Videoconferencing Options in the Age of Pandemic

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We will be spending a lot more time communicating with co-workers, friends, family, therapists, educators, and other people using video than ever before in the digital era. Which solutions best fit your needs?

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I suspect the overwhelming answer will be Zoom due to it’s popularity among schools and businesses. It’s also among the easiest to use for both the host and attendees. Of course, because of it’s popularity and past reputation, it’s drawing a lot of attention from vulnerability hunters who seem to find something new every day. Zoom issued a quick Mac update today to address three of the most recent findings.

Lengthy discussion among enterprise IT’s on Slack today revolved around what software provides true end-to-end encryption as opposed to what Zoom uses which decrypts links sent to their server before re-encrypting and sending to receivers. Problem being that world or national law enforcement could legally recordings of these conversations. Nobody had any recommendation as to what might be supplying true E2E encryption.

Personally, I can’t get too excited about such things that the Electronic Freedom Foundation has fits about, as long as the legal system isn’t being abused. I’ll be interested in the results of the current investigation into the FBI’s use of FISA courts, assuming they eventually become public.

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Here’s the opinion of respected security expert Rich Mogull tweeted out today

Unless FaceTime suddenly becomes cross platform, it isn’t like any of the Zoom alternatives are better enough to make them worth switching to, and most are generally worse in many ways.


Thanks, Al. I’m glad to hear that kind of endorsement from a trusted expert like Rich.

I’ve settled on Zoom because it works well for what I do and because the UC system gets me the corporate version. I don’t like the company’s attitude at all (circumventing Safari security measures, Facebook SDK, stealth installs, etc.), but the app is well made and works.

As long as the entire world isn’t going FaceTime (which it never will due to lack of clients for non-Apple OSes), it appears to me Zoom is the best I can do.

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Even if FaceTime went cross-platform, it’s a pretty weak entry in the videoconferencing space. The UI is terrible, and it lacks features like screen sharing, recordings, and so on. Even the silly effects are available only for the iOS versions—the Mac version is even less capable.

I’m mostly surprised that FaceTime doesn’t offer virtual backgrounds given how AR-involved that sort of a feature would be for Apple.

If I were Tim Cook right now, I’d be throwing resources at the FaceTime team and telling them to beef it up as quickly as possible.

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I thought I recalled some sort of virtual background feature in an early version of (or a precursor to) FaceTime. You had to capture an image of the background you intended to use, but without your own image, so it could figure out which parts were the background.

My brother in law, is still teaching university courses. His university told him to use Zoom to do online group sessions. He balked at this saying it was not secure, and that it would put many of his foreign students at risk.

So he and I spent the day researching alternatives.

Here is the best we came up with. No it is not perfect, but it gets the job done.
He now runs his own server, on campus, that hosts “Jitsi Meet”.

At first the IT dept. at university said no. But he protested. They looked at the code, (it is open source), and after a few hours of bit wrangling, decided it was ok.

They walled off a server, locked it down, and installed “Jitsi”.
The IT guys were impressed.
It takes a small amount of resources. But is fairly light weight for a big university system.

Here is the bottom line. “Jitsi” is as secure as one can get, in this type of software. Be sure to read all the documentation, as the security settings are a bit opaque.

I am am now recommending this software, as the best alternative to Zoom.



Docker images exist to facilitate deployment.
actual, not imaginary, end-to-end encryption

Also there are hosted instances to try, e.g.;


My experiences with FaceTime aren’t great. If someone has an older Mac or iThingy lots of issues pop up, even disrupting a running conference. But when everyone is on recent hard- and software it works OK amongst Apple users. You do need to get used to the way others drift over the screen, one of my contacts actually suffered some dizziness.

I don’t know about Zoom, reading about too many security and privacy issues puts me off. There are other free options, so why take the risk?

At work we use Microsoft Teams. The interface is a bit obscure at times, but otherwise it works very well. You can also use it for free, with limitations, but for personal use it’s fine. I would recommend this for cross platform video conferencing.

Another free option is WhatsApp, although that is limited to 4 people and only on mobile devices.

I have heard of him!

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It’s a fair point. It’s more of an issue that many people (maybe tens of millions or even more) are required to use Zoom because their school, company, govt agency, or nonprofit has said that’s the one they are using. So those people need to be informed about it and consider it.

We’ve just published an exhaustive article I wrote over the last couple of days detailing every flaw with Zoom and all the fixes the company has released, what remains to be fixed, and what steps you can take yourself to mitigate risks.

I think the company is on the path to fix severe remaining problems.


The reason you are reading so much about Zoom security and privacy is that it is far and away the most used these days by schools and company work-from-home environments, so all the security and privacy addicts have torn it apart. Not very many of them have taken the time to examine those other free options to the extent Zoom has been.

But when you look at what Zoom is doing by freezing their feature list and putting all their attention on security and privacy, it could well come out way ahead of their competition, hopefully sooner than later.

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I have used Skype for quite a while. Yes, the interface is baffling - the pulsating heart, the invisible icons, a notification to tell me that there is no new notification. But Skype works fine.

I always need to do screensharing. Having 3 apps (Facetime/Messages/Screen Sharing) where I only need and want one is terrible. I even wrote myself a blog post for using Messages + Screen Sharing because the interface is so odd.

Zoom is the likely clear winner if they can clean up their privacy act. Teams too, it will benefit from the widespread Office implementation. If Microsoft take their security experience and work Skype level features into it, it could be the long term winner.

What was that lawsuit that prevented FaceTime from doing peer to peer video? I have a vague memory of it but I seem to recall Apple put a server in the mix to prevent/comply and the quality went down and it stalled (bar the stickers etc). FaceTime is for Apple households really. And it’s great for that being integrated into our phone apps etc.

I am looking at Jitsi as well, I’d prefer an open source solution and a colleague recommended Whereby.

The college are using Teams and it’s okay, limited but secure. But some staff still use Zoom despite departmental concerns re multiple platforms for students.

I forgot all about this, and The case against Face Time was thrown out of court:

It sounded me like this guy was the videoconferencing version of a patent troll.

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I had no trouble using Zoom to watch remote presentations. But FWIW, I found the Zoom interface difficult to set up for two-way video and audio on my MacBookAir, perhaps because I had limited outside access to my camera at some point. It could not find either the built-in camera or microphone, even after I finally found the settings that supposedly gave Zoom access. It only worked once I restarted the Mac. has yet to be mentioned and imho definitely deserves a seat at this table. European blooded team with a refreshing mindset and approach to solution and community. Ease and security are second to none. Is my default. Check it out!

I just read Skype’s March 2020 changes simplify launch processes and use. Beyond that, not sure how it fares security wise.

Anyone using Whereby or Skype?
What experiences and comments have you?


Jitsi can’t provide end-to-end encryption for multi-party conferencing and often can’t for two-party calls. All connections between parties and the server will be encrypted but that’s not what the phrase “end-to-end encryption” means (that’s the mistake Zoom’s marketing made). However, if you can run (and secure) your own Jitsi server, you don’t have to trust anyone who is not on your calls.

I mentioned a colleague of mine swears by it. It seems good but the free tier is quite limited in terms of number of participants.

One very attractive thing about Zoom is that it downloads older versions of the clients to run on old operating systems. For example, it will still run on Snow Leopard, albeit with slightly reduced functionality.

This is especially important for family conferences where maybe older relatives are using computers or devices that are still perfectly functional for their needs, but not able to use the latest operating systems.

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