Videoconferencing really came into its own because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of us have found ourselves using video calling services for business, but it’s also a great way to stay in touch with friends and family members.
Several companies offer video calling technology via paid subscription, but there are also some great free options for videoconferencing services.
Free Video Call Services
In alphabetical order, here are some of the most-used free videoconferencing services. I’ve also provided security information and details about the limitations on free calling each service imposes.
Note: Many of these services have paid plans with more features, but the options we discuss below are all free.
Duo is a Google service that allows video calls via phone, tablet and computer. The free product also works on Google Nest and on your PC.
Privacy & Security: Google says Duo uses end-to-end encryption. On the Duo website, it says, “Google can’t see, hear, or save your call’s audio and video.”
Limits: No more than 12 people are allowed on each call.
Facebook lets you video call via its Messenger app. To get started, all you have to do is select the person you want to contact in Facebook and tap the camera icon.
Clark.com Elements Producer Chelsea Glass says when it comes to contacting her friends and family, Facebook Messenger does the job.
“It’s really easy to use. My mother-in-law isn’t all that technology fluent and has no trouble using this. Once you start a video call in the app, you just click the ‘add people’ icon and you can loop in other Facebook friends. We use it to get the family together!”
Privacy & Security: Facebook says Messenger is encrypted. It allows you to choose whether people can see if you’re live on Messenger. You can also send videos during the conversations and decide who on the call can see those videos.
Facebook says all secret conversations in Messenger are secured with end-to-end encryption.
Limits: Up to 50 people can be on one call.
FaceTime (only for iPhone users)
Most people with iPhones and iPads are already familiar with FaceTime as a simple option for video or audio chat. There is no FaceTime available for Android users.
Privacy & Security: Apple says FaceTime uses end-to-end encryption. The company says “there’s no way for Apple to decrypt the content of your conversations when they are in transit between devices.”
Limits: 32 is the maximum number of people allowed on one call.
Google Meet lets you conduct free video or voice chats with a group or just one person.
Privacy & Security: Google Meet is “encrypted in transit by default between the client and Google for video meetings” that take place via web, on apps or through Google hardware, the company says. Read more about transport encryption.
Limits: Up to 100 people can be on one call.
Skype has come a long way since it was founded in 2003. Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, and it’s now integrated into Microsoft Teams. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, so you’ll want to make sure the people you are communicating with also have the app.
Privacy & Security: Skype says its default settings allow everyone to see your account name, location and profile picture, but you can change these settings.
Skype uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), which the service says is used by the federal government for sensitive data.
Limits: 50 people is the limit on each free call.
WhatsApp is a Facebook-owned mobile app that is extremely popular because it lets you contact people around the world for free. In addition to free text messaging, the service allows group voice and video calls.
Privacy & Security: WhatsApp says its messages and calls are secured with end-to-end encryption, which means the app or third-parties can’t read or listen to them.
Limits: Up to eight people are allowed on one call.
Zoom, the video and audio conferencing platform, has exploded in popularity in the past several months, going from 10 million to more than 200 million daily meeting participants, the company says in a blog post.
But Zoom has had its issues with security. The company made headlines when the FBI warned users, especially schools, that Zoom meetings could be “Zoombombed” or hijacked. Privacy concerns also arose.
Privacy & Security: Since then Zoom has instituted better security and announced that they were rolling out end-to-end encryption.
Limits: Up to 100 participants can be on one call.
Comparing the Video Call Services
For easy reference, this chart lets you see the limits, privacy and security that each videoconferencing service has.
7 Best Video Call Options
|Provider||Privacy & Security||Maximum Number on Call|
|FaceTime (only for iPhone users)||End-to-end encryption||32|
|Google Meet||Transport encryption||100|
|Skype||AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)||50|
Know of other free videoconferencing services? Let us know in the comments below!