Jitsi Web App

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It's the open-source client that works with the equally open-source Jitsi server. Most features are identical to the web version which runs in any web browser, however, there's one big difference: If you want your computer to be remote-controlled, you have to use this client because the web version cannot acquire the necessary permissions to. If you want to run Jitsi on your own desktop or server, you can download Jitsi Desktop, Jitsi Meet and all Jitsi related projects below. Use the stable builds for more consistent behavior. Latest nightlies are also quite usable and contain all our latest and greatest additions.

© Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Things may be starting to open up, but for now, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit face-to-face association and most of us are still relying on video calls to keep in touch with work colleagues, family, and friends. And for most of us — especially those who are facing financial difficulties — free is best. Zoom continues to top the list of videoconferencing apps, but there are a bunch of applications out there that will allow you to meet others online for free.

Popular Searches

We’ve listed a few of the best known videoconferencing apps, along with a couple of popular text chat apps that include video calling features. While most of these already have free versions, some are offering access to additional features for those who are currently working from home or who want to check up on friends and relatives online.

There are a number of apps we have not included, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and FaceTime, that allow you to do video chats. We’ve left them out because they require that all participants be members of a specific social network (Facebook, WhatsApp) or that you use a specific type of device (FaceTime, which is Apple-only). We’ve also tried to concentrate on applications that allow you to participate without having to download the app (unless you’re the host), and that allow at least ten or more participants.

A good idea is to try one or two out for yourself to see how well they fit in with your style and those of your friends. This list is a good place to start.

Zoom

The most popular video meeting app

Zoom is one of the most widely used video meeting apps.
App

Zoom has become one of the most well-known videoconferencing apps — in fact, its name is quickly becoming synonymous with video meetings. Before the pandemic hit, the company pushed Zoom mostly for corporate use, but it also provides a free basic version for individuals. At first, because Zoom didn’t expect its sudden popularity among non-business users, there were several missteps involving privacy and security; the company quickly instituted a number of changes and updates to address these issues.

The free version of Zoom allows up to 100 users to meet, but there is a 40-minute limit on meetings of more than two people, which can be pretty limiting. As of this writing, Zoom was not offering any special deals for those now working at home, but it does have a page offering help and advice to new users.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 40-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Skype Meet Now

A longtime go-to for online calls

Skype’s Meet Now feature supports up to 50 people with a four-hour time limit.

Skype has been the go-to platform for one-on-one conversations since the beta was released in 2003. Its Meet Now feature (which is accessed by choosing the “Meet Now” button on the left side of the app) allows for videoconferencing; up to 50 people can meet with a generous four-hour time limit on meetings.

There is also a separate page that lets you create a free video meeting without having to actually sign up for the service. However, you get more features using the app, so if you’re okay with registering for a free account, you’re better off doing that.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 50
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: Four hours per call, 10 hours per day, 100 hours per month
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes
Jitsi meet web application

Cisco Webex

A corporate app with a solid freemium version

Webex, a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ‘90s, has a useful free version.

Webex is a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ‘90s; it was acquired by Cisco in 2007. While it’s been mainly known as a business application and continues to focus on serving companies, it does have a fairly generous free version that’s worth checking out. During the current pandemic, it has widened the features of the freemium version from 50 to 100 participants, and you can meet for up to 50 minutes.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 50-minute limit
  • Group meetings: 50-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Google Meet

Now featured on your Gmail page

Meet offers a very simple and efficient way to video chat with colleagues, friends, and family — assuming they all have Google accounts, which is a requirement for both hosts and participants. In fact, Google is not only pushing people to use its Meet videoconferencing app instead of Zoom but also instead of its own soon-to-be-sundowned Google Hangouts app. (We previously included Google Hangouts in this roundup, but Hangouts users are now being actively urged from within the app to use Google Meet for their video chats.) You can find a Meet link in the Gmail app and in every appointment you make using Google Calendar.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour limit
  • Group meetings: 24-hour limit through June 28th, one-hour limit after
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Microsoft Teams

Not just for business

© Provided by The Verge

Microsoft Teams was built as a competitor to Slack and is an especially good idea if you’re part of the Office ecosystem. While the application is mainly focused on business use, Microsoft has stepped out of its three-piece suit and unveiled a free personal version of Teams, which lets anyone chat, talk, or have video meetings — you just have to create an account with Microsoft in order to use it. Currently, due to the pandemic, Microsoft has extended the maximum number of participants from 100 to 300, and it has pushed the time limit from 60 minutes to 24 hours, which gives it an edge over most other free videoconferencing apps.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: Normally 100; extended to 300 during pandemic
  • One-on-one meetings: Normally 60-minute limit; extended to 24 hours during pandemic
  • Group meetings: Normally 60-minute limit; extended to 24 hours during pandemic
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Google Duo

A mobile app best suited to one-to-ones

You don’t really expect Google to only offer one simple videoconferencing app, do you? Besides Google Meet, Google also has its mobile app Duo, which was built as a consumer app (whereas Meet was originally designed as a business app). While Duo was first touted as the app to use for one-to-one conversations and could only be used on phones, it now allows you to create groups of up to 32 participants and includes a web app. All participants must have Google accounts.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 32
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Mobile only
  • Record meetings: No

StarLeaf

A corporate meeting app with a free basic version

© Provided by The Verge

If you’re not a company, you may not have heard of StarLeaf. It’s really a platform for companies rather than individuals; its lowest-cost paid plan starts with five licenses suitable for a small business. But it is now offering a basic video and messaging product free of charge for those trying to keep in touch during the pandemic.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 20
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 45-minute time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Jitsi Meet

Open source with plenty of features

Another “you probably haven’t heard of it” videoconference app, Jitsi Meet is an open-source platform that lets you easily meet online by simply navigating to the site and clicking on “Start meeting.” If you’re a developer, you can build your own conferencing app via Jitsi Videobridge, but most people will be happy with the quick web version, which offers many features found in more well-known apps, such as fake backgrounds, chat, session recording (to Dropbox), and the ability to “kick out” unruly participants.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Whereby

Single meeting rooms with up to 50 participants

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Whereby’s free version gives you the use of a single meeting room with up to 50 participants, along with the ability to lock rooms (participants have to “knock” to gain entrance). Each room has its own URL that you get to choose, which is great — assuming that nobody else has already taken that name. (For example, I first tried whereby.com/testroom and found it was already taken.) But it also has a chat function, lets you share a screen, allows you to mute or eject users, and offers breakout groups.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 50
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 45-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Glip Pro

A wide range of free features

Glip Pro offers a nice range of features for a free video meeting app. It does insist that you have either a work email address or a Google account, and wants access to your contacts on that account. But if you’re good with that, you get 24 hours of meeting time (as long as you sign up by July), screen sharing, recording, chat, and virtual backgrounds, among others. It even offers closed captions (although, as with a lot of AI transcription software, some of the captions leave something to be desired).

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour limit (for signups by July 2021)
  • Group meetings: 24-hour limit (for signups by July 2021)
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Spike

A simple web-based system

Spike can be used without having to download anything.

Spike, an expanding email service, offers videoconferencing to its subscribers, but it has also made a basic video meeting web app available to anyone who wants it. It’s quick and easy to use: just go to video.spike.chat, type in a name, and click on “Join Video Chat Meeting.” Spike generates a unique URL for the chat and even lets you share your screen.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 200
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

More alternatives

There is a wide range of other Zoom alternatives out there, including RemoteHQ, Talky, and 8x8 (which acquired Jitsi in 2018). Some of these don’t have a free version or the number of participants who can use the free version is limited. For example, BlueJeans starts at $9.99 per month for unlimited-time meetings with up to 100 participants, while the free version of Zoho Meeting only permits a maximum of three participants, and Intermedia AnyMeeting allows four.

Jitsi Web Application

Other apps offer some video meeting as an added feature. Slack is mainly set up for text chat, but it does give you the ability to make voice and video calls as well. If you’re on the free version of Slack, you can make a video call to an individual. But if you want to host a meeting between several people, as opposed to a one-on-one conversation, and want to do it for free, you’ll need to look for an alternative. The messaging app Signal offers group video calls with a maximum of eight participants.

There are also apps like Houseparty, which lets up to eight people use a virtual room to chat. In fact, anybody can drop into a friend’s online session without an invitation (although you can “lock” your room to prevent intruders). However, it does demand that all participants register in order to use it — and registration includes your name, email address, birthdate, and phone number. So we didn’t include it among our recommendations.

Update May 4th, 2021, 2:40PM ET: This article was originally published on June 11th, 2020. Since then, all entries have been updated; in addition, two apps have been dropped (Hangouts and Spike) and Glip Pro has been added.

Update May 5th, 2021, 9:15AM ET: Updated to reflect the fact that Whereby’s breakout groups feature is out of beta and to add Signal to the list of alternatives.

Update May 6th, 2021 4PM ET: Updated to add Spike back to the main list.

Follow these steps for a quick Jitsi-Meet installation on a Debian-based GNU/Linux system.The following distributions are supported out-of-the-box:

  • Debian 9 (Stretch) or newer
  • Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) or newer

Note: Many of the installation steps require root or sudo access.

Required packages and repository updates

You will need the following packages:

  • gnupg2
  • nginx-full
  • sudo # only needed if you use sudo

OpenJDK 8 or OpenJDK 11 must be used.

Make sure your system is up-to-date and required packages are installed:

On Ubuntu systems, Jitsi requires dependencies from Ubuntu's universe package repository. To ensure this is enabled, run this command:

Install Jitsi Meet

Domain of your server and set up DNS

Decide what domain your server will use. For example, meet.example.org.

Application

Set a DNS A record for that domain, using:

  • your server's public IP address, if it has its own public IP; or
  • the public IP address of your router, if your server has a private (RFC1918) IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.2) and connects through your router via Network Address Translation (NAT).

If your computer/server or router has a dynamic IP address (the IP address changes constantly), you can use a dynamic dns-service instead.

Set up the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) (optional)

If the machine used to host the Jitsi Meet instance has a FQDN (for example meet.example.org) already set up in DNS, you can set it with the following command:

sudo hostnamectl set-hostname meet.example.org

Then add the same FQDN in the /etc/hosts file:

Note: x.x.x.x is your server's public IP address.

Finally on the same machine test that you can ping the FQDN with:

ping '$(hostname)'

If all worked as expected, you should see:meet.example.org

Add the Jitsi package repository

This will add the jitsi repository to your package sources to make the Jitsi Meet packages available.

Jitsi Meet Web App

Setup and configure your firewall

The following ports need to be open in your firewall, to allow traffic to the Jitsi Meet server:

  • 80 TCP - for SSL certificate verification / renewal with Let's Encrypt
  • 443 TCP - for general access to Jitsi Meet
  • 10000 UDP - for general network video/audio communications
  • 22 TCP - if you access you server using SSH (change the port accordingly if it's not 22)
  • 3478 UDP - for quering the stun server (coturn, optional, needs config.js change to enable it)
  • 5349 TCP - for fallback network video/audio communications over TCP (when UDP is blocked for example), served by coturn

If you are using ufw, you can use the following commands:

Check the firewall status with:

Using SSH

App

For more details on using and hardening SSH access, see the corresponding Debian or Ubuntu documentation.

Forward ports via your router

If you are running Jitsi Meet on a server behind NAT, forward the ports on your router to your server's IP address.

Note: if participants cannot see or hear each other, double check your firewall / NAT rules.

TLS Certificate

In order to have encrypted communications, you need a TLS certificate.

During installation of Jitsi Meet you can choose between different options:

  1. The recommended option is to choose Generate a new self-signed certificate and create a Lets-Encrypt Certificate later (see below) (this will replace the self-signed certificate).

  2. But if you want to use a different certificate or you want to choose a different challenge type of Let's Encrypt (see below for details), you should create that certificate first and then install jitsi-meet and choose I want to use my own certificate.

  3. You could also use the self-signed certificate but this is not recommended for the following reasons:

    • Using a self-signed certificate will result in warnings being shown in your users browsers, because they cannot verify your server's identity.

    • Jitsi Meet mobile apps require a valid certificate signed by a trusted Certificate Authority and will not be able to connect to your server if you choose a self-signed certificate.

Install Jitsi Meet

Note: The installer will check if Nginx or Apache are present (in that order) and configure a virtual host within the web server it finds to serve Jitsi Meet.

If you are already running Nginx on port 443 on the same machine, turnserver configuration will be skipped as it will conflict with your current port 443.

SSL/TLS certificate generation:You will be asked about SSL/TLS certificate generation.See above for details.

Hostname:You will also be asked to enter the hostname of the Jitsi Meet instance. If you have a domain, use the specific domain name, for example:meet.example.org.Alternatively you can enter the IP address of the machine (if it is static or doesn't change).

This hostname will be used for virtualhost configuration inside Jitsi Meet and also, you and your correspondents will be using it to access the web conferences.

Access Control

Jitsi Meet server:Note: By default, anyone who has access to your Jitsi Meet server will be able to start a conference: if your server is open to the world, anyone can have a chat with anyone else.If you want to limit the ability to start a conference to registered users, follow the instructions to set up a secure domain.

Conferences/Rooms:The access control for conferences/rooms is managed in the rooms, you can set a password on the webpage of the specific room after creation.See the User Guide for details: https://jitsi.github.io/handbook/docs/user-guide/user-guide-start-a-jitsi-meeting

Generate a Let's Encrypt certificate (optional, recommended)

In order to have encrypted communications, you need a TLS certificate.

The best method is to create a certificate that is signed by a Certificate Authority.This way you can avoid problems with a self-signed certificate (see above for details).The easiest way is to use Let's Encrypt.

Simply run the following in your shell:

Note that this script uses the HTTP-01 challenge type and thus your instance needs to be accessible from the public internet on both ports 80 and 443. If you want to use a different challenge type, don't use this script and instead choose I want to use my own certificate during jitsi-meet installation.

Advanced configuration

If the installation is on a machine behind NAT jitsi-videobridge should configure itself automatically on boot. If three way calls do not work, further configuration of jitsi-videobridge is needed in order for it to be accessible from outside.

Provided that all required ports are routed (forwarded) to the machine that it runs on. By default these ports are (TCP/443 or TCP/4443 and UDP/10000).

The following extra lines need to be added to the file /etc/jitsi/videobridge/sip-communicator.properties:

And comment the existing org.ice4j.ice.harvest.STUN_MAPPING_HARVESTER_ADDRESSES.

See the documentation of ice4jfor details.

Systemd/Limits:Default deployments on systems using systemd will have low default values for maximum processes and open files. If the used bridge will expect higher number of participants the default values need to be adjusted (the default values are good for less than 100 participants).

To update the values edit /etc/systemd/system.conf and make sure you have the following values if values are smaller, if not do not update.

To check values just run:

To load the values and check them see below for details.

Systemd details

To reload the systemd changes on a running system execute sudo systemctl daemon-reload and sudo systemctl restart jitsi-videobridge2.To check the tasks part execute sudo systemctl status jitsi-videobridge2 and you should see Tasks: XX (limit: 65000).To check the files and process part execute cat /proc/`cat /var/run/jitsi-videobridge/jitsi-videobridge.pid`/limits and you should see:

Confirm that your installation is working

Launch a web browser (such as Firefox, Chrome or Safari) and enter the hostname or IP address from the previous step into the address bar.

If you used a self-signed certificate (as opposed to using Let's Encrypt), your web browser will ask you to confirm that you trust the certificate. If you are testing from the iOS or Android app, it will probably fail at this point, if you are using a self-signed certificate.

You should see a web page prompting you to create a new meeting.
Make sure that you can successfully create a meeting and that other participants are able to join the session.

If this all worked, then congratulations! You have an operational Jitsi conference service.

Uninstall

Sometimes the following packages will fail to uninstall properly:

  • jigasi
  • jitsi-videobridge

When this happens, just run the uninstall command a second time and it should be ok.

The reason for the failure is that sometimes the uninstall script is faster than the process that stops the daemons. The second run of the uninstall command fixes this, as by then the jigasi or jitsi-videobridge daemons are already stopped.

Debugging problems

  • Web Browser:You can try to use a different web browser. Some versions of some browsers are known to have issues with Jitsi Meet.

  • WebRTC, Webcam and Microphone:You can also visit https://test.webrtc.org to test your browser's WebRTC support.

  • Firewall:If participants cannot see or hear each other, double check your firewall / NAT rules.

  • Nginx/Apache:As we prefer the usage of Nginx as webserver, the installer checks first for the presence of Nginx and then for Apache. In case you desperately need to enforce the usage of apache, try pre-setting the variable jitsi-meet/enforce_apache for package jitsi-meet-web-config on debconf.

  • Log files:Take a look at the various log files:

Meet

Additional Functions

Adding sip-gateway to Jitsi Meet

Install Jigasi

Jitsi Web App

Jigasi is a server-side application acting as a gateway to Jitsi Meet conferences. It allows regular SIP clients to join meetings and provides transcription capabilities.

Jitsi Meet Web App

During the installation, you will be asked to enter your SIP account and password. This account will be used to invite the other SIP participants.

Reload Jitsi Meet

Launch again a browser with the Jitsi Meet URL and you'll see a telephone icon on the right end of the toolbar. Use it to invite SIP accounts to join the current conference.

Jitsi Meet Web App

Enjoy!