Apps like FaceTime have made video calling between two people instant and easy. Not so long ago, setting up a video chat between several parties was a big pain in the neck, but that’s thankfully changed.
Nobody wants to download a bunch of software, work with a complicated system, or pay money to join a group conference call. We’ve got good news: There are several awesome, simple services that you can use for personal video conference calls that don’t cost anything.
Appear.in offers about the simplest video conferencing you can imagine. Visit the site and you can create a chatroom with the URL of your choice. Then, just send that link to your friends through text, email, or any other means and they’ll instantly join you. There’s no software to download and any modern browser will work fine.
The service allows up to eight people in one room. You can “lock” a room if you’re the owner, which requires guests to “knock” when they visit the link. This lets you see who’s trying to join and deny them if you see fit. Screen sharing and text chat (with stickers!) are included — it’s as simple as that.
While other tools offer more functionality, Appear.in is your best choice for quick, simple meetings with no set-up. It’s perfect for chatting with folks who aren’t tech-savvy.
ooVoo has been around for a while, but it’s resurrected into quite an impressive form recently. Still free of charge, the service now features apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and even Windows Phone and Amazon Fire Phone. It’s not available in browser, so ooVoo geared towards groups who all use the app instead of ad-hoc meetings like Appear.in.
Included with ooVoo are high-quality 12-person video calls (with the option to record), text chat, and even the ability to watch YouTube videos together using the Windows app. If your friends are already on ooVoo or wouldn’t mind trying it out, it’s a great choice for casual video calls.
True to its name, FreeConference offers powerful video conference calls at no cost. You’ll find more business-oriented features on this service than the others, such as dial-in numbers for audio participants. FreeConference lets you schedule meetings and send out reminders automatically, but you can also start meetings instantly if you don’t need advance notice.
Calls feature screen sharing as well as moderator controls so you can easily mute noisy callers. You’ll also receive summaries of meetings once they’re done, and can keep track of your meetings with the mobile calling apps.
The free plan is limited to 400 audio callers, 10 users in the online meeting, and 3 people broadcasting video. You’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan to raise those numbers and add features like call recording, but you shouldn’t need them for personal use.
Another service with a business focus, Voxeet prides itself on its proprietary TrueVoice technology that brings crisp, clean voice quality to calls. This claims to bring concert-hall quality with no static or dropped words, which is great for important calls. Guests can easily join calls from their browser with no PIN calls or call-in numbers.
This is just the beginning of Voxeet’s abilities, though. Its Time Zone Ninja tool makes scheduling in multiple time zones easier, and you can schedule regular meetings for the same time every week. Another interesting feature, Whisper Mode, lets you have a side conversation with someone during the main call.
If you regularly organize meetings among friends and need a wide set of features, Voxeet is worth a look.
No list of video calling apps could be complete without Skype, if for no other reason than many people you know likely already use it. Using apps for Android/iOS, Windows/Mac, or just in your browser, Skype lets you connect with your friends for easy video calls. Screen sharing is supported as well.
A maximum of 25 people can join an audio call, but Skype vaguely says that the maximum number of video callers varies by device. Note that Skype’s fair usage policy holds that a group video call can only last for four hours. You shouldn’t have any problem calling with ten or so friends, as long as each has a strong internet connection.
If you need a more business-focused solution, Skype for Business Basic offers the fundamentals of the Skype for Business platform, including Free/Busy status and meeting support. For most people, though, regular Skype should be sufficient.
Though close in name, this tool is different from the aforementioned FreeConference. FreeConferenceCall boasts the largest number of participants by far, with support for a staggering 1,000 people. Screen sharing comes standard, and the service offers several apps to expand your experience as well. Guests simply have to enter a meeting ID into the website to join instantly.
FreeConferenceCall is the closest free substitute for GoToMeeting on this list. Paid features like annotation, switching the presenter mid-call, screen recording, and even radio streaming all come free. You’ll probably never have 1,000 people in a call, but this tool is absolutely worth a try if you’re serious about your meetings.
How Do You Hold Meetings?
These six tools offer different feature set for varying user needs. If you just want to hold a quickly family call, it doesn’t get much easier than Appear.in. Friend groups can take advantage of ooVoo’s fun options. Skype is great because almost everyone uses it, while FreeConferenceCall, FreeConference, and Voxeet bring business-level features to personal calls for free.
For more options, check out WhatsApp video calling. It didn’t make this list because it doesn’t allow for group video calls yet.
Which free video conferencing service is your favorite? Let us know what you use these tools for in the comments, and share the most participants you’ve ever had in a meeting!
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