The best video conferencing apps

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At VPNOnlineFree, we tend to focus obsessively on the privacy and security aspects of the software we look at (that's just the way we drive). And if privacy and security are your main concerns when choosing video conferencing software, you should check out our article on the best open source video conferencing applications.

We recognize, however, that commercial solutions can provide benefits such as advanced compression, low bandwidth performance, integrations with other products and services that are useful to business users, and more than free solutions can have. hard to supply.

This article therefore aims to have a broader vision of the videoconferencing landscape, taking into account all the factors.

We are still VPNOnlineFree, however, although this article will allow closed source solutions, we insist that the services we recommend either offer strong end-to-end encryption (which excludes Google Meet / Hangouts / Duo), or may be self-hosted so that only your own organization has access to your data.

Wikr Pro

Wikr Pro is an end-to-end encrypted group e-mail application for businesses that includes video conferencing functionality. Wikr also offers a business application with advanced compliance and integration features, and a Wikr Me application designed for personal use (which does not offer video conferencing, but has anonymous usernames).

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Wikr Pro is currently free for up to 30 users (as opposed to the usual 10), with prices starting at $ 5 per user thereafter. Up to 30 free users or 50 premium users can join a video or voice call.

Unlike Wikr Me, Wikr Pro users register with an email address. The Wikr applications themselves are not open source, although the main end-to-end encryption protocol, wickr-crypto-c, East. It is used in all applications and protects all communications within applications.

On free accounts, messages are saved for 30 days by default, but a key feature of the service is ephemeral messaging, where the sender can set an expiration timer or select “burn to read”.

Wikr has also partnered with Psiphon to offer Wikr Open Access, an integrated tool that is useful in overcoming censorship.

To start a video chat, simply invite other “team members” (who are just as easily your circle of friends) in a chat room and make a call.

The video and audio quality is good, but we found the lack of “pin on the front of the user” to be a little frustrating. We also missed the lack of planning options. Business users will however appreciate the fact that you can transfer files (up to 1 GB for free users) and screen sharing with one click.

Those with more demanding business needs should consider Wikr Enterprise, which offers single sign-on (SSO), mobile device management (MDM), integrations with WickrAPI and WickrBOT, and various levels of compliance.

Apple FaceTime

In our view, Apple's carefully organized reputation as a staunch defender of customer privacy is more hype than reality. Its FaceTime app, however, is pretty good.

It lacks many of the features that business users often take for granted in video conferencing software – such as screen sharing or any other form of meeting scheduling, but it makes up for that lack with Apple's typical ease of use. .

Simply click on a contact to start a video call with them, to which you can invite up to 32 participants (in total). The video and audio quality is superb on a good connection, the size reduction to ensure a smooth experience on poor or low bandwidth connections.

Above all, all FaceTime conversations are end-to-end encrypted, so there's no need to trust Apple (except for the fact that FaceTime is a closed source, so you really do it). This encryption uses the real-time secure transport protocol (SRTP), secure with AES-256. All of this makes FaceTime HIPAA compliant.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that FaceTime is only available for Apple devices – Mac, iPhones and iPads. But if your group uses them (many organizations offer standard MacBooks, for example), FaceTime is an easy-to-use, secure, high-quality group video chat application that comes preloaded on all your devices.

Viber

Viber is a popular cross-platform messaging app that also allows you to make cheap international calls to regular phone numbers. It's not open source, but all internet-based communications – including group chat – are encrypted from start to finish.

Like Signal and WhatsApp, Viber requires that you install the application on a phone and register with your real phone number before you can use the desktop client. And like these applications, you can send free messages, voice or video calls to all the contacts on your phone who also use the application.

All calls are encrypted end-to-end using a double ratchet algorithm similar (but separate from) to that used by Signal – the benchmark for encrypted communications. All details are available here.

Up to 20 people can participate in a video call. Viber is a bit light on many features popular with business users, although screen sharing is supported in desktop applications. What companies offer is promoting the brand on the platform via personalized stickers, advertisements, e-commerce functionalities, etc.

Cable

Wire is a videoconferencing platform designed for professional use. It is both open source and end-to-end encrypted, although the latter comes at a cost. Wire reaches e2ee by independently encrypting each data stream. This is bandwidth intensive, video chats being limited to four participants (whatever the plan).

These graphics are however securely encrypted, using a first branch of the Signal protocol, known as Proteus. Its applications have also been publicly verified and Wire was approved by Edward Snowden.

Group video chats can be started with other Wire users in the Wire app from any chat room, and we found the call quality to be high (although we all have decent internet connections).

The free and Pro versions of Wire support screen sharing, screen recording and advanced meeting scheduling. The Enterprise version supports various conformities, SAML 2.0 and SCIM integrations, data retention, brand customization, etc.

Wire is strongly pushing its commercial options (Pro: $ 4 / month and Enterprise: $ 8 / month, both with free trials), although a free version with features very similar to the Pro plan is also available.

Jitsi

If you are looking for a 100% non-commercial solution, Jitsi is a completely free and open source group chat platform. Jitsi Meet is designed for more casual users – just visit the website to get a meeting room URL and then share that URL with friends.

Neither you nor anyone you invite to chat needs to create an account or download special software. Desktop users can simply open the URL in their bowsers. Android and iOS users, however, need the Jitsi Meet app.

Jitsi Meet is not end-to-end encrypted as such (although it is true e2ee in the works), professional users will therefore probably prefer to self-host the Jitsi server software in order to have total control over conversations. Setting up a self-hosted Jitsi server is a fairly easy matter.

Video chats with resolution up to 1080p (HD) are supported, with the option of reducing quality if limited bandwidth is an issue. There is no limit to the number of participants in a group chat, and even using the Jitsi Meet public servers, we were very impressed with the video quality. This will probably improve considerably if you are using your own server.

Business users will appreciate screen sharing, integration of Google Calendar and Office 356 (via browser extension), and even seamless integration of Slack.

A word about …

WhatsApp

WhatsApp conversations (including video chat) are end-to-end encrypted, and in response to the popularity of video conferencing applications during the Covid-19 crisis, WhatsApp increased the number of people who can participate in a group call. four to eight.

Unfortunately, group voice and video chat is only available when using the WhatsApp mobile apps. They are not available using Windows or Mac apps, or in the browser using WhatsApp Web.

In our opinion, this excludes WhatsApp from being a serious video conferencing platform. There is plans to allow up to 50 video chats from the app, but this is done by a link to Facebook rooms, which is not encrypted from start to finish.

StarLeaf

When writing this article, it was reported that in response to a multitude of security concerns, the United Kingdom House of Commons is seeking to replace Zoom with StarLeaf as a remote platform to perform government functions during the locking of Covid-19.

StarLeaf has the advantage of being a British company (although with significant international investment) and would be able to display up to 400 MP on a screen at any time.

A report (commissioned by StarLeaf) from Wainhouse Research speaks very favorably of the brand awareness and the daily popularity of StarLeaf with professional users of videoconferencing software.

It should however be emphasized that StarLeaf is not open source and that conferences are not encrypted from start to finish. As its privacy policy makes clear, StarLeaf regularly collects a large amount of metadata about users and their calls, and even “audio, video and content recording if you subscribe to the recording service and record a meeting “

As a ProPrivacay, we certainly cannot recommend this service, and we can only hope that the UK House of Commons accepts some sort of self-hosted implementation to ensure the security of the conversations often very sensitive.

Even this is problematic, however. Since the calls are not e2ee, whoever controls the servers on which the software is running can, at least in theory, eavesdrop on conversations that should rightfully be private (for example, meetings between MPs from political parties). ‘opposition).

What to look for in video conferencing software

The quality of video and voice is, of course, of paramount importance in any conference call. One aspect of this that deserves special attention here is the performance of an application on low quality Internet connections (low bandwidth or disturbed).

It is also important that the platform supports enough participants in a call that meets your needs (or those of your organization). Unfortunately, this requirement often conflicts with security and privacy, because the more participants in a call, the more difficult it is to provide them with end-to-end encryption.

This is a big problem, because it is never a good idea to entrust the protection of sensitive data to a potentially unreliable third party. However, it can be mitigated by self-hosting your own server so that only your own organization can access the chats and other data transmitted on the platform.

Business users often find features such as easy screen sharing and advanced meeting scheduling, but so does compliance with various security standards (such as HIPAA) for those who need it.

Integrations with other popular software and enterprise platforms, such as Slack and Office 360, can also improve workflows and therefore increase productivity.

How to stay safe when using video conferencing applications

Never share sensitive information on a public server unless your platform uses strong end-to-end encryption. If not, the person running the server will be able to access your conversations.

If your organization self-hosts your video chat platform instead, this should keep sensitive information safe from third parties. But be aware that your boss may be able to access supposedly private conversations with your colleagues!

Zoombombing became a headline capturing while locking Covid-19, but can be prevented by a) choosing a less guessable name for your chat room, and b) requiring a password to enter a chat room (most video conferencing applications support it).



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