The Best 8 Free and Open Source Web Conferencing Software Solutions
When 7 out of 10 online meetings end terribly, the blame is always on the inefficient back-end support system. There is a clear-cut demand for powerful web conferencing software solutions.
In this age of electronic communications, the “nice to e-meet you” concept has brought a revolutionary change in the communication and collaboration aspect. Web conferencing software and applications facilitates easy communication at any time and at anywhere. It minimizes the distance, time and cost that are otherwise incurred for a meeting.
In this article, we will focus on helping you understand the market growth of web conferencing software, its key importance and also discuss some of the best free and open source web conferencing software solutions available today in the market.
Let us start with the evolution of web conferencing solutions.
Evolution of Conferencing and Collaboration
AT&T introduced the first video call in 1968 at the World’s Fair in New York. It has been presented as a commercial solution involving PicturePhone technology. Participants were made to sit down and communicate with the person on the other end for 10 minutes at a time through a ‘video.’
In 1968, Stanford Research Institute introduced the technology of multi-user video conferencing. In 1976, the first official video conferencing established between 2 nations, i.e., Tokyo and Alaska by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company. Then, Compression Labs launched its first commercial video conferencing plan in 1982 for $1,000/hour.
IBM introduced its first PC-based video conferencing system – PicTel in 1991. In late 1990s, video conferencing was adopted widely with the introduction of low-cost & high-capacity broadband and powerful processors & compression.
The year 2003 witnessed significant achievement in conferencing technology when the service providers have made high-speed internet widely available at low cost. The price of video capturing and displays decreased making this facility easily accessible to most users.
Furthermore, Lifesize introduced the first HD video conferencing system in 2005 and from 2010, the HD video conferencing spread among the professionals increasingly. From 2013 onwards, the app, cloud, and web-based video conferencing open source programs came in prevalence after the intuitive simplicity of the smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
Web Conferencing Today
Currently, mobile technologies are growing exponentially. The surging demand for conferencing and communication solutions among the business sectors is immensely driving the market force. The global market size of web conferencing software is expected to reach USD 16.60 billion by 2025. It will be a good rise at a CAGR of 9.5% as compared to the previous quarter’s results.
The new generation of communication and web conferencing solution is highly embraced and extended by digitization and visual data sharing technologies. These technologies contribute significantly to decline the cost of video conferencing leading to its large-scale deployment across different organizations that were not earlier possible due to higher installation cost.
This demand has eventually resulted in the development of high-end collaboration applications like Skype Oovoo, etc. These applications form an essential part of the collaborating workspaces and are projected to boost the market growth over the next few years. The limited bandwidth and easy access has made them popular with the business users.
Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are becoming a huge hit among marketers. They have enabled the organizations to collaborate many platforms with providing a multi-channel experience to the customers. APIs have allowed users to access their systems and work efficiently from remote locations as well. As the APIs are integrated to both on-premise and cloud-based applications, they facilitate a seamless communication process among the systems as well as the employees.
The trend of deploying the voice-based virtual team members is increasing among the organizations to facilitate their employees in daily meetings and reporting. It involves an important part of their professional efforts to ensure them of having a comfortable workspace.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has also become an integral part of their virtual communication process involving the deployment of innovative team collaboration software. Technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are being increasingly used to develop extraordinary web conferencing software.
The Smart Virtual Personal Assistants (SVPAs) and AI bots are now immensely preferred by the organizations. They have emerged as a crucial tool to automate a variety of tasks and improve workplace collaboration. Hence, it is positively working to favour market growth. For web conferencing and team collaborations, organizations are already using bots like scheduling meetings and taking notes. Enhanced APIs and AR/VR technologies are adding more stars to them.
These enhancements have brought-in several add-on powers to the web conferencing solutions available today in the market.
Key Finding from a Recent Research about Web Conferencing Software
- The cloud-based software programs are expected to witness a substantial growth over the forecast period 2019 to 2025.
- The percentage of CAGR for the conferencing software segment over the forecast period is expected to rise. Many corporate-giants are experiencing increased deployment of conferencing solutions such as Cisco Jabber, Adobe Connect, Cisco Webex Meetings and some of the best open source web conferencing tools that are ultimately supplementing the segment growth.
- The healthcare sector is expected to secure the highest CAGR percentage during the forecast period. The growth feature attributes significantly to increase the need for close doctor-patient engagement and to share real-time information with the patients.
- The key market players like IBM, Google Open Meetings, ClickMeeting, Microsoft Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Citrix Systems, Inc. and Cisco Systems, Inc that have been deploying the network capabilities are seeing better acceptance through the augmenting market growth, and so they are staying ahead in the market.
So, it is well-evident from the findings discussed above that the demand for web conferencing is rising and majority of businesses are taking advantage of this technology for their absolute collaboration requirements.
Key Features of Video or Web Conferencing
Video or web conferencing is enabled by integrated software program that ensures you have a rich and quality experience. It lets you connect to different users. Here are some critical features that are related to web-based and video conferencing technique. Let’s have a look at them:
How Web Conferencing Software Works?
Web conferencing allows an unlimited number of participants to collaborate and exchange ideas.
These conferences are usually organized using Internet browsers. Virtual classes and training rooms are an excellent example of such kind of meetings. The virtual class application is specially designed to hold webinars, web conferences and other Internet-based transmissions. Now, let us consider how Web Conferencing actually proceeds.
- The organizer of the meeting sends the notifications or invitations about the conference to the participants of the meeting along with the guidelines for the installation or signing up of the application.
- There is always a plan or program behind every web conference. That program should be sent to all the participants beforehand. It helps in making them aware of the issues to be discussed in the meeting and their order of discussion.
- The conference begins with the acceptance of the invitation. The video pops up, and the option of texting through a chat-box is also made available for the participants.
Key Advantages of using Web Conference Software
A web conference lets you to:
- Have real-time collaboration.
- Plan and invite other participants for the meeting.
- Get ‘share-the-screen’ facility with all the participants.
- Have a whiteboard for visual demonstration as well as analyzing the ideas.
- Display web presentations.
- Co-browse web pages and different websites.
- Provide annotations and chat with other participants.
- Get the best of VoIP connection and video connection.
- Record the conference.
- Enjoy useful resources or tools for accumulating feedbacks.
Integration and Collaboration of the Web Conference Software
Making collaboration easier among the attendees is the primary purpose of a conference call. It counts the ‘real-time’ co-operation and interaction.
Most premium or free web conferencing software programs offer audio and video calling. You have to select a plan based on how you and your company collaborate best and achieve the optimum result. Let us check how best you can integrate this facility to the best of your professional usage.
- A face-to-face meeting is though expensive, but it is highly useful to have as it brings optimum outcome.
- Training and lectures typically work well with audio/visual conferencing.
- Audio conferencing provides you an excellent middle ground for training and collaborative meetings and are economical as well.
Web Conference Software Provides Ease of Use Facility
Software technologies always come with significant prominence. Web conferencing service providers understand the importance of time for businesses. Hence, open source web conferencing software is invented for many reasons, i.e., to bring an ultimate technological solution to your meeting’s needs, to get you the freedom of modifying the software as per your requirements, to minimize expenses and to provide ease of use.
Here follow certain services that will help make your conference call easier:
- Usually, conference calling service providers offer free and public-access tutorials to the visitors on their website. So before buying it finally, you should investigate about their service.
- The conference moderator holds the access of online control panel including the participant list. One can expel, mute or invite a new person with a click.
- The conference callers assign the star commands for the functions like locking or muting the conference or raising a hand.
- It is always best to choose a web conferencing software that assures the 24/7 support facility. Technical difficulties should not let you postpone your meetings and thus, selecting the most appropriate system is advisable.
- An ‘Operator’s Assistance’ is helpful to make sure everything is going smoothly during the meeting. The meeting operator schedules the conference, greets all attendees, handles the QA session and brings you a worry-free meeting at the end.
Free and Open Source Web Conferencing Software for a Happier Video Experience
Open Source web conferencing tools are much preferred by the businesses these days as they can easily get modified to fit the client’s needs.
Though they are freely-distributed, open source software programs still require maintenance, configuration, and ongoing support. These software packages come with comprehensive cost benefits, freedom, security and accountability that are generally unsurpassed by the proprietary software solutions. Free and Open Source Web Conferencing Software possesses long term viability and always remains on the cutting-edge of the technology.
Other than the proprietary systems, open-source web conference software systems enable enhancements as well as extensions from a developer who is familiar with the source code. It saves the organization from ‘vendor lock-in’ with assuring long-term viability.
Open source conferencing software programs are continuously reviewed and supported by a community of developers. At every interval, new features are added and contributed back to the community. If any security of technical loophole is detected, it goes through quick fixation. Thus, it makes them more reliable even without requiring them to pay additionally.
The Global Web Conferencing Market estimates reaching $20 billion in 2024 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14%. The Real-Time Communication (RTC) systems demand that APIs should be open source, standardized, free, built into the web browsers and much more efficient than the current technologies.
Let us check out some of the best free and open source web conferencing software solutions that are successfully driving out the market.
All software programs have some unique features and they are a bit different to one another on the basis of their design and usability. But you can compare this through the comparison chart given below.
Now, let us discuss in detail what these software packages hold for the institutions, businesses, and organizations and what their features are.
BigBlueButton is a leading free and open source web conferencing software system that supports the online learning facility. It is based on the GNU/Linux operating system and runs on Ubuntu 16.04. The stable version 2.0-RC11 of this Java-based software program holds software license as per LGPL.
- BigBlueButton software offers tailor-made tools for teachers to share their slides, audio, video, chat and desktop with students.
- Live whiteboard is made available for presenters and groups with the ability to zoom, highlight, draw and write on presentations.
- No limit is set to share the number of webcams in a session. They limit just by the bandwidth.
- The software works for the benefits of schools and aims at meeting WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards.
OpenMeetings, the open source software, is used for online training, presenting, web conferencing, document editing, user desktop sharing, and collaborative whiteboard drawing. Its Red5 media server based software works on HTML5 and Flash. This MySQL supported and Apache License 2.0 based software got its stable version 4.07 is available in 31 languages.
- OpenMeetings software has been downloaded over 250,000 times.
- It facilitates four options for audio/video functions: audio + video, audio-only, video-only and picture-only.
- It supports recording meeting sessions and downloading them as AVI/FLV files.
- It provides screen sharing facility as well.
- Advanced file explorer and the moderating system facilitate in all meeting rooms.
- Multi-Whiteboard and Chat facility is available with a full range of tools and documents inside.
The cloud-based video conferencing system ezTalks offers small & medium-sized businesses and large enterprises an exceptional platform to communicate as well as collaborate online. The ezTalks support Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, and iPad applications. It facilitates HD video conferencing with different plans and packages.
- The ezTalks software provides free software hosting up to 100 participants.
- The software incorporates HD video and audio, an innovative whiteboard and cross-platform chatting system.
- It supports playback, recording, and scheduling features to allow the users to share video and audio recordings and send them reminders about upcoming meetings or webinars.
- An unlimited number of live webinars, multiple presenters, webinar cloud storage, custom registration page and screen sharing with co-annotation are some additional features the software supports.
(Source: ezTalks Cloud Meeting)
The multi-platform video conferencing platform – Jitsi is 100% free and open source. It supports web platform, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and Android platforms and hosts Jitsi Meet and Jitsi Videobridge as its most aspiring video conferencing projects.
- Jitsi software supports attended and blind call transfer facility.
- Auto re-connect, auto answer, auto forward call recording facility makes it very usable software.
- The software provides instant messaging encryption with OTR, Direct media connection establishment with the ICE protocol, File transfer for XMPP, AIM/ICQ, Windows Live Messenger, YIM, IPv6 support for SIP and XMPP and many other features.
- Jitsi Videobridge provides group video support.
Mconf is an open-source and free web conferencing system that is an advanced and more customized version of BigBlueButton. It holds GNU’s General Public Licensing 3.0. Mconf-Live, Mconf-Web, and Mconf-Mobile are the three most crucial component of Mconf project.
- Mconf supports document sharing procedure where users are free to share any document materials and any member of the community can access these documents.
- The users can also tag and version the documents so that one can easily search for them later on.
- The software lets you create an account, join a meeting, share your meeting session, customize the things and access your meeting room.
- The software enables the users to download the presentation and copy the chat to the clipboard.
- Here, users can share multiple cameras.
Jami is a free and open source web conferencing and instant messaging software for individuals as well as the industries. This universal communication tool works on Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS and Android platforms and holds GNU General Public License.
- Jami software is SIP-compatible software with OpenDHT support.
- It facilitates instant messaging and an unlimited number of calls.
- It provides multi-channel audio support, ‘Flac’ and ‘Vorbis’ ringtone support, multiple audio codecs support, TLS and SRTP support and DTMF support.
- Locale settings are available in the following languages: French, English, Russian, German, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and Vietnamese.
- It offers end-to-end encryption used for chat, video and voice facility.
GNU (GPL) General Public Licensed - Linphone is a free voice over IP softphone widely used for Voice over IP, instant messaging, video conferencing. Initially, the Linux was the base for developing Linphone, but now it also works on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and mobile phones running Windows Phone, iOS or Android.
- Linphone software offers an easy-to-use graphical interface.
- It provides advanced calling features like HD video calls with video preview, audio conference calls and call transfer & multi-call management (pause and resume).
- The software facilitates enhanced audio and video quality.
- It provides enhanced instant messaging experience.
- It assures absolute security with audio and video encryption and end-to-end encryption for messaging.
Riot is an open source and free instant messaging and web conferencing software relying on Matrix protocol. It is licensed as per Apache License 2.0 and is available as a web application and desktop apps for all the major operating systems and as a mobile app for Android and iOS.
- Riot software's design associates with the Matrix React SDK, i.e., a React based software development kit for easy and secure development of the Matrix client.
- It facilitates custom communication that is more than just a simple chat.
- It lets the users configure servers quickly, and they are extendable with advanced features like anti-virus and custom behaviour.
- The ability of the software of bridging up other communications into the app through the Matrix such as IRC, Slack, and Telegram, etc., is excellent.
- The Google Play Downloads record of the app is over 100,000 times.
ClickMeeting, Join.me, Gotowebinar, Bigmarker, HighFive, MyOwnConference, UberConferences, Dead Simple Screen Sharing and Readytalk are other popular video and web conferencing software programs that are highly attracting the web and video users for their personal and business usage. Users are required to investigate about the best software program and utilize it to meet their purpose.
If you are not satisfied with the free software options you have, you try the commercial ones for more advanced features and usability. Zoom is one of the most recognized commercial software solutions that meet a business’s web conferencing requirements to the best. Now, let us explore more about it.
Founded in 2011, Zoom is one of the most sought after video conferencing portal that focuses on flawless video, clear audio and instant sharing. Here you get the options for both i.e. to join a meeting or host a meeting with video on/off and screen sharing facility. Zoom conferencing solutions include HD video, collaboration for chats, meetings, and video webinars.
- Zoom software system is capable of hosting video conferences with up to 100 video participants.
- It is a cloud-hosted and open-API based software that supports Mac, web-based, Android, and iPhone/iPad devices.
- The stable version 2.5 of the software is available for free with basic features and the premium version can be obtained with some extended features.
- The software allows the developers to create their own stack solutions using voice, video, and screen sharing APIs.
- 323/SIP Connectors allows the users to communicate with their tablets, mobiles, and desktop devices with a single touch.
If you are already using one from the software listed above, you can freely share your reviews here.
With the arrival of 2021, video traffic will lock around 82% of the total internet traffic. It is the time of live video sharing, and it will soon account for 13% of the entire video traffic.
The emergence of web conference technology and its usage has been enabling the most uncomplicated production of webinars and meetings. Being online, they are much easier to attend as well. Network, speed, and browsers are important players of this game.
The companies, nowadays, are more prone to host webinars for training or sales and in every 1.5 weeks a new webinar hosts online at an average. Focus and engagement have become the most centric part and so an average of 25 to 30 minutes webinar is proved to be sufficient as per recent research.
A significant change is also quite vigilant in the arena of job interviews. 66% of job candidates have opted for the video-enabled-interviews instead of wasting their time to visit the interviewer personally to attend the interview meetings.
Web conerencing has proved to make a conference call more interactive and added an option to enhance productivity. Live meetings and live training sessions with a PowerPoint presentation, an Excel spreadsheet, or something else has transformed with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) principles. Highly sophisticated 4K resolution cameras, machine vision, virtual assistance, and facial recognition increase the effectiveness of meetings today. AI enables us to determine the optimum length of the meeting session, the ideal number of meeting participants and the best time of the day to schedule the meeting to improve productivity.
Companies have now become more interested in hiring remote teams than hiring remote employees. Leveraging more on web-conferencing software solutions is saving cost, time and resource. Virtual chat tools and video conferencing solutions have made it easier for remote workers to feel as a part of the team.
The meeting is ideally organized to reach an outcome, and it better proves through what an expert once said, “With cuts to budgets every trip needs to be justifiable. This time, it is video conference: safe and budgeted”.
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