11 Free Video Conference Services

video conference services

Free Video Conference Services to Connect With Family and Friends

For military families, how to stay in touch with friends and family is a big consideration.  Keep in touch with family and friends using these 11 free video services that let you connect face-to-face.

Whether you are catching up with one friend or hosting Family Night with your extended family, these services offer a variety of features to meet your needs. Some even allow connections with a phone call, letting you include folks without computers and smartphones.

Maintaining privacy and security are also important.   Regardless of the service you chose, make sure you are running the most recent version and follow video conferencing security best practices.

Duo – Created by Google, you can use Duo to video call people one-on-one, create live groups up to 12 and play with fun effects like filters and drawing. You can take a photo of your group during the event and you can send voice and video messages for watching at another time. Duo is available for Android and iOS, through a browser, an app and on smart displays like Nest Hub, JBL Link View and Echo Show.

Security/Privacy: Duo uses end-to-end encryption. User data is saved. Opt-out options are available.

Facetime – Apple’s version of video calling has been around since 2010. Facetime is a video conference and chat service for IOS devices. It works through an app over Wi-Fi and cell networks. Group Facetime allows up to 32 people and has no time limit. It has a live speaker view that is helpful with big groups. Other features include filters, emoji’s, stickers and more.

Security/Privacy: Facetime uses end to end encryption. User data is saved. Opt-out options are available.

Freeconference – Around since 2000, Freeconference offers web conferencing for up to five people for 12 hours. It’s available via browser and app, and users can join from any Android or iOS device. Guests don’t have to download anything to participate. Additional features include document sharing, whiteboard, on-demand meeting rooms and dial-in numbers.

Security/Privacy: Freeconference uses end to end encryption. User data is saved and shared. Opt-out options are available.

Jitsi – If you are tech savvy or passionate about privacy, this open source video conference service could be a good option for you. It is available via browser and app for iOS and Android. Sessions for unlimited time with up to 75 people are possible with a simple click. Tech savvy folks can also customize the open source Jitsi platform. Features include screen sharing, joint document editing, foreign language translation and more. Jitsi doesn’t require user accounts. All meeting data is deleted at the end of the session.

Security/Privacy: Jitsi uses hop-by-hop encryption with an option to add an additional security layer of end to end encryption.  User data is not saved.

Marco Polo – Marco Polo isn’t a video conference, per se, but it is an increasingly popular tool to stay connected with family and friends regardless of time zones and time pressures. It operates like video voice mail. Marco Polo lets you set up groups and send video messages for members to watch and respond to when they have time. Family friendly, children under 13 are not eligible for accounts. Videos are stored for repeat viewing. You can use filters, drawing and other fun features on the videos. It operates on iOS and Android through both browser and app.

Security/Privacy: Marco Polo does not use end to end encryption. User data is saved. Opt-out options are available.

Meet – Google’s video conferencing service allows groups of up to 100 people. It offers screen sharing, captioning, and other features previously only available with paid accounts. It runs via browser or app for both Android and iOS users. You can meet for up to 24 hours through 30 September 2020. After that, free video conferences can be up to an hour. You have to have a Gmail account to set up meetings, but participants don’t have to have one unless they are using a mobile phone.

Security/Privacy: Meet uses end to end encryption. User data is saved and shared. Opt-out options are available.

Messenger – Facebook Messenger is for more than just chats. With the Room platform, groups of up to 50 people can share a dedicated live video space, with no time limit as long as someone is in the Room.  It is available for Android and iOS via app and browser. It includes features such as background effects, filters, event themes and more. You can set up your room to be public or private, and guests don’t have to have a Facebook account to join it. You can use Messenger Rooms from Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook and Portal.

Security/Privacy: Messenger Rooms are not automatically encrypted end to end. “Secret Conversations” must be selected when the Room is set up. User data is saved and shared. Opt-out options are available.

Skype – Owned by Microsoft, Skype supports group video calls for up to 50 people, and can be used via browser, app and landline phone. Groups can hang out for up to 10 hours a day. You can use Skype on Android and iOS devices, Alexa and Xbox. Screen sharing and live subtitles are available, as are call and screen recording. For diverse language groups, Skype offers a voice translator for 10 languages, and a text translator for 60 different languages.

Security/Privacy: Sessions between Skype users are encrypted end to end. Sessions connecting to non-Skype users are not encrypted. User data is saved and shared. Opt-out options are available.

WebEx – Cisco’s free videoconferencing service allows you to bring up to 100 people together for up to 50 minutes at a time. WebEx is a favorite of small business owners and those concerned about privacy and security.  WebEx offers personal meeting rooms with screen and document sharing, viewing and chat options including gifs, filters, emoji’s, and the ability to record meetings. It is available via browser and app for Android, iOS and wearable devices.

Security/Privacy:  WebEx uses end to end encryption and is HIPAA/BAA compliant. User data is saved. Opt out options are available.

WhatsApp – WhatsApp is known for supporting secure communications over the internet without phone minute or SMS charges. Up to eight people can participate in secure video chats with WhatsApp. Gifs, emoji’s, stickers, drawing and filters are all available. Through an integrated Facebook Messenger Room, groups of up to 50 people can connect live. You have to have Facebook Messenger installed to set the event up, but guests don’t have to have Messenger installed to participate in the actual video conference.

Security/Privacy: End to end encryption is used for WhatsApp video and text chats, posted videos, photos and calls. Video conferences using Facebook Messenger rooms are not automatically encrypted end to end. “Secret Conversations” must be selected when the Room is set up. User data is saved and shared. Opt out options are available.

Zoom – Zoom has skyrocketed in popularity and is used by families and friends everywhere. You can host up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes. Zoom features include background effects, breakout rooms, multiple screen sharing options, recording, and more. Zoom is available via app and browser for Android, iOS, and Linux. Meeting passwords and waiting rooms are now default features. Guests can participate in group events with a landline phone.

Security/Privacy: Zoom does not use end to end encryption. User data is saved and shared. Opt-out options are available.

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