many tools available to remote collaborators while in a co-browsing session.


In contrast, screen sharing alone doesn't possess co-browsing capabilities. A screen sharing session is just that, one user sharing the contents of their screen with another - nothing more, nothing less.

Capabilities Co-browsing Screen Sharing
View a presenters screen
Edit a presenter’s screen
Take control of a user’s desktop
Co-control with separate cursors
Configure masking of private data
Embed remote browser within your website
Mirror a user’s entire desktop
Securely limited to only sharing a browser-based interface
Work in low bandwidth
Other users can’t view what’s on your computer
No download

Co-browsing vs Screen Sharing: Technology

Co-browsing Technology

At its core, co-browsing technology is a visual engagement tool that facilitates real-time, one-on-one collaboration sessions by leveraging functionalities like screen sharing, live chat, document sharing, videoconferencing, video chat, and voice chat.

Although it’s important to understand, not all co-browsing tech is cut from the same cloth. For instance, one approach to co-browsing technology is to use middleware.

Middleware renders “sanitized” code on a user’s local machine. While this has slight speed advantages over other approaches to collaborative technology, it comes with significant risks. The security of middleware co-browser all teeters on the assumption that the exchanged code is “decontaminated”.

Great in principle.

The problem being, if the software’s middleware doesn’t pick up on malicious content, a potentially harmful program may run locally on the user’s machine and could expose sensitive data, facilitate identity theft, and even render a computer completely inoperable.

On the flip side, a remote browser, like that used by RemoteHQ, doesn’t share the same risks that middleware collaborative software has. This is because a remote browser is run on a remote server, meaning the collaborative session is ephemeral.

That way, if a malicious program was incidentally run or a collaborative session concludes, all traces of a browsing session will cease to exist - completely eliminating the risk of infection to either participant’s device.

Another very important distinction to make between some co-browsing tools is whether they support WebRTC. Whereas those that don’t support WebRTC require the installation of a third-party program, a co-browsing solution that supports WebRTC will run straight from your web browser - no downloads or installs of any desktop applications or plugins required.

Screen sharing Technology

While useful for some applications, like displaying presentations, providing basic customer support, conducting videoconferences, and hosting online tutorials, screen sharing is a one-way stret - one user controlling the session while the other passively observing.

Pros:

  • Visual guidance. Screen sharing software is a quick and convenient way to share visually based information with others.
  • Problem solving. Screen sharing is an effective way to get acquainted with the customer’s issue, helping to resolve problems quickly.
  • Customer engagement. Screen sharing facilitates easy and effective communication between both customer and customer service agent.

Cons:

  • Collaboration. Compared to co-browsing software, the capabilities of screen sharing software can feel limited to a user, particularly for collaborative applications.
  • Data security. Screen sharing shares the view of one user’s entire screen, browser, and device. This has the potential to expose private information or sensitive data.
  • Third-party software. Often, to use screen sharing tools, users are required to download third-party desktop apps.

Co-browsing vs Screen Sharing: Industry

Customer Support

For simple demonstrations and step-by-step guides, often used during customer support sessions, a screen sharing tool may be adequate. 

Although if a support team wishes to provide customer support that is more engaging or requires more in-depth customer interactions, a comprehensive co-browsing tool may just be what the doctor ordered.

Particularly handy for guiding customers through complex transactions or exceptionally difficult technology-based problems, using a co-browsing tool for this type of application will take the customer out of a passive role and place them in the co-pilot's seat.

Contact Center

Screen sharing software is a suitable solution for contact center agents who want to share the visual content on their screen with a customer's screen, or vice versa. 

This is appropriate for one-sided support.

Although for more complicated customer issues or for a greater customer experience, engaging a customer in a co-browse session can really take your customer support to the next level.

Eliminating any apprehensions a customer may have about exposing sensitive data or private information like credit card details, a well-developed co-browsing tool allows both support agent and customer to engage in a collaborative session that is both safe and secure.

Remote Selling

Complex transactions can become the bane of a customer's existence. And if we're being honest, screen sharing has nothing on co-browsing when it comes to remote selling.

Sure, a customer could share their screen with a sales representative and follow their verbal or written guidance. Or, they could both jump into a co-browsing session, interact in a shared browser, and walk through the transaction together - all the way from choosing a product through to pressing the final purchase button...

...talk about boosting both customer satisfaction and customer retention.

Remote Teams

For distributed and remote teams, screen sharing has nothing on co-browsing. Rather than just sharing your screen with one another, why not instead collaborate in a shared space just like you would in the office?

Conducting remote conferences or meetings in this manner allows team members to share ideas, take part in fully interactive collaboration sessions, and run engaging training sessions and tutorials.

Other Comparisons Considerations

Real-time Collaboration

One of the most frustrating sides of remote support and distributed teams is the inability to collaborate in real time. 

Until now.

Unlike screen sharing, co-browsing tools allow participants from around the globe to work from multiple browser tabs and from separate documents in real time, no matter where they are in the world.

And aside from basic video chat and voice chat functionalities, this will allow both agent and customer to safely surf any web page together, track each other's cursors, and share annotations and notes backward and forward through direct messaging or live chat.

Sensitive Information

Sharing your screen or access to your devices is enough to make anybody nervous. Your typical screen sharing software has the potential to expose sensitive information that you may not have intended to share. 

With co-browsing tools that use an ephemeral remote browser, not only is a customer's browser and device safe from malware and other potentially harmful programs, but exposing sensitive information is an extremely unlikely occurrence.

Visual Engagement

Stop limiting yourself and your customer experience to a one-sided experience - like that offered by screen sharing. Instead, take your customer journey to the next level with collaborative sessions. 

Co-browsing works to take a web browser page and turn it into a fully collaborative experience that is visually engaging, personalized, and super helpful to the user, co-worker, or customer.

Ease of Use

When evaluating the features or functionalities of either a screen sharing or co-browsing solution, ease of use should be on the top of your priority list.

No matter how well-developed the technology behind a tool is, if it's UI or UX is unintuitive for the user, you're only going to waste time, disrupt workflow, and create a terrible impression on your customers.

Why Try RemoteHQ

RemoteHQ takes all the advantages of both screen sharing and co-browsing and wraps it up in an easy-to-use and effective remote browser-based application. As RemoteHQ works from remote servers, the cloud-based browser is more secure than a VPN, is lightning fast, and relieves slow devices of hardware-heavy tasks.

Depending on the user's geographical location, RemoteHQ connects to servers that are closest to the user. This means lag, low fidelity, and high latency are all frustrations of the past. Instead, no matter where you and your team are in the world, RemoteHQ remains super fast and offers a user experience that's sure to please.

And the best part, RemoteHQ doesn't require users to download and install third-party apps, plugins, or software.

Conclusion

For specific use cases, a screen sharing tool isn’t a terrible option.

However, if you're hunting for a truly comprehensive solution, a co-browsing tool is a superior solution. To really speak to the end user, guarantee customer success, and step up the productivity of your remote team, you simply can't go past a well-developed co-browsing solution like RemoteHQ.