While the popularity of the video conferencing service Zoom has skyrocketed since the outbreak of the coronavirus, recent news of its many security and privacy issues might have you feeling nervous about using it. In the video above, I share three free alternatives you should try instead.
Originally created as a voice chat tool for gamers, Discord has made strides to reshape its image into an all-in-one voice, video and text platform for all types of users.
Discord’s interface will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used Slack or Microsoft Teams. Discord servers can have different channels for projects or discussions, and voice channels make it incredibly easy for anyone on a server to quickly hop on a call. Thanks to a recent update, up to 100 people can join a video call with the press of a button. Sharing your screen is also possible with the Go Live feature, although you can’t save recordings of calls or change your webcam background as you can in Zoom.
I’ve been using Discord for years, primarily as a way to chat with friends as we play a video game together. Recently, however, we’ve been using the tool for everything from hosting board game nights to watching TV shows together (a friend even streamed himself building a computer). It’s been an incredibly easy way for us to stay connected.
Remember Skype? Well, it’s still around, and it’s actually a great free alternative to Zoom. The Microsoft-owned VOIP service has launched the new Meet Now feature, which supports up to 50 people on a video call. The best part is, anyone can join the call via the invite link regardless of whether or not they have a Skype account.
Skype offers all of the basic features you might need: recording calls, screen sharing, blurring your webcam background and, with the most recent update, support for virtual backgrounds. It’s a great all-around platform for keeping in touch with everyone from your tech-illiterate parents to your small business team.
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At first glance, Cisco Webex looks like an enterprise tool meant more for tomorrow’s budget meeting and less for tonight’s happy hour. While that may be the case, its generous free-tier offers a lot of the same features as Zoom: calendar integration, video calls with up to 50 people and a myriad of call-in options. During the coronavirus pandemic, the free-tier restriction limiting calls to 40 minutes has been lifted, and up to 100 people can be on a video call.
Webex is a great free option for small businesses or medium-sized teams, but it can also be a great way to stay connected with friends and family.