Video Conferencing Systems Comparison

Video conferencing has exploded in 2020- from simple 1-on-1 and small group social calls, to large conferences with simultaneous break-out rooms.

This document outlines some different use cases and provides some example services.

All(?) of these services include:

  • audio & video of the participants
  • screen sharing
  • text messaging
  • echo cancellation (don’t have to use headphones to stop feedback.)

More advanced features include:

  • scheduled meetings
  • “waiting rooms”/“lobbies”
  • white boards
  • break-out rooms
  • recording
  • statistics

Advanced features are usually only available with paid services.

Any of the more advanced services can be used for simpler meetings- e.g. BlueJeans can be used for a 1-1 voice chat.

Small Groups

Requirements:

  • single camera and microphone per participant
  • simple to setup
  • not scheduled (started by sending a link or starting a call.)
  • support for a small number of participants
  • no need to record sessions
  • no need to moderate/control the active/primary speaker
  • no need for additional collaboration services (e.g. chat, whiteboards, etc.)
  • free

Notes

  • more difficult to record (recording not built in.)

Web Based

These use a 3rd party (web) server, and will work right in your web browser.

Some of these will even work with mobile devices.

  • Facebook Messenger

Downloaded Applications

These apps may be able to work peer-to-peer (ie without a 3rd party server) for the video and audio transport. However, given most firewall configurations, a 3rd party STUN/TURN server will be needed for the apps to establish direct connection to each other.

  • Facebook Messenger
  • Skype
  • windows messenger
  • Facetime

Small-Medium Groups (simple)

Requirements:

  • only difference to small groups is scale- eg 8-20 participants

Note: All of these services have web access and separate apps. Usually the apps have more features.

  • Google Meet (new- up to 100 for free; tiered pricing and capabilities beyond this)
  • Google Hangouts (legacy - up to 25 participants; can have more viewers)
  • Whereby
    • super simple integration into websites and slack

Small-Medium Groups (advanced)

Requirements:

  • 8+ participants
  • “roles” (eg “moderator”, “participant”, “presenter”)
  • breakout rooms
  • text chat
  • whiteboards, etc
  • “easy” recording
  • “scheduled” (link sent out, access gated by scheduled time)

Note: “easy” recording can be a combination of recording (the entire session) in the cloud, locally to each participant.

Summary of Services

Many services have their heritage in large telephone conference calls- eg corporate earnings calls- with a limited number of active participants and a large number of passive audience members.

They are focused on a top-down control model, with the moderator (meeting organizer) being the “master” of all activities. Think presentations, speakers, not group activities.

Some newer services have been designed to facilitate active participants, which lends well to online distributed working groups and also active learners. For example (multiple) shared whiteboards, breakout rooms (with independent chat), means of directing messages to/from different rooms, participants creating rooms (vs moderator), etc.

The Learner features column in the table below indicates features that support active participants eg participant initiated breakout rooms, shared whiteboards, shared docs, etc.

Configurable indicates if the moderator/end-user can move/reconfigure the UI. E.g. assign a specific speaker to a specific (and repeatable- eg between restarts) location on the screen.

Developer API flags if the system can be programmed by third parties.


Scroll Table Sideways to See all Columns!

Service Free Tier Max Participants Max Duration Supports Roles & Controls ? Breakout Rooms? Recording? Learner Features? Self Hostable? Configurable? Developer API?
Google Meet Yes 100 (1) ? ? No (in development) No (1) No No No Limited?
Google Hangouts Yes 25 ? ? No No No No No Limited?
Jitsi Yes ~35 Unlimited? Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Veertly Yes 75 ? Yes Yes + 1:1 chats ? Yes No ? ?
Unhangout Yes ? ? Yes Yes ? Yes Yes No? No?
Video Facilitator No (has a free Trial) 100 None? Yes Yes Yes? ? No No No?
BlueJeans No (has free trial) 25/50/100 None Yes Yes- max 20 (assigned) Yes (1) Yes No Yes-- (host can push 1 of three layouts to participants) Yes
GotoMeeting No (has a free trial) 250 None Yes (1) No (see GotoTraining) Yes (1) Yes (1) No No Limited
GotoTraining No (has a free trial) 25/50/200 None Yes (1) Yes Yes (1) Yes (1) No No Limited
WebEx Yes (1) 100/200 50 minutes/ None (1) Yes (1) No Yes (1) Yes No Yes- by coding own app Yes
WebEx Training ? ? ? ? Yes Yes (1) Yes No ? ?
Whereby Yes (1) 4/12/50 None? No? No Yes (1) No No Yes (via API) Yes (1)
BigBlueButton ELOS/self hosting 15+? None Yes? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adobe Connect Yes 3/25/100/… None Yes? Yes Yes (1) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Zoho Meeting No (has a free trial) 100 None No? No Yes No No No Yes?
Zoho Webinar No (has a free trial) 25/50/100/250 None? Yes No Yes Yes? No No? Yes?
Zoho Showtime No (has a free trial) 10/50/100/200 None? Yes No Yes Yes? No No? Yes?
Zoom Yes 100/100/300/500+ 40 mins / No(1) Yes (1) Yes - max 50 (assigned) Local + Cloud (1) Yes No Very Limited Yes - admin emphasis

Notes

(1) If paid, more participants, recording supported, no duration limit, etc

Service Notes

Google Meet and Hangouts

  • can bridge to regular phones (audio)
  • optional dedicated hardware available (Google Meet, Chromebox, Chomebase)
  • Comparison between Meet & Hangouts
  • not sure if they are directly recordable, but Hangouts can (could?) be set up to stream to YouTube live, which is then available as a recording.

Jitsi

Veertly

  • discovered via jitsi breakout room thread
  • Jitsi based(?)
  • free tier
  • quick and easy setup
  • real time moderation
  • analytics dashboard (attendance, “attention”, …)
  • “main stage” + “rooms” + “networking” (1:1 video calls)
  • event wide (broadcast) chat, easy to share social media profiles (“networking”)
  • “…interactive solutions for hybrid events”

Unhangout

  • online implementation of an unconference “participant driven meeting”
  • kick off/central “area”, participants can make their own breakout rooms, can automatically send each participant an email with contact details of each person they interacted with, etherpad shared online documents, breakout + global chat(?)
  • based on FreeSwitch (once used Jitsi? Based on some comments in code)
  • can be self hosted
  • no obvious Developer API, or means of configuring the UI
  • full source available on GitLab
  • developed and hosted by MIT Media lab

Video Facilitator

  • based on Jitsi. May have disabled/locked out some of the Jitsi API/features

  • appears to be managed Jitsi + easy to use breakout rooms

  • Unclear if sessions can be recorded

  • Great participant centred features

    • on the fly breakout rooms
    • participants can self-move between breakout rooms
    • can see number of people already in a room
    • break out room topic is editable
    • timers: global and per room
    • rooms can be locked
    • polls
    • broadcast messages
    • breakout rooms can request facilitator help
    • organizer can return everyone to main room
  • Australian based

  • testimonials

    • from music studio- could replicate in person lesson space. Manager & parents can drop in to the (online) sessions
    • Bay of Plenty regional district- for community engagement during Covid. Easy setup with apps + web browser only options (shout out to Julian’s home town!)
  • $30/month (not sure if that’s $AUS or $US.)

  • developer is open to feedback/requests

BlueJeans

  • by Verizon
  • least expensive of hosted options (starting at $9/month)
  • many integrations to slack, MS office, etc
  • one-to-many focus (enterprise focus)
  • has breakout rooms
    • moderator created and assigned; random assignment option
    • max of 20 breakout rooms
  • integrations with LMSs (learning management systems)
  • APIs available to embed in your own applications, website, etc
    • This page mentions an advanced SDK that allows for a lot more customization of the UI. Quick search didn’t find it- maybe it’s been renamed or removed.
  • dedicated hardware available

GoToMeeting and GoToTraining

  • From LogMeIn
  • (audio) conference call, 1-to-many development lineage
  • dedicated hardware available
  • lots of integrations to other (business oriented) services/software
  • integrations with LMSs (Learning Management Services)
  • GoToMeeting is very meeting focused; no breakout rooms
  • GoToTraining adds breakout rooms, quizzes, PayPal integration to charge for training sessions, etc
  • BUT GoToTraining is very expensive ($109/month+ - $199/month to get breakout rooms)
  • couldn’t find any references to UI configuration
  • API exists, but very much focused on user and meeting admin

Webex and Webex Training

  • from Cisco
  • dedicated hardware available
  • 1-to-many product history
  • very meeting focused
  • extensive API; looks like you can make custom UIs (https://developer.webex.com/docs/sdks/browser#sdk-api-reference)
  • pricing and feature comparison
  • can bridge to regular phones (audio)
  • lots of integrations to other services/software
  • desktop sharing, whiteboard
  • Webex Training adds
    • breakout rooms
    • testing & automated grading
    • ecommerce (so you classes can be charged for)
    • polling, Q&A
    • cost is by request

Whereby

  • webrtc (browser) only
  • very simple to start a meeting
  • based in Norway (privacy first)
  • customizable
  • free tier good for small slack groups?
    • 1 meeting room, up to 4 participants
  • screen sharing

BigBlueButton

  • open source video conferencing system developed for education
  • share audio, slides, chat, video, desktop
  • accessibility compliance
  • many (community) integrations, mostly for LMS
  • polling
  • recording
  • shared whiteboard
  • emojis
  • breakout rooms
  • self hostable
  • uses freeswitch
  • self hosting
  • documentation
  • commercial hosting available

Adobe Connect

Zoho Meeting, Webinar, and Showtime

  • Meeting and webinar services are more 1-many services
  • webinar adds co-organizers, polling, Q&A, attendee talk, analytics, reports
  • Webinar doesn’t have breakout rooms
  • ShowTime is an educational offering; appears to be a separate development
    • Showtime doesn’t have video for participants
    • adds registration management
    • handouts
    • co-trainer
    • guest trainer
    • certificates
    • integrated trainee billing
  • open feature requests for breakout rooms (meeting & webinar) & participant video (showtime)

Zoom