When millions of people around the world are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, video conferencing apps are becoming highly popular for both personal and professional meetings. Video conferencing apps like Zoom and Houseparty have started witnessing a whopping surge in the number of downloads reaching an extraordinary growth of 200 million daily users (from 10 million) during the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, these have triggered the red flag when it comes to privacy of users.
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Even security researchers across the world have reported vulnerabilities in the Windows and Mac versions of Zoom. It has been confirmed that the video-conferencing app was sending user data to China and Zoom video recordings were exposed in an unsecured online cloud database. Addressing the criticism, Zoom announced a slew of new security measures and features such as passwords will be turned on by default for new meetings, instant meetings, scheduled meetings, and meetings that users join with a meeting ID.
There’s no denying that Zoom is incredibly functional but it is recommended to use some other service or app that is on par with it sans any security and privacy issues. If you are looking for an alternative to Zoom, then here we have some of them that could interest you.
Facebook Messenger for Desktop
Last week, Facebook announced a dedicated Messenger app for desktop compatible with both MacOS and Windows. It helps users easily connect with group video calls and chats. With this app, users can experience the same features and functionalities on the desktop. Downloadable via the Microsoft Store or Mac App Store, the Messenger for Desktop app supports free and unlimited video calls, GIF support and dark mode. This dedicated desktop app from Facebook will be a direct rival to Zoom, the enterprise video conferencing app criticised for its security and privacy issues.
Skype Meet Now
Skype is a video conferencing tool that has been popular since the early 2000s and also one of the first such tools to exist. While it supported only one-to-one video calls for a long time, Meet Now is a recent move that allows users to host meetings. If you want to use Skype Meet Now, then you need to sign up to initiate a meeting. On signing up to this service, you will get a free unique link with a single click and you just have to share the same with other participants for unlimited meetings. It is touted that the meeting link will not expire and can be used any time in the future. What’s interesting is that you can record and save the conversation for up to 30 days. Also, you can blur the background before joining the call.
Webex is a real corporate tool that was acquired by Cisco in 2007. Predominantly, it is a business application and focuses on serving companies. There is a freemium version of Webex that requires you to wait for your account to go live. But due to the coronavirus outbreak, the freemium version supports up to 100 participants and unlimited meeting time. Talking about features, Cisco Webex supports customisable video address, the ability to join from anywhere, two-way video sharing with up to 720p resolution, integrated audio and presentation sharing, etc.
Jitsi Meet is an open-source video conferencing platform, which lets you easily meet others online by just navigating to the website (sans mandatory client download) and clicking on the ‘Go’ option. It lets geeks build their own Jitsu Videobridge. The software is like WordPress and can be hosted by a third-party. Also, it is possible for you to set up your own server using this tool and ensures that your data is secure and in-house. It has enough features such as support for up to 75 participants though 35 is recommended for the best experience, ability to blur the background in beta too, integration with Slack, Office 365, and Google Calendar, etc.
If all you want is an open-source alternative to Zoom, which focuses on privacy, then Jami is something that you should try. Jami features a professional-looking design and supports a wide range of platforms. What’s notable is that this platform does not use services to handle calls as it establishes direct connection between the users, thereby providing greater privacy. As the calls are direct, a third person cannot hear or see what is happening. The noteworthy features of Jami include support HD video calls, voice messaging, instant messaging, and file sharing. Also, you can enjoy all these features for free.
Whereby has a free version that works flawlessly on a browser but is restricted to only four participants. The platform lets users lock rooms and participants seeking to regain entrance have to “knock” before entering. Each room has a unique URL that will be chosen by users, which is impressive. The other notable aspects of Whereby are a chat function, the ability to mute or eject users, an option to share a screen, and fun emojis as well. Furthermore, there is a Pro version of Whereby that offers up to 12 participants per room in up to three meeting rooms. The Pro version supports screen-sharing, YouTube integration, and other interesting features.
Google Hangouts is one of the classic tools for video and audio conferencing and instant messaging. It is currently providing Hangouts Meet for the G Suite users and enterprise customers. Though it is one of the first tools to support video conferencing, Hangouts supports up to 10 participants and lets users share screens and send text messages in an easy and quick way. If it is voice conversations, then users can support up to 150 participants. However, you need to keep in mind that there will not be as many functionalities as other recent tools and no end-to-end encryption as well.
If you do not prefer using Google’s G-suite, then Zoho One is an opens-source online conferencing software that could be appealing to you. With Zoho Meetings, you can host end-to-end video meetings, webinars, and conference calls. These can be accessed via dial-ins and email links and can be forced to sign up or download an app to join in as there are desktop and mobile versions of the same. Zoho Meetings lets you record your meetings and has hosting options with its organisation and moderation tools. The software integrates with the Zoho Office app suite that lets you even pull in text documents, spreadsheets, and other files easily amidst presentation.
Spike has come up with a new video conferencing tool that is free to use. The company aims to make the tool easy, fun and accessible to all. To use this tool, users need not download any app or create an account. Even non-Spike users can stay connected for free without sharing any personal information. Just click on this link, key in your name and invite others to join. The advantages of using Spike is that there is no time limit to the video conversations and any number of participants can join the meetings. Also, the conversations are SRTP encrypted and it does not collect any personal details.
Stock photo from Tada Images/Shutterstock
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