BY JACK MORSE
So you’re sick of Zoom.
Maybe it’s the privacy issues, the security issues, or just the whole misrepresenting its encryption thing. Regardless of the specific reason, you know that there has to be a better video-conferencing tool out there, and you’re determined to find it. Enter Jitsi Meet.
Much like Zoom, the free and open-source video-chat tool is easy to use and requires little-to-no onboarding. It’s also encrypted, and doesn’t sell your data. As an added bonus, you don’t need an account and you don’t need to download anything to start or join a meeting. Oh yeah, and it supports tile view.
A l’@FeministaOrtiga el COVID19 no ens atura.
Perquè en temps de confinament el feminisme segueix essent essencial, seguim!
I ho fem amb eines lliures @jitsinews . Visca la internet lliure✊🏽☺️ pic.twitter.com/fDZoYwawjp
— Ortiga Feminista (@FeministaOrtiga) March 29, 2020
Here’s what you need to get started.
1. Setting up a call
Starting a call couldn’t be easier. To begin, head to the Jitsi call page. Once there, under the “start a new meeting” text, enter your desired meeting name. A quick note here: Make your meeting name unique enough that it will not already be in use (think “FriendsMeetingForBeers482020” instead of “beers”). Then click “Go.”
That’s it. You’ve started the call.
However, there is one super important detail you must still do: add a password to the call. This is a straightforward step, and prevents unwanted zoombombers from crashing your call. To add a password — right after you’ve started the call — click the “i” icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
Select “add password,” and then enter your desired password in the blank field (please do not use “password” as your password). Press enter, and your Jitsi call is now password protected.
2. Inviting friends
Because a video call isn’t a video call without other participants, you need to invite them to join you. Jitsi makes this process as easy as sending your friends the meeting URL.
So, in the case of the above example, you would send your friends https://meet.jit.si/FriendsMeetingForBeers482020. You can email, text, or Signal it to them. Also let them know the meeting password.
Then, all your friends have to do is drop that link into their browser of choice (Jitsi recommends Chrome, but in my experience Firefox works just fine), enter the password, and they’re good to go.
As of last month, Jitsi could support up to 75 different callers at the same time. And, unlike Zoom, there is no time limit for calls. So get the entire family on and chat away for hours.
3. Tips and tricks
Jitsi offers a host of features that compete directly with paid video-conferencing tools. For starters, you can screen share, record meetings, and switch to tile view.
To switch the call to tile view, once the call has started click the four little boxes in the bottom-right corner. To switch back, click it again.
Jitsi lets you automatically blur your background. This is a neat tool that comes in handy for everything from hiding the fact that you didn’t clean your room from your mom to obscuring details of your apartment to strangers.
To enable the blur, select the three vertical dots in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Next, select “blur my background.”
To turn this off, hit “disable background blur.”
Screen recording and sharing a YouTube video
Let’s say you want to record a call. Maybe you’re preforming an original song for a digital talent show, and you want to be able to look back on it once you’ve broken free from quarantine to remind yourself that this wasn’t a fever dream.
You’re in luck! While you need a DropBox account for the next part (you can sign up for a free, “basic” account), Jitsi makes this super easy to pull off. To start a screen recording, once again hit those three vertical dots and then select “start recording.” Next, link your Dropbox account to the Jitsi call, and you’re good to go.
Sharing a YouTube video with the call is even easier, as there are no accounts of any kind required. After clicking the three dots again, select “share a YouTube video” and then paste the link into the provided field. Click “share” and your fellow callers will see the video right along with you.
Raise your hand and chat
We all know that video calls can be awkward, as people tend to speak over each other by mistake. Jitsi offers a fun solution with its “raise / lower your hand” tool.
If you click the hand icon in the bottom-left corner, other call participants will see a tiny hand icon pop up in the upper-left corner of your video. That way, your fellow callers will know that you have something important to say.
Perhaps you want share a thought with everyone, but don’t want to interrupt to conversation. That’s where the chat box comes in. Just to the right of the hand icon, the chat icon opens up a text-based chat box. Chose a name for yourself, type in your message, and hit enter. That’s all.
Oh, and because we can’t emphasize it enough, please remember to set a password on your call. The fact that you can create your own Jitsi URL is a fun thing that makes meetings easier to share. However, it also makes it easier for randos to guess the URL. A password shuts this down.
Using Jitsi is incredibly easy. Its host of features make it feel like a real competitor to Zoom, and it’s free without any call time limits. So the next time your sheltering-in-place friends suggest a video call, send them a Jitsi link. You’ll never look back.