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Reasons to Use Jitsi Meet Instead of Zoom

2020 November 21

[jitsi-meet] [opinion] [privacy] [tech] [video-chat]


Jitsi Meet is a free (-as-in-freedom and -as-in-cost) videoconferencing platform similar to the widely used proprietary Zoom platform.

This post is an incomplete list of reasons to use Jitsi Meet instead of a nonfree platform like Zoom.


Jitsi Meet is Free Software

Most software restricts the way you use it through legal and technical limitations. By contrast, Free Software is software that gives users the "freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software." Free software is an issue of justice: Nonfree software (often called proprietary software or "closed-source" software) gives the software's creator power over the users of the software, while free software put the power back into the users' hands.

Other phrases used to refer to "free software" include libre software (to disambiguate from software that is available without cost but doesn't offer all of these freedoms), open source (a corporate-friendly marketing term for free software, sans the free software ideology), FOSS (Free-and-Open-Source Software), and FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software).

Zoom is nonfree software. Using it restricts your freedom as a user. By contrast, Jitsi Meet is free software (licensed under the Apache 2.0 free software license). Even if you don't care about software freedom, by insisting upon Zoom as a platform, you're asking other people to also give up their freedom so they can talk to you.

But most people don't care about that. So let's also talk about some more material reasons to use Jitsi Meet instead of Zoom...


Privacy and Security

Zoom has a horrible track record with regards to privacy and security. About a year and a half ago, Zoom decided it was too much work to ask Mac users for consent to start a meeting on their computer, so it added a backdoor server process to circumvent the security measures requiring user consent before joining a meeting or reinstalling the client after it had been uninstalled. This horrible violation of user security and consentfeature could be exploited, allowing someone to turn on your webcam and view your feed, just by getting you to go to their website. When this issue was reported, Zoom did not handle the situation well. See this writeup on Medium.

For what it's worth, this story was the first time I became aware of Zoom, and I have never been willing to give it the benefit of the doubt since. Anyway, they've continued to have issues and not handle them well, so let's talk about some of those other ones too.

In March, Vice reported that the Zoom iOS app was sending data to Facebook, even for users who didn't have Facebook accounts, and Zoom's privacy policy did not address this. Also in March, The Intercept reported that Zoom was lying about supporting end-to-end encryption when in actuality, the Zoom server had access to all user data, which was encrypted only in-transit. Zoom was even satirically named "Malware of the Year" in March. This is certainly not a complete list of issues.

Zoom claims to now support actual end-to-end encryption, but because it is nonfree software, I would not trust its implementation. The company claims that free users have access to this feature, despite its CEO's previous statement that the company would not offer E2EE to free users because it wanted to be able to give free users' data to the FBI and law enforcement.

Here's Jitsi's page on security and privacy, if you want to see how it compares. If you want to be fully in control of your data, you can self-host it!


Jitsi Meet is Self-Hostable

Jitsi Meet is free software, not just the client, but the server as well. This means that you can run your own videoconferencing server with Jitsi Meet! It's pretty easy to do if you're running a Debian or Ubuntu server.

If you don't want to, you can always use the project's flagship server, meet.jit.si, or one of the other public Jitsi Meet servers. There's no need to run your own, but being able to really gives you maximum control over your videoconferencing!


Jitsi Meet Doesn't Cost Anything!

Since I don't use it, I tend to forget, but apparently Zoom meetings are limited to 40 minutes if the host doesn't have a paid account. I don't know how people put up with that. Jitsi Meet is just free-to-use. You just get all the features at no cost.

Remembering this detail is what prompted me to write this post because seriously, how do people deal with that when there's another way?


No Signup Required!

In fact, you don't even have to sign up for Jitsi Meet. If you run your own server, you have the option to require users have registered accounts. (For example, I have my server set so one person needs an account to start the meeting, but then anyone can join.) But with public instances, you just go to a URL and start a meeting.

Update: meet.jit.si now requires signup, but you can use a different instance such as jitsi.tildeverse.org, meet.calyx.net, or one from this list.


Installing a New App is Not Required (on desktop)

Jitsi Meet can run just fine in common browsers like Chromium-based browsers and Mozilla Firefox. From what I've heard, Zoom might work in Firefox, but it tries to hide this fact and pressure users to install the desktop app.

This said, Jitsi Meet's end-to-end encryption is only supported in browsers based on newer versions of Chromium, and there is a desktop Electron app which can be downloaded if you want.


Conclusion

In conclusion, Zoom is terrible, and Jitsi Meet has some great advantages over it. Please consider giving Jitsi Meet a try instead of using Zoom for your next meeting. The easiest way to get started is to just head to meet.jit.si jitsi.tildeverse.org and try it out with no commitment.

Update: meet.jit.si has disabled use without registration. It is now easier to use a different instance.