Zoom has become highly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of keeping in touch personally and professionally as most of the world’s population lives in isolation and quarantine. However, some complaints have risen about Zoom’s privacy and security record, and as more people became aware of how the app works and where its data is stored, complaints have been made and issues have been raised.
Zoom has now added a number of features and updates in response to these concerns, as of April 1st. Nonetheless, it’s worth checking out some Zoom alternatives for you to use to both contact your loved ones and your co-workers and employees during this time.
Many of these apps are offering temporary access to additional features in solidarity with everyone who has to work from home.
Due to how popular apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and FaceTime are (which all allow you to do video chats), we haven’t included them in the list. Instead, here’s a list of general applications that allow you to participate in video calls and conferencing. Unlike Facebook and WhatsApp, you don’t need to be signed up to participate, unless you’re the host.
Skype is an old classic for one-to-one video calls since the beginning of the internet (or, okay, since it was released in 2003). Its Meet Now feature allows video conferencing and the maximum number of participants varies depending on your platform and device. You get more features if you register for the app and free account, but there is a separate page that lets you create a free video meeting without actually signing up. You can record the call for up to 30 days, blur the background, and share presentations, too!
2. WebEx CISCO
Another old and gold videoconferencing app, WebEx has been around since the 90s and was acquired by Cisco in 2007. It is mainly known in business circles as a business application that serves companies, but it has a generous free version that’s worth considering! Due to the coronavirus pandemic, WebEx has widened its freemium features from 50 to 100 participants, done away with the 40-minute limit on meetings, and added call-in abilities.
Google Meet or Hangouts Meet was only available, previously, to educators and those subscribed to G Suite, Google’s paid service. Now, Meet I available to all users of Gmail (this started in May and may take a while to reach your account).
Assuming a friend, a family member, or colleague has a Google account, you can easily video chat with them. Just go to Meet, click on ‘join or start a meeting’, give it a name, and send out your invites. You can coordinate your meeting with Google Calendar for scheduling purposes, too.
For those with privacy concerns, Google has included a number of security features such as the ability to admit or deny entry. Meetings have an unlimited time limit (until October 2020) and can have up to 100 participants.
Hangouts is another decent option from Google if you don’t want to wait for Google Meet. Google recommends that users (particularly businesses and corporate clients) use Meet with G Suite, as Hangouts is the ‘classic’ version, but it still works well. With Hangouts, you can video chat up to 10 people, add text messages and share screens, and video calls can have up to 150 participants.
Here’s one you might not have heard of – StarLeaf has been used mainly for large companies and has never had a free service. There’s not even a price on their website and you have to call a salesperson to get a quote – it’s that premium.
Now, StarLeaf is offering free basic video and messaging for those who want to keep in touch and have to work from home during the pandemic. You can have up to 20 participants and 46 minutes for each meeting!
5. Jitsi Meet
Yet another video conferencing app you may not have heard of – it’s an open-source platform that lets you meet others easily online by clicking on ‘Go’ on the web version. You can build your own meeting via Jitsu Video bridge if you wish to do so. Jitsu Meet offers a ton of nice features like private and public chat, session recording that’s saved to Dropbox, and the ability to ‘kick out’ annoying participants! You can have up to 75 participants, blur the background, and integrate with other well-known apps like Slack, Google Calendar, Office 365, and more.
Whereby is a bit limited in its free version – you have a single meeting room with up to 4 participants, along with the option to lock rooms and have participants knock to gain entrance. Each meeting room has its own URL which you get to choose from, which is kind of cool. There’s a chat function, share screen function, mute or eject users’ function, and you can use emojis which is nifty. YouTube integration is also a nice touch and, of course, you can record the meeting too.
Houseparty has gained popularity as a more social video calling app, and it lets 8 people into a virtual room to chat. One of the funniest features is that anyone can drop into a friend’s online session without an invitation (but you can lock your room if you don’t want unwanted guests). Unlike the other apps mentioned, you do have to register to use Houseparty.
Microsoft has some nice options out there aside from Skype, such as Microsoft Teams. If you want to collaborate on Office 365 documents, it’s the obvious option as the integration here is great. Microsoft is offering a free version of a Team that includes videoconferencing.
Teams have a lot of features that arguably exceed Zoom’s capabilities. You can chat, make a video call to your teammates, access Office 365 documents, collaborate in real-time, and call anyone on your team. With the paid version, you can host up to 250 participants, share your screen, access 1TB of OneDrive storage, and more.
BlueJeans works a lot like Zoom in having video conferencing, personal rooms, events, and access to other apps like Microsoft Team Meetings. What’s particularly nifty about BlueJeans is that they highlight your meetings and send you automated alerts! In a lot of ways, it’s more than a video conferencing tool – it can host up to 100 members and includes transcription services!
GoToMeeting is one of the oldest video conferencing apps out there, and it’s full of useful features and hosts up to 250 participants. You can record calls, integrate Office 365, and screen share, to name a few features.