Most people currently rely on video conferencing to keep in touch with work colleagues, family members and friends – and when faced with financial difficulties, free is best. While Zoom currently appears to be the most popular video conferencing app, there are several applications that people can use to meet online for free.
We have listed some of the most popular video conferencing apps here, as well as some popular text chat apps that include video conferencing features. It’s worth noting that most of them already have free versions, but some offer access to additional features for anyone who is currently working from home or looking for friends and relatives online.
There are a number of apps that we have not included, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and FaceTime, that allow you to video chat. However, they either require that all participants are members (Facebook, WhatsApp) or that you use a certain device type (FaceTime). The following list contains more general applications that you can use to participate without having to download the app (unless you are the host).
A good idea is to try one or two of them yourself to see how well they fit your style and that of your friends. However, this list is a good place to start.
Zoom has become one of the most popular video conferencing apps, mainly due to its user-friendly interface. The company developed Zoom primarily for corporate use, but also provided a free basic version for individuals. This version allows up to 100 users to meet, but there is a 40-minute limit for meetings with more than two people, which is quite limiting for many of us. At the time of this writing, Zoom did not offer special offers for those who now work at home, but there is a site that offers help and advice to new users.
- Record up to 100 participants
- Unlimited one-on-one calls
- 40-minute limit for group meetings
Skype has been the platform for one-to-one calls since the beta was released in 2003. The Meet Now function (which you can access using the “Meet Now” button on the left side of the app) enables video conferencing. Depending on the website, the maximum number of participants can vary depending on the platform and device. There is actually a separate page where you can create a free video meeting without actually having to sign up for the service. However, when we tried, I and other employees kept getting an error message. So if you’re using Skype to host a meeting, it’s best to download the app.
- Record the call for up to 30 days
- Can blur the background (if you have the app)
- Share presentations
Webex is a video conferencing app that has been around since the 1990s. It was acquired by Cisco in 2007. Although it’s mostly known as a business application and continues to focus on businesses, there is a fairly generous free version worth checking out. For the current emergency, the functions of the freemium version have been expanded from 50 to 100 participants, the 40-minute limit for meetings has been abolished and call-in functions added.
- Up to 100 participants
- Unlimited timing for every meeting
- Call for audio
If you’re not a company, you may not have heard of StarLeaf. It is a platform for large companies – the way they do not quote a price on their website. You need to call a seller. But now it offers its basic video and messaging product for free to those trying to stay in touch during the pandemic.
- Up to 20 participants
- Forty-six minutes for each meeting
Video meetups with chat apps
Many of us already use Slack and / or Microsoft teams that have a limited number of video conferencing features. If you’re wondering if you can use a free version of Slack or Teams for video conferencing, here’s some information:
Slack is primarily set up for text chat (and is in the process of introducing a new design), but it also gives you the ability to make voice and video calls. If you’re using the free version of Slack, you can call someone by video call. However, if you are hosting a meeting between several people as opposed to a one-on-one conversation and want to hold it for free, you need to look for an alternative.
Microsoft Teams was obviously developed as a competitor to Slack. Because it’s part of the Microsoft application ecosystem, it’s a good idea if you want to collaborate on different office documents, for example, and it offers video conferencing capabilities. Microsoft currently offers teachers and payers the opportunity to use Office 365 E1 free of charge for six months. People who only use Gmail or other free apps will be forwarded to Skype.