Jitsi Meet is a free open source online meeting platform. Is it as good as Zoom or Google Meet? Check out the features and decide.
The importance of online meeting software to pretty much everyone in 2020 cannot be exaggerated. Perhaps the biggest proof of that, at least on our end here at DottoTech, is the sheer number of tutorial videos and guides we’ve done about video conferencing apps and software, from the more popular ones like Zoom and Google Meet to the lesser known options like Whereby.
Well, we’re going to take a closer look at yet another one today. This one’s a little different, though, and I honestly think it deserves your attention: Jitsi Meet, an open-source online meeting platform with virtually all the features you could ask for in video calling software.
In fact, the Jitsi Meet app (or web platform, if you’re on a desktop) is what I think Google Meet should be.
Online Meeting Open Source Platform: Jitsi Meet
Jitsi Meet has actually been around for quite some time, and has built a small but steady following.
To get started, simply navigate to meet.jit.si. Admittedly, it doesn't really look like a video conferencing tool. You won’t even see any of the sales type stuff that you'd typically find in a commercial application. That’s because it's open source; in other words, completely free.
There are three ways you can use Jitsi Meet for your video conference or video call needs. You can either use it via a web browser on your computer, download the Jitsi Meet app on your mobile device, or (if you’re looking for additional security), download a server app that you can use to host your own, completely secure Jitsi conferences.
Scrolling through the site gives you a better idea of its features. While it’s community-focused, many big companies and organizations actually use this platform.
Starting an Online Meeting via Jitsi
Similar to Whereby, you launch a meeting with your own name in the browser, which you share with others. While you can set up a variety of different level security levels, naming your meeting appropriately is basically the initial level.
Another thing to note: It’s easy to connect your calendar to Jitsi. Simply click the gear setting and choose the option to connect your calendar (you’ll have to give it permission initially). It likely uses the cookies on your computer to recognize that you’re coming back.
Now, you can also choose which devices to access for video conferencing – pretty standard stuff if this isn’t your first foray into online meetings.
So after creating my online meeting, I get transferred to the Jitsi interface. To me, it’s a treasure trove of really cool little things that just made me smile as I use them.
It’s so elegant and simple: The left hand side contains your screen sharing options (which are fairly advanced). You can choose the tab in your browser, and even share audio; for instance, if you choose a Chrome tab, it will broadcast whatever media you’re playing, and you won’t need to use your microphone to carry sound from your computer.
Just like Zoom, it has chat features (and a hand raising feature, too). There’s an open chat that everybody can see, and a private person-to-person chat that you can establish.
You also have controls for muting your microphone, hanging up the call, or turning on and off your camera. Clicking on the little drop down arrow lets you switch sources and devices.
Meanwhile, the right hand side has controls for toggling your views.
Of course, you can create a link to share with others, so you can invite other people into the room. Scheduling meetings on your calendar is pretty easy. You can even add a password.
One of the features I really liked was the ability to manage video quality. Basically, this tool lets you monitor the bandwidth that's being used for the broadcast. You can actually see how much upload and download speed you have dynamically on the screen. If things are a bit slow for you, simply adjust the video quality accordingly; if you have multiple presenters at the same time, having this granular level of control over your video quality is invaluable.
You can also do a live stream via Jitsi with the use of a stream key, which you can obtain from your YouTube Live or Facebook account. Just copy-paste the key in the field, and then you can broadcast through any of the live streaming services you use.
You can even share a YouTube recording! You can let Jitsi access your Dropbox account and save your call or presentation; in contrast, Zoom will only record to the cloud if you pay for the premium service.
You can also draw the YouTube video directly out again, which is something that I really like, especially when compared with having to stream it from your desktop. This is a lot more like a webinar tool, where we can actually insert the feed from YouTube. Basically, if you pre-record an element of your presentation, you can stream it via YouTube (which will be rendered in higher quality for your community).
Jitsi also gives you the background blurring feature (though to be honest, I’m kind of over the whole virtual background thing – you would be, too, if you already set up your room for video calls).
Oh, and there’s also calendar integration. When you go to the meet.jitsi.si page, which is basically your homepage, you can connect your calendar there. When you do, it will essentially display all your different calendar appointments, and you can quickly jump into any Jitsi calls you have on your schedule.
There are a bunch of other basic features as well, though not on the same level as all of the bells and whistles on Zoom.
To the Jitsi team’s credit, though, I think that the features are intuitively designed. I also get the feeling that a bit more thought went into this than what went into Google Meet.
There are a couple of interesting things to take note of here. When you create a new calendar event and add a Jitsi meeting, the platform automatically creates a link for you. Now, they have a system for generating this link that I can only describe as “bizarre”: A string generator that uses English words to form nonsensical statements. Sometimes, you end up with gems like the baffling “DivorcedNursesPatrolWisely” (which had me laughing for a good minute, I’ll admit).
One more item of interest is the fact that Jitsi’s homepage has a useful list of frequently asked questions, in which they list information on the platform’s other features alongside some of the more basic, standard questions about it.
All in all, I like Jitsi better than I like Google Meet. High-quality video, intelligent control layout, and a variety of useful options make for a really fine product. It does have quite a few areas for improvement, though, such as speed, the fact that streaming video through to YouTube only seems to appear on the desktop, and a few other limitations. It doesn’t replace Zoom, but it is, nevertheless, a solid contender.
You can watch the full video, including the demo where my friends and I actually tried using the platform, here.
I’m also inviting you to join our Webinar Wednesdays – an excellent opportunity to learn something new every week – by clicking here.
That’s it – have fun storming the castle!
The Difference Between Jitsi Meet vs Zoom and Google Meet
- Oh that's
- It's here you can see it.
- That's neat because it, Damon, is it yours?
- Your connection goes from one dot to, and then it flashes, and then it'll go five, that's
- but maybe that's the speakers. Steve can you say something?
- Yeah. Oh, that's
- Yeah, that's
- The way you're seeing there is the audio feed. If you go into, you can change your view. Damon, you could probably change your view too, I'm not too sure.
- You can change your view, you can go to speaker where it's gonna highlight who the current speaker kinda full screen or, and then everybody else is in the sidebar, and then you can bring up, so you can choose who you're looking at, Shiery, if you click on the little the four squares down in the bottom, right?
- You can then see a, you can then see us in grid mode, or you can switch it over to whatever they call speaker priority mode. I think is the,
- Oh, okay.
- You might be able to tell me Shiery, because I can go in and if I move my mouse over top of the top right. icons are the three dots, I can actually kick people out. You can send private messages here and you can also mute others. Do you have the control to do that as well. I see it, and they all look active.
- It looks like I'm,
- So they you look active. There might be a way in the settings to change that, I was just gonna jump in. It looks like Scott's trying to get in the meeting and I'm not, he was trying on his phone. So, I'm not, are you there, Scott?
- Oh, you hear me now.
- Oh, I can hear you now barely.
- Oh, great. I'm doing an experiment cause I'm outside. So, I'll be like the person that would be like in their car or?
- Well, Damon's doing that too. He's on a smartphone. So, what phone are you on, Scott?
- An iPhone.
- You're on an iPhone, but is your camera turned on? Your mic, oh, there you are. oh, we can see you.
- There's that head I know. Look at the size of that beard.
- It's just the wrong color. Why do I feel like I should be saying mazal tov?
- I like it. It doesn't take long to get used to the layout.
- And all of the features like down the bottom right-hand corner, that little three hamburger dots are there for your settings and everything. It's really easy to get around. Let me just do something really quickly. And let me go to grab a video, because one of the things that these guys do, which is almost like a webinar tool is they allow us to stream YouTube videos in. So,
- I'm just gonna grab, so rather than have to stream it from your desktop, which you typically have to do. So, I'm just gonna grab the last video that we released. You'll have to excuse me, cause I'm gonna use one of my videos and I'm gonna drop this in. I just wanna see how it looks when I start streaming it through. So, if you look in the, I'm not sure where you'll find it in the mobile app, but Sheryl in the bottom right in the in the options, it says Share a YouTube video. So, I'm dropping the view RL in for this video right now, and I'm gonna share it and let's see what happens just a little while ago. We released a video that compared Google's Meet with the Zoom product for video conferencing, and unsurprisingly Zoom came out on top. It is just right now, a better product. It has more features, it is, Okay.
- All right.
- Yeah, and I back, oh look, and it stays as a persistent element. So I could go back to it if I want to. So you could actually pause your video part way through and then maybe go back if you were showing something. That's pretty cool, now, how was the quality coming through to you guys?
- I don't actually see it on the mobile version.
- Okay, so what's happening? Did you see that on your mobile phone, Scott? You didn't. Okay, so the YouTube video only stream to the desktop, not to mobile. Oh, there's Heather she's coming in. She came in late.
- It takes a while. When Scott came in, it took a while for him to, for it to connect and the same thing with Heather.
- Yeah, Heather's connecting from two, oh there she is on her mobile. Hi Heather.
- You're back again. So Heather was on our,
- I'm back again.
- Heather was in our Google Meet, was it or a Zoom one?
- Oh, Zoom one.
- When we were looking at Zoom rooms, and Heather's dad used to watch the TV show all the time and he like, he didn't even know she was on it, and was like watching the show and all of a sudden, wait a minute, that's my daughter.
- I had to exit out to grant permission to the camera. So I don't know if that's a glitch on the iPhone app or not.
- If you're already in a meeting, it forces you to go out and give permission and then come back in.
- Okay, so you're on the iPhone as well.
- And it seemed, we saw you in the meeting a few minutes before we talked. So could you hear us before you could talk to us?
- Okay, so there's a little bit of a, so it's not quite as instant join as we see in Google Meet or in in Zoom.
- So that's something to know, I mean, to recognize that there's a slight difference there. That's good to know. Overall, Jitsu is a pretty darn solid product. I was really impressed with the video quality and the fact that you could monitor it as you're going, which brings us to a few of the Jitsi has. Room size because it's not a paid service, they don't limit you with the number of participants you can have in a room, but your technical ability, the technical setup that you have will limit the room size that you have kind of automatically. If you run out of bandwidth for streaming or you don't have the processing power, Jitsi will actually throttle back your meeting into an audio only product. And all of that documentation is available on their site. That's one of the beauties of open source, is you can look at all of the internal machinations. And if you are technically inclined, you can figure out a lot of these things for yourself. As it sits right now. I like Jitsi better than I like Google Meet. I think it's a really fine product. The quality of the video is excellent. I like the layout of the controls. I like how they think. I like how the different options are being presented to us. Now, there are some peculiarities and a few limitations, how slow people load into the room. That is a concern. The fact that we could stream video through YouTube, but it was only appearing on desktop, maybe that's something that we set up wrong, if it is, I'm sure that you will let us know in the comments. And I appreciate the support and letting me know what we said right in, what we've perhaps said wrong about Jitsi, but overall it doesn't replace Zoom, but it is a far better option, but it is far as I'm concerned than Google Meet. It feels more solid and it's a video conferencing app that I would look forward to jumping into a call with. Whereas I always, to be perfectly honest, have a little bit of trepidation when I'm jumping in with Google Meet. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Now, I'm looking forward to your comments, suggestions. How are you using this tool? Is it one that you've embraced? Had you even heard of it before? And are you like me that you go, oh my gosh, what a terrific tool sitting there right under our nose that we knew nothing about. I read each and every comment, even if I do not have time to reply to all of them. So we appreciate the feedback. Now, if you've not yet subscribed to this channel, I have to ask you one question, what the heck are you waiting for? Please click on that Subscribe bell, ring the notification bell, make sure that you hear about all of our new videos that we record regularly here on Dotto Tech. And until the next time I am Steve Dotto. Have fun storm on a castle.
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