Zoom has been in the news a lot lately and Skype has been around for a long time but there is another way to video conference for free. Jitsi is a set of open source projects that allow you to go to the Jitsi Meet webpage, type in a name for your meeting room and then connect to it in your browser.
For instance you can go to the webpage, type in MasonBeeMeetingRoom25, select GO and then the meeting room will automatically be created. The browser will ask your permission to use your camera and/or microphone and then you can join the room.
It’s really very simple. It is also very simple to invite others to join your meeting. You can do so by sharing the link to the room you created, email an invitation, dial in on a phone or you could embed the meeting in a website. For the meeting above the code would look like,
<iframe allow="camera; microphone; display-capture" src="https://meet.jit.si/MasonBeeMeetingRoom25 allowfullscreen="true" style="height: 100%; width: 100%; border: 0px;"></iframe>
(I could have just embedded the meeting room in this website for example but then every time this page loaded it would ask for access to your camera and microphone which would be ever so slightly suspect. If you want an example go to Jitsi Meet and try out your own, it is really that easy.)
If you want to add your own branding to the page then you can do that as well. Jitsi Meet will charge 1$/month for the service and if you don’t want to use their service then you can run your own server.
Security on Jitsi is important. The rooms are ephemeral so they only exist while you are using them. You should also choose a name that is hard to guess such as MasonBeeMeetingRoom25. Jitsi supports end to end encryption as well but you have to turn it on, provide a password and then each user has to enter the password before joining the meeting. Jitsi stores data only during the time of the meeting. So and chats or so on that happen only happen while the meeting is in progress and are destroyed afterwards.
Another point to be aware of is that Jitsi has what I would call a flat moderation system, in that anybody can moderate anyone else. You may have created the room but that gives you no more permissions to ban anyone else than they have. You can change this system if you run your own server.
Free baby monitor
One of the uses I find Jitsi very handy for is as a free baby monitor. I have my computer in the next room from my child and can create a Jitsi meeting, enable just the audio, join the meeting on my phone and then do other things around the house without having to worry if the baby wakes up. It is really very handy.
Installing Jitsi Desktop on Kubuntu 20.04
Another way to use Jitsi is to install it on your computer. You can download packages for Windows, Mac and Linux here but there seems to be dependency problems on distros based on Ubuntu 20.04 such as the one I use (Kubuntu 20.04). The easiest way I have found to resolve this is to use a flatpak installation. I suppose you could use a snap as well but I am not all that keen on snaps.
flatpak install flathub org.jitsi.jitsi-meet
It will then install. It was about 650mb of data on my install. If you need to start it manually (I didn’t) then you can do so using,
flatpak run org.jitsi.jitsi-meet