Google Meet And Jitsi – Free Zoom Alternatives

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Google MeetA few weeks ago I published a post criticising Google Meet. I owe Google an apology and expose myself as a total moron for failing to work through the obvious steps to getting it to work.  When I first started to play with Meet I could not get it to work at all on Chrome.

Five weeks on I started trying it in Firefox and it worked. Once I gave the browser permission to use the camera and microphone in my webcam, it worked perfectly. I tried the same in the new Microsoft Edge browser and it bombed. This is where I made the important discovery and realised I had failed to go through the first, basic steps if something isn’t working in a browser.

Check Extensions

That basic step is to look at the extensions running in the background. I don’t have that many so this was not a lengthy investigation. I turned all extensions off and launched Google Meet and it worked. One by one I enabled my extensions until I found that one which was blocking Meet. It was a simple tool used to stop video files loading and playing automatically. Once this was activated I was back at square one with the service not working.

I won’t go into the names I called myself for missing this obvious step, but I will put it down to a brain fart during Covid-19 lockdown!

Time Limits

Since lockdown, I have been holding a virtual pub meeting with friends we normally meet up with in our local watering hole. We rejected Zoom because of (a) the then security issues and (b) the free version cut out after 40 minutes. Webex allowed us unlimited time and the sessions often hit two hours as we shared our weeks and having seven participants takes time! Webex has announced that the no limit session will end at the end of June and would provide 50 minutes of chat.

So the search started for an unlimited time service which is why I was determined to get Meet working. I have not had time to fully explore what Meet has to offer, but browsing the tech press it seems that new features are coming out on a near-weekly basis. As you would expect, the excellent Steve Dotto has covered Meet and has recent;y published a lengthy exploration of four extensions that can be used, including Jamboard.

NordVPN Security

Of course, the one issue with Meet is Google itself. It has long-dropped its Don’t Be Evil mantra and there are serious concerns about its data mining users traffic content. For some emails I use ProtonMail and all my Internet traffic goes through NordVPN, so like to think between that and Kaspersky Internet Security I have taken some steps to protect myself.

If you are wary about using Google products, there is another highly spoken of service called Jitsi. Like Meet, Jitsi is a browser-based service that is open-source. Its website lists the main features as:

  • Auto-view the active speaker or click on any attendee to see their video
  • Android and iOS apps
  • Text chatting (web only)
  • Lock a room with a password
  • Screen sharing (if jidesha is setup, only required in Chrome)
  • Streaming a conference to YouTube live (if Jibri is configured)
  • Shared text document based on Etherpad
  • Raise/Lower your hand for attention
  • Participant talk-time statistics
  • Push-to-talk mode
  • Play a YouTube video to all attendees call
  • Audio-only option
  • Telephone dial-in to a conference (if Jigasi is setup)
  • Dial-out to a telephone participant (if Jigasi is setup)
  • Integration in other apps / websites

Jitsi is also free to use, so if you want a teleconference facility without time limits and added end to end encryption security, you would do well to check it out.

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