Best Video Conferencing Tools: Free, Low-Cost, One-To-One And Multi-Party Solutions - Mini-Guide
To help you track what's going on with video-conferencing A-listers, check out this new guide where I have reviewed and compared all the best free and low-cost video conferencing tools, conveniently separated in one-to-one and multi-party solutions.
Photo credit: Mac Doctors
Once reserved to pro users with big wallets, shiny hardware, and high-speed internet connections, video conferencing services now let you create, host, and join online meetings completely free, or for a very reasonable price.
What is more, it's not really a problem which kind of hardware or operating system you have. Most of the video conferencing services available are in fact web-based. You don't have to install anything on your hard-disk, and be free to use any computer you run into. Some video conferencing services even work on mobile phones without a glitch.
Video conferencing services often integrate some complementary features, such as the ability to make VoIP phone calls, do screen-sharing, record sessions, transfer files, or whiteboarding. And all of this already at a free level. Anyway, if you are willing to spend a couple of bucks, some pro features like better video quality, more participants, or advanced control and customization for your conferences are usually available.
To select which one of the video conferencing services is the best for your needs, I have here selected some basic criteria for each one of the two main groups (one-to-one and multi-party solutions), and prepared two comparative tables so that you can easily evaluate what you need.
Here the criteria:
1) Platform: Type of video conferencing service (software / web-based).
2) Video channels: Number of parties that can participate to a video conference at the same time (refers only to multi-party software tools).
3) Public conference: Ability to make a video conference fully public.
4) Embeddable widget: Flash widget embeddable on web sites or social media sites.
5) Session recording: Feature to record your conference session for later review or publishing.
6) Text chat: Ability to text-chat other participants.
7) Other features: File transfer, screen-sharing, live annotation, whiteboarding, etc.
8) Pro starting price: Price and additional features of the first advanced pricing level.
Best Free and Low-Cost One-To-One Video Conferencing Services Comparison Table
Best Free and Low-Cost One-To-One Video Conferencing Services
Skype is a free VoIP and video conferencing service for Pc, Mac, Linux, and iOS-compatible devices to make one-to-one video calls. You can text-chat (also in group mode), have audio / video calls, transfer files, and more. Mac version also allows to share your screen. Video calls are limited to two people, but there are many third-party software that let you add more people, and also record your conferencing sessions. Embeddable widget available. Pay As You Go pro account allows you to buy $10 of Skype credit to call landline and mobile phones, which have to be used within 180 days.
Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messenger is a popular free instant messaging and video conferencing tool from Microsoft. Available for Pc, Mac, and Windows Mobile-based phones, Live Messenger can also be used to transfer files, and supports Xbox integration. A site-embeddable widget is available, but Live Messenger cannot be used for public conferences, and a feature to record your audio or video calls is missing.
Yahoo! Messenger is a free instant messaging and video conferencing solution. Yahoo! Messenger is available for Pc, Mac, Linux, and can also be used for file transfer purposes. Integrated voicemail is found among the main features, but recording your audio or video chat is not possible, nor public conferences are allowed. An official widget you can embed on your site is also missing, but on the Web there are many workarounds to do that.
Google Video Chat
Google Video Chat is a feature of Gmail that lets you chat one-to-one on video with other Gmail users right inside the e-mail window of your browser. Completely free to use, Google Video Chat is available for Pc and Mac. The application is very essential and allows you just to text chat and share your video. No session recording, widget, or public conference features available.
AIM Chat is a free web-based service that allows you to text and video chat with other AIM and Bebo buddies. After registering, you can also share media content via the brand new AIM interface (still in beta status). Public conference not available, nor session recording. An embeddable widget is available to let people chat and video chat from your web site.
SnapYap is a web-based video conferencing tool. Filling up a simple registration form enables you to create your free, personal video conference room, where other people can join and video chat with you: if the have a SnapYap account, you just need to insert their username, else just provide their email address and they will be sent an email with instructions to enter the room. Video messaging feature, and widget for your site available.
Boostacam is a free, easy-to-use, web-based video conferencing solution for one-to-one calls. Without registration, you can create a virtual room where yours and other-party webcams will be shown. To share your room just copy and paste the individual URL that Boostcam creates for you. No session recording, nor public conference features available. No embeddable widget as well.
Best Free and Low-Cost Multi-Party Video Conferencing Services Comparison Table
Best Free and Low-Cost Multi-Party Video Conferencing Services
OoVoo is a free web conferencing software available for Pc and Mac (Mac still in beta version). After a quick registration, you can download the software to your hard-disk and be able to communicate with other ooVoo users through text-chat, video and audio conference (up to six people). You can also record your video conversations and host public conferences. File transfer, and embeddable widget to add to your web site available. Starting pro plan for ooVoo includes: multi-party video conference up to 6 participants, high-resolution video, more storage, unlimited session recording, and more for 10$/month.
SightSpeed is a video conferencing software available for both Pc and Mac machines. SightSpeed can be used to have video chats with up to 2 concurrent channels streaming at the same time. Advanced features include: text chat, file transfer, session recording, and video messaging. No public conference allowed, nor embeddable widget for your web site supported. Free for two people, or $9.95/month for 4 people and unlimited video storage.
Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro
Acrobat Connect Pro is a powerful video conferencing solution from Adobe. Entirely based on Flash, the service allows you to create, host, and join meeting from your web browser. All you need is a webcam and compatible microphone. Advanced features like whiteboarding, session recording, file transfer, text-chat and screen sharing supported. No widget to embed a meeting on your web site nor public conference supported. Prices starting from $0.32/min/user.
Nefsis is a multi-party web and video conferencing software for Pc. Nefsis allows up to 20 participants to join a conference at the same time, and sports many advanced features like: HD webcam support, whiteboarding, desktop sharing, session recording, and more. Public conferences are not supported, and there's no widget to embed on your web site. Prices starting from $70/month.
VSee is a multi-party video conferencing and desktop sharing tool. VSee allows up to 6 people to have a video chat at the same time. You can also live edit and annotate documents, share applications, transfer files, record and share videos, pan, tilt, and zoom remote cameras. Session recording and public conference features are not supported. Embeddable widget not available. 30-day free trial to test the service and pro starting plan for 50$/5-month.
iChat is a built-in software of Apple operating system, which thus works only on Mac machines. iChat allows you to share your screen, text-chat, and have audio and videoconferencing sessions with up to 4 people (including you). Whiteboarding, file transfer, media sharing, and session recording are also possible. No widget available for your web site and public conference is not supported.
MegaMeeting is a web-based video conferencing tool. MegaMeeting requires no download: all you need is an internet browser, a broadband internet connection, and a web camera or digital video camera. Up to 10 participants can join a video conference at the same time, and an unlimited number of additional secure video conferencing attendees can see those 16. No session recording, public conference or embeddable widget available. Pro versions allow screen sharing and brandable video meetings, and up to 16 concurrent participants. Prices start from $15/additional-seat.
MeBeam is an easy-to-use web-based video conferencing tool that you can use to have free video calls with up to 16 people without having to install anything on your machine. To start a video conference, you just have to type a name for your room, share it with your friends, and click connect. No session recording, public conference available. Web Widget is also missing. It is completely web-based and free to use, with no registration needed.
TokBox is a free web-based video conferencing application that anyone can use to have multi-party video meetings online. There's no limit to the people you can add to a single meeting though the guys at TokBox suggest not to exceed the limit of 25 concurrent users for best performance. After a simple registration, you are able to create your video room either by sharing a URL or adding participants from your existing IM profiles. Public conference feature, video mail, and widget to embed your conference room on your site available. Session recording not supported.
Vidivic is a web-based video conferencing tool to create, host, and join online conferences that works only with Internet Explorer. Free to use, Vidivic allows meetings up to 9 participants. Text chat available, but advanced features like session recording, public conference or file transfer are not present. No embeddable widget to put on your site.
FlashMeeting is a free, web-based video conferencing tool that allows you to have multi-party video meeting with unlimited people. FlashMeeting also has built-in session recording, text-chat, file transfer, live annotation, and whiteboarding feature. No embeddable widget available or public conference supported.
iNeen is a powerful free video conferencing software for Pc and Mac. Multi-party supported for 4 people at the same time. Text-chat and session recording are available. Public conference and web site embeddable widget not available. iNeen can also transfer your incoming calls to another account in case you are inside another call or unavailable.
PalBee is a multi-party, web-based video conferencing tool. PalBee lets you set up free video meetings with up to 9 people, who can all whiteboard, transfer files, upload PowerPoint presentations and other media content, record for one hour anything that happens inside the conference, and publish it as a video on YouTube. No public conference feature nor web widget to embed on your web site. The service is completely free to use.
iSpQ is an awarded video conferencing software available for Pc and Mac users. Multi-party conferences are allowed up to 4 participants at the same time. Video messages and text chat are supported. No session recording, public conference, or widget to embed on your web site. iSpQ costs $39.95/license
Ekko is a free, web-based video conferencing tool that you can use to create meetings with up to 5 attendees. Other features include: text-chat, media sharing and a smart integration with popular IM services to manage your online relationships more easily. No session recording or public conference features supported. Ekko also allows you to place a dedicated web widget on your web site to access the service.
Vawkr is a free web-based video conferencing service that allows you to have an online chat room and host your video meetings. After registering to the service, you get your own disposable video conferencing session where you can also text-chat other participants. A widget from Vawkr is available to host meetings directly on your web site. No session recording, file transfer or public conference features supported.
iVisit is a free multi-party video conferencing software that works with Windows machines and Windows Mobile-enabled mobile phones. You can create live video conferences with up to 8 people at the same time, share hi-res photos, text-chat, and even track mobile users with the integrated GPS system. Whiteboarding feature also available, but no session recording, widget to embed on your web site or public conference supported. Pro plans with screen-sharing starting from $4.95/month.
Meeting24.tv is the new kid on the block of video conferencing tools that allows you to host and participate in meetings with up to 24 participants. Free and web-based, the main strength of Meeting24.tv lays in its easiness of use. No advanced features like session recording, public conference, text chat are available. No widget to embed on your site supported as well. Pro plan with up to 100 concurrent participants is priced at 10,000 yen.
Persony is a web-based multi-party video conferencing software. You can create private or public meetings with up to 12 people at the same time and a maximum of 100 attendees per session. Persony features include: screen sharing, text-chat, whiteboarding and file transfer capabilities. Session recording and widget to embed on your web site are not supported. Persony is priced at $199 for a one-time license.
Robin Good -
Originally prepared by Robin Good and Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on April 6th, 2009 as "Best Video Conferencing Tools: Free, Low-Cost, One-To-One And Multi-Party Solutions - Mini-Guide".
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