Rabb.it has been around for a while, but I only discovered it recently as I was looking for methods of holding a video viewing party at a distance. I had started using the Chrome extension Netflix Party, which allows two people to watch movies on Netflix together and chat while viewing, but I had hoped to find something that would work for other video sites, too. There are a lot more videos I’d like to share with friends on places like Hulu and YouTube, after all. But then, in Rabb.it, I found more than I had expected.
Rabb.it is one of those sites with a clever name that’s also the URL of the site itself: http://rabb.it. Effectively, it virtualizes a web browser, and then adds chatroom features (including optional voice and video chat) around it.
It works just like a browser session on your computer. You can invite friends to join the chat session, then load any web site you want—Netflix, YouTube, Hoopla, et cetera,—and log in with your username and password. Then any video you play will play at the same rate of speed on the screens of everyone watching it. I’ve tried it, and it really works. It also has an iOS app made for the iPhone, which is somewhat less useful on an iPad but otherwise seems to work the same way.
But the interesting thing is, it could be used for many more things than just watching movies together, because it effectively lets you view the same web page of any kind together. The utility of reading e-books together is probably going to be limited, given that people read at different rates of speed and only one person has control of the browser session at any given time, but I could see several potential uses for it.
For example, using an e-book in conjunction with voice and video chat could allow parents to help their kids learn to read by listening to them read a aloud from the screen, even if they can’t be physically present with their kids (for example, if they’re away on military service). It could also be useful for study buddies to view and discuss a given page of an online textbook if they can’t get together over the real textbook in person.
In any event, it’s a really clever idea, and an intriguing method of screen-sharing between people who can’t be in the same physical place. Maybe you can find a good use for it yourself.