The best free apps for video meetings

The pandemic has had long-lasting effects on the way we work. As things have opened up, many of us are still using videoconferencing apps to keep in touch with work colleagues, family, and friends. Zoom continues to top the list of these meeting apps, but there are a bunch of other free applications out there that will allow you to meet others online.

What follows is a list of some of the most interesting. We’ve concentrated on applications that allow at least 10 or more participants on their free version.

Rather than simply assume that Zoom is best for you, you may want to try one or two of these out for yourself to see how well they fit in with your style and that of your friends. This list is a good place to start.

The most popular video meeting app

Zoom is one of the most widely used video meeting apps.

Zoom is one of the most widely used video meeting apps.

Zoom has become one of the most well-known videoconferencing apps — in fact, its name is practically synonymous with video meetings. Before the pandemic hit, the company marketed Zoom mostly for corporate use but included a free basic version for individuals. Since then, the company has introduced several different versions: Zoom One, its more traditional conferencing software; Zoom Events & Webinars; and Zoom Rooms, which provide breakout discussion areas.

The free version of Zoom allows up to 100 users to meet, but there is a 40-minute limit on meetings. At the time of publication, Zoom was not offering any special deals for those now working at home, but it does have a page offering help and advice to new users.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 40-minute time limit
  • Group meetings: 40-minute time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes (to Zoom Cloud, where it can be then downloaded)

A longtime go-to for online calls

Skype’s Meet Now feature supports up to 50 people with a four-hour time limit.

Skype’s Meet Now feature supports up to 50 people with a four-hour time limit.

Skype has been the go-to platform for one-on-one conversations since its beta was released in 2003. Its Meet Now feature (accessed by choosing the “Meet Now” button on the left side of the app) allows for videoconferencing; up to 100 people (including you) can meet with a generous 24-hour time limit on meetings.

There is also a separate page that lets you create a free video meeting without having to actually sign up for the service. However, you get more features using the app, so if you’re okay with registering for a free account, you’re better off doing that.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour time limit
  • Group meetings: 24-hour time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

A corporate app with a solid freemium version

Webex, a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ‘90s, has a useful free version.

Webex, a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ‘90s, has a useful free version.

Webex is a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ’90s and was acquired by Cisco in 2007. While it’s been mainly known as a business application and continues to focus on serving companies, it does have a fairly generous free version that’s worth checking out. When the pandemic began, it widened the features of the freemium version from 50 to 100 participants, you can meet for up to 50 minutes, and you can create breakout rooms.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 40-minute time limit
  • Group meetings: 40-minute time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes (to local device only)

Now featured on your Gmail page

Google Meet is a video calling option that requires Google accounts to use.

Google Meet is a video calling option that requires Google accounts to use.

Meet offers a very simple and efficient way to video chat with colleagues, friends, and family — assuming they all have Google accounts, which is a requirement for both hosts and participants. (And yes, in Google’s inimitable way, things are getting confusing between Meet and its Duo app, but you can stick with Meet for now.) You can find a Meet link in the Gmail app and in every appointment you make using Google Calendar. And Meet has some neat features, including real-time captions.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 500
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour time limit
  • Group meetings: 60-minute time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Not just for business

Two people talking via Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a conferencing app that offers video meets as well.

Microsoft Teams is a competitor to Slack and an especially good idea if you’re part of the Office ecosystem. While the application is mainly focused on business use, a few years ago, Microsoft stepped out of its three-piece suit and unveiled a free personal version of Teams, which lets anyone chat, talk, or have video meetings in a virtual shared space — you just have to create an account with Microsoft in order to use it. While the free version lets you have 100 participants for a maximum of 60 minutes per meeting, subscribers to Microsoft 365 Personal can have up to 300 people video chat for up to 30 consecutive hours.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 30-hour limit
  • Group meetings: 60-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No
The free version of Zoho Meeting now permits up to 100 participants.

The free version of Zoho Meeting offers a clean, easy-to-use interface.

Zoho offers a wide-ranging suite of online apps that range from the day-to-day (like email, calendars, and notebooks) to business and development (such as finance, HR, and marketing). The free version of Zoho Meeting allows up to 100 participants. Unusually, the free version doesn’t just include meetings but webinars as well (also with a limit of 100 attendees). Also worthy of mention is the company’s new Standard Edition, which starts at $1 a month for 10 participants (the price goes up with the number of participants) and adds features such as 24-hour meetings and polls.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 60-minute limit
  • Group meetings: 60-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Innovative recording features

A video meeting labeled Afternoon Discussion showing two participants, one line underneath showing the progression of the video, and two lines under that showing when each person spoke. A column on the right side shows what bookmarks and bookmarks have been placed.

When you run a recording of your Vowel meeting, a graph below shows who was speaking when. A side panel can show meeting notes, a summary of the meeting, or the transcript.

Vowel is a new and innovative videoconferencing service with some very interesting features. It records and transcribes each meeting (you can choose not to record or turn the recording off at any time); the transcription includes any emoticons you may have used, and you can also drop in bookmarks to indicate good (or bad) points that you may want to reference later. The recording adds a graph that tracks who was speaking when. While the free version doesn’t let you download your recording, you can rewatch and search through it for the next 14 days. There are two paid tiers: a Pro tier that gives you access for 60 days (among other features) and a Business tier that gives you access for as long as you wish.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 12
  • One-on-one meetings: 50 minutes
  • Group meetings: 50 minutes
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Open source with plenty of features

Two women using Jitsi Meet video software.

Jitsi Meet is open source and filled with useful features.

Jitsi is an open-source platform that doesn’t require an account: you easily meet online by simply going to the site and clicking on “Start meeting.” If you’re a developer, you can build your own conferencing app via Jitsi Videobridge, and there is a paid business version called JaaS (“Jitsi as a Service”), but most people will be happy with the quick web version, which offers many features found in more well-known apps, such as fake backgrounds, chat, local session recording, and the ability to live stream to YouTube.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 500
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Single meeting rooms with up to 50 participants

Whereby’s meeting rooms offers up to 50 participants.

Whereby’s meeting rooms offers up to 50 participants.

Whereby’s free version gives you the use of a single meeting room with up to 100 participants, along with the ability to lock rooms (participants have to “knock” to gain entrance). Each room has its own URL that you get to choose, which is great — assuming that nobody else has already taken that name. (For example, I first tried whereby.com/testroom and found it was already taken.) But it also has a chat function, lets you share a screen, allows you to mute or eject users, and offers breakout groups.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 45-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

A wide range of free features

RingCentral Video Pro has a good toolbox of features.

RingCentral Video Pro has a good toolbox of features.

RingCentral mainly sells business communications services but also offers a free video meeting app called RingCentral Video Pro. The app includes a nice range of features, including 24 hours of meeting time, screen sharing, recordings (up to 10 hours and stored in the cloud for up to seven days), chat, closed captions, and virtual backgrounds, among others.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour limit
  • Group meetings: 24-hour limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

A simple web-based system

Spike can be used without having to download anything.

Spike can be used without having to download anything.

Spike, an expanding email service, offers paid group videoconferencing to its subscribers, but it has also made a basic video meeting web app available to anyone who wants it. It’s quick and easy to use: just go to video.spike.chat, type in a name, and click on Join Meeting. Spike generates a unique URL for the chat and even lets you share your screen or change your background. And unlike most of the other services listed here, there is no maximum for participants.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: No limit
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No
Telegram has introduced group video chats.

Telegram has introduced group video chats.
Image: Telegram

Telegram is a messaging chat app that offers video group chats also. It’s well set up for that: the app already has a feature that lets you create groups with up to 200,000 members, and you can have either private or public groups. Video chats are limited to 30 people (although up to 1,000 can watch); still, this was a welcome add-on for Telegram users.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 30
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No
A group meeting starts as a text chat.

A group meeting starts as a text chat.

Signal offers basic video meetings.

Signal offers basic video meetings.

Signal is a communications app known for its emphasis on secure messaging via end-to-end encryption. Previously, it only allowed a maximum of five participants in its video calls; however, it now allows up to 40 people to take part via its own open-source Signal Calling Service. Signal is mainly meant for mobile devices; to use it on a desktop, you have to link it to an existing mobile app. Still, if you already use Signal messaging, you now have the option to use it as a meeting app as well.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 40
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Group FaceTime

Group FaceTime screens

Group FaceTime now accommodates both iOS and Android users.
Image: Apple

iPhone owners will, no doubt, already be using Apple’s built-in video chat app, but since the app was recently updated to accommodate those not in the Apple ecosystem, it has become even more useful. You can start a group call from a Messages chat, add a variety of stickers, and even blur your background. However, while you can join a Group FaceTime session from Android or Windows, you can’t initiate one.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 33
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

More alternatives

There is a wide range of other Zoom alternatives out there, including RemoteHQ, BlueJeans, and Talky. Some of these don’t have a free version, or the number of participants who can use the free version is limited.

The popular text chat app Slack is mainly set up for text chat, with an added Huddles feature available for the occasional audio or video get-together — however, the free version only allows one-to-one Huddles. And if you use Facebook, you can create a video meeting with your Facebook Group using the Rooms feature.

Update November 21st, 2022, 4:02PM ET: This article was originally published on June 11th, 2020. Since then, there have been a series of changes. All entries have been updated, Hangout, Google Duo, Starleaf, and Messenger Rooms have been dropped, and several apps (RingCentral Video Pro, Signal, Telegram, Group FaceTime, Zoho Meeting, and Vowel) have been added.

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