As the whole world is currently preparing for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face contact between people is still limited and most of us rely on video calls to help keep in touch with work colleagues, family and friends.
Zoom continues to top the list of the best video conferencing apps, but there are plenty of other apps out there that let you chat with other users online for free.
We have listed some of the most famous video calling apps as well as a few popular text chat apps that include video calling features. While most apps have free versions, some still offer to pay for extra features.
We have not included a number of applications, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and FaceTime, that allow you to video chat with someone. This decision is due to the fact that in order to use the mentioned applications, all participants must be members of a certain social network (Facebook, WhatsApp) or a certain type of device is required (FaceTime is available only for Apple). We've also tried to focus on apps that allow you to participate in a conversation without having to download an app (unless you're the host).
It's a good idea to try installing one or two apps to try out to see how they work for you and your friends.
Zoom is one of the most famous video conferencing applications, due in large part to its easy-to-use interface. The company initially promoted Zoom mainly for corporate use, but later provided a free basic version for individuals.
This was true in the beginning, as Zoom was not expected to take off in popularity among non-commercial users, and the app had several privacy and security bugs. However, the company quickly made a number of changes and updates to solve these problems (including end-to-end data encryption available for free).
The free version of ZOOM allows you to organize conferences up to 100 users, but there is a limitation of 40 minutes to meet more than two people, which is quite uncomfortable for many of us. At the time of writing this article, the application does not offer any special offers for those who work remotely, but on the website there is a page providing assistance and offering advice to users at a time of pandemic.
- Conference to 100 participants (free version).
- Unlimited meetings up to two people.
- to forty minutes for group meetings (more than 2 people).
Skype MEET NOW
Skype became a platform for communication one-on-one from the output of the beta version in 2003. Its function MEET NOW (access to which by pressing the "Meet Now" button on the left side of the application) allows video conferencing, as a result of which up to 50 people can occur virtually no time limit.
There is also A separate web page, which allows users to create a free video excavation without actual registration in the service. However, using the application you get more functions, therefore, if you agree to the registration of a free account, it is worth doing this.
- Saving a call for up to 30 days.
- Blur background (with an installed application).
- The ability to share by the presentation.
- to 50 participants, without time limit.
WebEx - an application for video conferencing, which exists since the 90s; It was acquired by Cisco in 2007. Although the application is mainly known as a business application and is still focused on servicing companies, she has a rather generous free version that you should try. At the time of writing a free version of the application, you can collect conferences from 50 to 100 participants, which can last up to 50 minutes.
- to 100 participants.
- up to 50 minutes for each meeting.
- You can record meetings and save locally.
Until recently, Google Meet (previously Hangouts MEET) was available only to teachers and those who subscribe to the SUITE paid service. However, now Google made Meet available to all users of his free email service Gmail - in fact, the company added a link to Meet on the left side of the Gmail online application (and browser version).
MEET offers a very simple video chat method with colleagues, friends and family - provided that all of them have Google Accounts, which is a requirement for both organizers and participants. To begin with, just go to Meet, click "Start a Meeting" or "Go to the Meeting", give a meeting a name (if you want) and send invitations. You can also schedule a meeting with Google Calendar. The company includes a number of security features, such as the ability to resolve or reject the entry of any participant.
- Unlimited conference time until September 30, then a 60-minute limit.
- up to 100 participants.
- offers noise reduction function.
The Microsoft Teams platform was created to compete with Slack and is an excellent solution if you are part of the Office ecosystem. Until recently, the application was mainly focused on using the business in. Nevertheless, Microsoft abandoned this idea and presented the free personal version of Teams, which operates on iPhone and Android devices (so far it is not available for PCs) and allows you to communicate, talk or spend video protection with up to 20 people. To use the program, you just need to create an account in Microsoft. In addition, the company provides a free version for students.
- The ability to create a group of up to 20 people.
- Screen Demonstration.
- Photos and audio files can be attached in text chats.
Did you think that Google would offer only one simple video conferencing application? In addition to Google Meet (which gradually replaces Hangouts and was originally intended for business users), Google also has a Duo mobile application that was created for ordinary users. Recently, the company added invitation links to DUO, as well as a very simple web interface. In addition, the application allows you to create groups up to 12 participants (but only in mobile versions). All participants must be Duo users, which can be a problem for wider use.
- Groups up to 12 people.
- end-to-end encryption.
and finally, we have a "classic" version of Google Hangouts, which is still available, at least the company does not promote it, especially among users of G Suite and corporate clients who are invited to use MEET.
At the same time, if you feel "old-fashioned", you can use Hangouts for a video chat with 10 people if you are a user Gmail or G Suite Basic (up to 25 participants). Additional features are not so much here: you can add text messages and share the screen, but that's all.
- to 10 participants for Gmail users.
- up to 150 participants can participate in voice conversations.
If you are an ordinary user, not the owner of the company, then may not even hear about Starleaf. This is a platform for large companies, which does not even indicate the price on your website, as those who want to call directly to the sales department. However, now the application offers the basic version for video and messaging for free for those who are trying to maintain communication during a pandemic.
- to 20 participants.
- 46 minutes for each meeting.
JITSI MEET - Another application for video conferencing, which you probably did not hear. This is an open source platform that makes it easy to meet on the Internet, just going to the site and pressing "Go". If you are more technically grounded, you can create your meeting through JITSU Videobridge, but most people are satisfied with a quick web version that offers many features available in more well-known applications, such as chat, session recording (in Dropbox), and the ability to exclude unnecessary participants.
- to 75 participants.
- Public or private chat.
- Maybe the background (currently in beta).
- integrates with Slack, Google Calendar and Office 365.
The free version of WHEREBY is quite limited compared to some others mentioned here. It makes it possible to use one "room" in which only up to four participants can come in, and the ability to close it (participants must "knock" to enter). Each room has its own URL that you can choose, and it is great because it improves safety. There is a chat function here, which allows you to demonstrate the screen, turn off the sound or exclude users, and also contains amusing Emodi. If you want to add more people, Pro version (US $ 9.9 or about 750 rubles per month) offers up to 12 participants to a room in three conference rooms.
- to four participants in the free version.
- Screen sharing.
- Integration with YouTube.
- The ability to "lock" the rooms.
SPIKE - the mail application in which functions for joint work are added. Given the current demand for online meetings, the company recently added video conferencing to his repertoire. This feature is very easy to use, because it does not require registration or setting something. Just follow the video conferencing link, enter your name and, if you wish, the topic of the meeting. The URL of the Assembly is then copied to the clipboard automatically, or you can send an invitation to email. In this application there are several additions: the ability to demonstrate the screen or the insertion of the emoticon, but that's all. In addition, the organizer cannot monitor the meeting. There are no restrictions on the number of participants or meeting time.
- Simple interface.
- There are no restrictions on the number of participants or meetings.
Video calls Mail. Ru
The most interesting Russian solution for video conferencing is service of video calls Mail.ru. It was launched relatively recently, but among the domestic alternatives looks the most convenient and functional. The main dignity is completely free. To start using, there is only one requirement: the initiator of the call must be registered with Mail.ru. Invited participants enter the conference via a link - they do not have to install an application for this or register somewhere. Mail.ru video calls are supported by browsers on mobile devices and PCs. Up to 100 people can take part in one conference, while there are no time limits, and among the useful options are synchronization with Mail.ru mail and calendar, delayed call, screen sharing.
- Up to 100 participants.
- Share the screen.
- No application installation required to use.
- No time limit.
There are many other alternatives to Zoom, including RemoteHQ, Talky, Highfive, and 8x8 (acquired by Jitsi in 2018), and some of them don't have a free version; for example, BlueJeans, a relatively well-known platform, starts at $9.99 per month (750 rubles) for unlimited time for meetings with up to 50 participants.
Slack is primarily used for text chat, but also allows you to make voice and video calls. If you use the free version of Slack, you can call an individual via video call. But if you want to organize a meeting between several people, not a one-on-one conversation, and you want to do it for free, you will have to look for an alternative
Also worth mentioning is Houseparty, a popular application for ordinary users that allows a group to eight people use the virtual room to chat. In fact, anyone can join a friend's online session without being invited (although you can "lock" your meeting to keep intruders out). However, the platform requires all members to be registered, and registration itself will include your name, email address, date of birth, and phone number. It is due to security reasons that we did not include the application in our list.