Zoom’s popularity has grown massively in recent months, as more and more people are using it as a means of keeping in touch during the lockdown. However, there are many alternatives to Zoom. Other companies have been quick to catch up! Zoom has also had a few (well documented) issues with privacy and security…so I thought I’d let people know that it’s not the only option right now 🙂
Here are 13 alternatives to Zoom (in no particular order…)
Skype has been around since 2003, and is one of the longest running options for video conferencing. It was bought by Microsoft in 2011, and remains a free, easy-to-use option for video conferencing. The number of people that can participate in an audio or video chat on Skype doubled in 2019, from 25 to 50 people.
Skype recently introduced a new feature – Meet Now, which doesn’t require users to sign up to Skype or download the app to participate in a video call. Simply create a meeting link (in one click), share the link with your attendees, and they can join the call. If they don’t have Skype installed, Skype opens up in a web browser (currently only Edge and Chrome are supported). There are no time limits and you can use most of Skype’s features (for example, burring your background, sharing your screen). You can even record you call, and Skype will store it for 30 days.
Facebook Messenger Rooms
Messenger Rooms allow group video chats with up to 50 people. Rooms can be created in Messenger, by choosing People, then Create a Room. This creates a shareable link for attendees to access on their phone or desktop. You can share the link through Facebook’s News Feed, Groups and Events. As a host you can make your rooms either easy or hard to find, attendees can be removed and rooms can be locked (or unlocked). Attendees don’t need a Facebook account to join.
Teams is Microsoft’s communication and collaboration platform, aimed primarily at businesses (although schools are also utilising it during lockdown). It currently allows up to 250 people in a meeting (or up to 10,000 viewers through its presentation feature). Users can easily share files and chat during meetings as well as screen-share. Obviously Teams integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office – there is real-time collaboration with Office, allowing users to work together using Office apps for web (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). Users can access 10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file storage per person. Teams has a free plan available.
Google Meet was originally aimed at businesses, rather than individuals wanting to catch up with friends. However, that has changed recently and Google Meet is now free to use for everyone, if you have a Google account. It can be accessed via Meet’s website, Gmail or Calendar and is available for iOS and Android. You can also easily join meetings by simply entering the meeting code shared with you. Features include screen sharing, pin, remove or mute attendees and the ability to record the meeting.
FaceTime is usually preinstalled on most Apple devices and with iOS 12, groups of up to 32 people are supported. The biggest disadvantage with FaceTime is that it’s limited to Apple devices… anyone using an Android phone or tablet, or PC will not be able to join, and there’s currently no browser-based version.
Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp allows users to send and receive free text and image messages. With group chats, you can share messages, photos, and videos with up to 256 people. However, group video chats are limited to 8 (including the host). It’s available for Android, iOS, Mac or Windows (although currently you can’t make voice or video calls using the desktop program). Features end-to-end encryption and the ability to share files up to 100MB.
Signal is an independent, non-profit, encrypted messaging app which is free to download. It is often considered to be the world’s most secure, focusing mainly on privacy. (No ads, no trackers). However, although it allows for large group chats, it does not allow for group video calls.
Starleaf targets organisations, rather than individuals, as clients. You can host up to 20 people per meeting but the free plan has a time limit of 46 minutes. (The paid plans allow you to host up to 100 attendees; with another 1,000 people able to view but not participate.)
If you already use Gmail, Google Hangouts is a obvious choice for video chats. It’s free to use and up to 150 people can participate in a chat (but only 10 people can participate in a video call). It’s easy to join (if you have a Google account) from Gmail, the Hangouts app (for iOS or Android) or an extension for Chrome or Edge. There are no time limits and you can share your screen (either the entire desktop or a single window).
Google Duo is designed purely for video calls, and doesn’t support voice or text chat. It is free, allows for up to 12 attendees, and is available for iOS, Android and web. Duo is really simple to use and only requires a phone number (you don’t need a Google account). Includes Knock Knock – which allows you to see the person calling you. You can also send a video message if the person you are calling doesn’t answer. Like WhatsApp and FaceTime it uses end-to-end encryption, so is secure.
Used primarily by gamers, Discord is free to use and allows users to text, send audio recordings, or video chat with up to eight participants. You can download Discord for Windows, open it in a browser or access it on its iOS or Android apps.
Slack is a tool which helps people work together and collaborate easily, which also offers voice and video chat. With the free plan, you can chat and video call 1:1. Slack works on desktop, as well as on iOS and Android.
Jitsi Meet is a free fully encrypted, open-source video conferencing tool with no need for an account and no time limits on calls. You can share your desktop, presentations etc, invite users to a conference via a simple, custom URL and use the chat feature during meetings.
The video conferencing tool you choose to use will probably be based on two things – security (do you need or want end-to-end encryption) and the number of attendees. For large group meetings, you’ll really need to look at Skype (50), Facebook Messenger (50) or Zoom (100). WhatsApp, Jitsi Meet, Google Duo, Signal and FaceTime all use E2E encryption, so your video, voice or text chats will be secure – no one between you and the people you are communicating with can decrypt your conversations.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone from using Zoom – anything that keeps friends and family in touch, and businesses running during this time can only be a good thing, in my opinion. I’m just pointing out that there are alternatives to Zoom.
If you want to get started with Zoom, please click here. I’ve also written a blog about keeping safe and secure on Zoom here. If you are looking for a more “fun” video conferencing option, rather than a business orientated one, just click here.
I hope you enjoyed reading about alternatives to Zoom – if you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment below. Thank You!