Zoom is getting a lot more use now that people need to hold meetings remotely and carry other events virtually that used to involve face-to-face interaction. However, it’s not the only online video conferencing solution out there, and it might not be the best for your needs. There are plenty of other free and paid options to pick from. Here are a few of our favourites:
The best free alternatives to Zoom
Formerly Hangouts Meet, this is probably the most obvious pick, especially since you can use Google Meet on a vast array of devices and web browsers. Basic Meet service is now free for everyone, with tiered paid plans for companies requiring a few more bells and whistles.
The free version of Meet can handle text, voice, and video chats. It lets you connect with up to 100 other users per call for meetings up of to an hour in length. The $11-per-user “Workspace Essentials” plan adds features like the ability to record meetings and have participants join from both domestic and international dial-in numbers. All versions of Meet offer increasingly elaborate moderation and presentation features. (Android, iOS, web)
Discord is a gaming-focused app, but it has a broader appeal than just gaming thanks to its encrypted chats and flexible organisation features. Discord chats take place within rooms on dedicated “servers” that users can set up and organise themselves. Think Slack, but with video and voice calls in addition to text chat.
Video calls only support nine users in total, but the app includes simple screen-sharing tools and other handy features if you’re using it to hold meetings. Considering it’s a free app, there’s a lot of flexibility here and it’s a great option if you want a permanent conferencing solution, but the other free options on this list will be easier to get up and running. Discord is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and most web browsers.
Facebook Messenger Rooms
Earlier this year, Facebook unveiled Facebook Messenger Rooms, a free and simpler alternative to video chat apps like Zoom, Teams, or Google Meet. Instead of existing as a separate product, the service is integrated directly into Facebook Messenger. Each room supports up to 50 users at once, and setup is very user-friendly — rooms can be joined at the click of a link, and participants need not have a Facebook account. Features include the ability to select different themes and share their screens or co-watch streaming video with others in a room. (Android, iOS, web)
Facetime is iOS-only, which limits its use as a universal solution, but it’s included on just about every Apple device. The app supports up to 32 people in a single call, so as long as everyone has an iPhone, iPad, or Mac handy, it can be a solid way to hold remote meetings.
Skype is another video chat service most people are likely familiar with. It supports up to 50 users on a single video call and is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and as a web app, but like most of the other free apps here, all participants will need to have a Microsoft account to participate. That said, if everyone in your group is already signed up and using the service, it’ll do the job just fine.
The best paid alternatives to Zoom
If you don’t want to go with Google, the open-source alternative Zoho One includes online conferencing software that should appeal to anyone familiar with Zoom or Meet.
Zoho Meetings lets you host end-to-end encrypted video meetings, conference calls, and webinars, all of which can be accessed through dial-ins and email links — you don’t need to force anyone to sign up or download an app in order to join in. There are also desktop, web, and mobile versions of the app.
You can record your meetings, and the hosting options include moderation and organisation tools. The software also integrates with Zoho’s Office app suite, so you can pull in spreadsheets, text documents, and other files easily during your presentation. Zoho even has a handy comparison sheet showing how it compares to Zoom.
Zencastr is technically a web-based podcasting service and doesn’t do video calls, but it’s excellent for conference calls. Amid the pandemic, Zencastr has also lifted its restrictions on group size and recording limits. Free users can now host calls with unlimited users and unlimited recording time (normally only three users per call and eight hours of recording time per month, though unrecorded calls don’t count).
Paid users ($28/month) get a special live editing dashboard and post-production tools. Only the host needs to have a Zencastr account, as they can invite users through simple shareable links (like you can with Zoom). There’s also a “hand raise” button that can help keep things running smoothly when you’re hosting a large conference call and want to make sure everyone can chime in.
This article was originally published in March 2020 and updated on October 23, 2020 to include more up-to-date information about Facebook Messenger Rooms and Google Meet.