Jitsi Meet – The VC App to Rule Them All?

Jitsi.org
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Following the theme of video conferencing software, I’m taking a closer look at Jitsi. I previously talked about this software in a blog, about a month ago. Yet, due to a sudden surge in popularity, I’ve been urged to talk about it in further detail. You know the drill! Pull on your protective suits because we’re going for a deep dive into Jitsi; the software, the mobile app and the security.

I’m going to be taking one for the team, downloading Jitsi to see how well it works. I’ll take you through my experience of the software before giving it some more background.

When you go onto the Jitsi website and press the big, blue ‘Download’ button, we’re brought to the menu of places that we can download it from; the Apple app store, Google Play and F-Droid. So, unless you have a mobile emulator (or use a Chromebook), you must use the web app. That being said, we believe it to be by design. Running from the browser eliminates the need to download an executable. This is because all .exe files carry a security risk so it just doesn’t have one.

The download menu for Jitsi.

After discovering this, I went to download it on my phone and discovered the mediocre rating of 3.3 stars from 15,000 reviews. Judging by the huge surge that the app has received, this seems like a very lukewarm review. I believe this requires some extra investigation, detectives.

A down-side of the app is the time it takes to download. It may have been my crummy internet connection (it’s been acting up recently) but after 15 minutes, the download was only on sixty-something percent.

Eventually, the app finished installing and I was able to open it. This is the screen that greets you upon opening the app. Now, about rooms and the default settings. Jitsi is 100% susceptible to room bombing by default. Room creation and room entry follow the same path so if you go to create a room with a common name, which someone else already has in use, it won’t tell you one already exists. It will just throw you straight in with a bunch of strangers without warning and this could be the embarrassing end of an intimate, late-night call.

However, example room names are randomly generated and are shown in the text box, at the top. These are here to give the room creator inspiration the name of their ‘room’. The room name is meant to reflect the subject of the conversation that will take place in-call.

I came up with an apt subject and title for my call, where I would be talking to myself to show off the app; Advanced ClassInBookBurning.

Here, your phone will ask for permission to access your calendar to arrange meetings on certain dates as well as permission to access your camera, microphone and record video of your screen as it may need to use those utilities during the call. After typing in the subject, I began the call, that consisted of me and only me.

I must say that the connection quality to myself was rather poor though this could be due to the end-to-end encryption.

I, also, used the web app, just to see if it was any different. So, on the home page, we click the ‘See It In Action! Start a Meeting’ button and it brings us to the below page.

Again, the line to type in a room name generates random strings of words to help the room creator come up with a unique name. So I, of course, put in my usual AdvancedClassInBookBurning. Press ‘Go’ and your PC will want to know if you are okay with Jitsi accessing your microphone and camera for the call.

Click allow and you’ve got your very own grainy, horrible-looking picture of me (because my webcam isn’t very good). So, the applications, mobile and web app, aren’t very different but it’s always nice to have a choice.

Options in a Jitsi Call

Once you’ve started a call, these options are at your disposal and I’ll go through these now:

  • Select the sound device: Here you get a choice between where you want the sound of the call to come from. For me, as I had no BlueTooth devices involved, it was between the speakers on my phone or the actual receiver, to make it seem more like a regular phone call.
  • Invite someone: You can copy a link to send to a friend or colleague, allowing them to join your call easily.
  • Enable low bandwidth mode: To allow you to continue the call, even through weak wi-fi connections.
  • Raise your hand: Alert the admins of the chat to something, e.g. you have something to say and want them to give you the spotlight.
  • Toggle camera: This allows you to choose between front and back cameras on your phone.
  • Enter tile view: This turns all participants into a single tile on your screen as opposed to the one talking being fullscreen.
  • Start recording: Self-explanatory.
  • Start live stream: Begin broadcasting your call.
  • Add meeting password: Also self-explanatory (and yet, this should be automatic anyway).

Perks

  • Jitsi is end-to-end encrypted, meaning that any secure information discussed on a Jitsi call is safe.
  • It’s open-source software. This means high-quality software with low software costs.
  • It’s free!! And who doesn’t love free stuff?

With all of these options, it’s easy to conclude that this software is your standard video conferencing app. Still, the fact that they pull it off with such a slick and minimalistic design means that most users, even those with little to no cyber skills, will be able to navigate their way around this app.

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