Considering that Zoom has a user base of over 300 million users, it is safe to say that the app is quite popular in the world of video conferencing.
Zoom’s attractive factors include ease of use, advanced features, and a simple setup.
On the other hand, Zoom has recently been racked by a spate of security vulnerabilities that have led to private user data being exposed online in real-time during meetings. This and other issues have forced many users to look for alternatives.
Though we have plenty of Zoom options to explore, we’ll be specifically talking about open-source Zoom alternatives today.
First, let’s understand what advantages you get with an open-source tool.
Open source alternatives provide the liberty and right to intellectual expression. There is the freedom to study and modify the underlying code in these chat applications and the option to distribute the software freely.
Security is paramount. It refers to the measure of guarantee or assurance of end-user data privacy and security. Unlike commercial software apps, the open-source ecosystem encourages rapid bug and vulnerability fixes. Overall, this enhances the security and privacy of the end-user data.
Open-source video conferencing tools drastically reduce the Total Cost of Ownership for a software solution compared to proprietary, closed-source applications. This is because an organization can implement custom solutions at zero upfront cost.
As we can see, an open-source alternative is more beneficial. Without further ado, let’s dive into the best open-source Zoom alternatives.
Since its humble beginnings in 2015 as the brainchild of Gabriel Engel, Rocket.Chat first started life as a Live Support system built on top of Meteor.
Since then, it has received funding from multiple sources, including New Enterprise Associates, which donated roughly five million dollars to the project.
The software has also won multiple innovation awards, including the 2016 Bossie Award for the Best Overall Open-Source software application.
Rocket.Chat has become a fan favorite remote video conferencing tool among stakeholders such as startups, banks, NGOs, and even government entities in recent times.
Rocket.Chat enables teams to set up their chat tool, manage their data securely, select their users, and customize the look and feel of the software.
Users can host the application either in the cloud or on on-premise private servers. More options include the ability to fork Rocket.Chat on GitHub, which builds a new platform entirely due to the application’s open-source nature.
Compared to Zoom, Rocket.Chat’s primary advantage lies in its end-user data security measures. Rocket.Chat’s developers focus heavily on encryption and security, which are Zoom’s primary weaknesses.
The software’s primary features that attract users include end-to-end encryption, single-sign-on capability, multiple OAuth integrations, two-factor authentication, and searching.
The app also comes with guest channels, LiveChat, messages, unlimited users, and LDAP Group Syncing.
Rocket.Chat users number more than 10 million worldwide and include an active developer community of more than 700 developers and contributors. In the long term, Rocket.Chat developers aim to replace conventional email via a real-time federated chat platform.
A powerful open-source chat application focusing on groups, Zulip is designed to combine the importance of real-time chat with all the benefits of threaded conversations.
The user base of Zulip consists of Fortune 500 organizations, open-source projects, startups, NGOs, and significant compliance and standards organizations.
The email threading model, which is the basis of Zulip’s business model, enables users to catch up on the most relevant conversations while ignoring the less important chats.
In addition to this, Zulip has developed a modern app (built using React Native and Electron) for every central mobile platform, including Apple, Android, and the web.
Zulip has a strong developer community of over 700 contributors and comes with more than 160,000 words in its developer documentation.
This, combined with highly supportive, high-quality code and a friendly community, users can easily modify Zulip’s codebase to meet unique needs.
Currently, Zoom does not offer threaded conversations. Compared to Zoom, Zulip has quite a smaller user base. However, this is rapidly changing as more conventional users realize the benefit of open-source software.
The open-source community emphasizes making such applications more stable and secure than their commercial counterparts.
Zulip can work as a self-hosted solution and supports inline media preview, private streams, full-text search, video calls, and chat imports from other software.
3. Element (formerly Riot)
Element is a premier enterprise-grade chat application built for ambitious teams, organizations, and friends. With Element, users are guaranteed the same privacy levels they have for conversations in their homes.
Element is different because it offers no walled gardens; users can chat with anyone, regardless of which app they choose to use. The app also keeps user data safe from data mining and eavesdropping.
Element guarantees privacy as it is built on top of the Matrix standard for open-source, decentralized communication. This alone enhances user data security and privacy.
The software comes with support for multiple device environments, including Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. It also runs just fine on Android and iOS.
By being open-source and decentralized, Element is matrix-based, and the privacy and security of the software’s users are also enhanced as a result. Analysts cannot say the same for Zoom, which is a commercial company with closed-source software.
Digital workers today do all kinds of activity online, including sending emails, hosting video calls, opening chat boxes, transcribing messages, picking up phone calls, and sending text messages.
Tox promises to be a decentralized, peer-to-peer chat platform that is also open-source. It is highly encrypted and comes with enterprise features such as voice calls, file sharing, file transfer, and screen sharing.
Added advantages of Tox include desktop clients for every platform, including Mac, Linux, and Windows. There is also an iOS client as well as an Android version that is also open-source.
Compared to Tox, Zoom is not as independent and has been known to bow down to the whims of governments before. Client cameras have also been exposed to external access during Zoom calls, which would never happen while using Tox.
In Tox, group chats are akin to channels but support audio calls too. It is decentralized, free, mobile-ready, and developer-friendly.
A premier communication and chat platform for teams, Mattermost provides support for both video and voice calls. Built on top of reliable technologies such as Golang, PostgreSQL, and ReactJS, Mattermost can be either self-hosted or deployed as SaaS.
The application supports Push notifications, full-text search, private messaging, channels, file and image sharing, and multi-language support. Mattermost can run on Linux, Windows, Mac, and mobile devices too.
For developers, Mattermost offers bot development and webhook tools for extending functionality.
Compared to Zoom, Mattermost offers both a free trial and a free version, while Zoom offers a free trial. Mattermost also provides useful features such as brainstorming, project management, built-in version control, and task management, which are not available in Zoom.
Linphone markets itself as the leading Skype alternative in the market today. It comes with double, open-source, and commercial (for voice and video calls) licenses.
The software’s components are utilized in many sectors, including IoT, security, home automation, telecommunications, and health.
Linphone comes packaged in native mobile apps for iOS and Android and features desktop clients for Linux, macOS, and Windows. Standout features of Linphone include VOIP-based video chats, mobile clients, and a strong Skype alternative.
Linphone’s security is so advanced that major players in the security sector use it. The state-of-the-art encryption is based on SIP/TLS, advanced ciphering algorithms, end-to-end encryption for messages, and ZRTP encryption for video and voice calls.
Zoom is primarily an application for unifying cloud video conferencing, online meetings, software-defined conference rooms, and group messaging for remote users. On the other hand, Linphone is focused on providing internet phones and VoIP.
Compared to the myriad of features in Zoom, Linphone only does instant messaging in addition to VoIP but does it very well.
An advanced open-source video conferencing tool, Jitsi is free and requires no user accounts or setup. Inviting team members to a meeting is a breeze. The quality of Jitsi’s audio and video is of the highest standard.
The software also offers features like YouTube playback in-meeting and secure live streaming. This makes Jitsi a good option for educators who want to stream live classes or regular everyday users who want to chat with no hassles.
Considering that Jitsi is primarily web-based, it works on any device, mobile, or desktop. The app also comes with Android and iOS apps and is an easy and fun way to connect with colleagues and friends.
Despite Jitsi not being optimized for enterprise environment needs, it is perfect for small startups and friends’ meetings. In addition to this, Jitsi has optimal privacy and security policies designed to protect the privacy rights of the average Internet user. Jitsi’s data is strictly not for sale.
Compared to Zoom, however, Jitsi is cloud-based, while Zoom also offers desktop and mobile device clients in addition to the web-based version.
More tech-savvy users are invited to download the source code and set up their servers with their own Jitsi access control rules. This ensures that user data never leaves the owner’s sphere of control.
Jitsi also comes bundled with reliable installers for Ubuntu Linux and Debian Linux.
Jami is yet another open-source video conferencing tool you have probably never heard of. Not only is it open-source, but it also fully supports highly secure and functional messaging between team members.
Jami is billed as a fully integrated video and voice call application built with only the user’s freedoms and privacy as the number one priority. It can operate diverse platforms such as desktop, mobile, and web without a glitch.
Aside from the private chat and video calls, Jami also offers encrypted messaging and file transfer options for the average user.
More advanced users might find the lack of additional features offputting since Jami is only helpful for video conferencing. It does not offer features like discussions/forums, real-time editing, and content management.
An open-source, peer-to-peer application, Retroshare offers encrypted instant messaging, voice and video chats, channels, and file sharing.
In addition to this, Retroshare can be easily configured to enable traffic to pass through I2P and Tor networks for enhanced user data privacy and security.
The software readily supports Mac OSX, Windows, and various Linux distros, including Arch Linux, CentOS, OpenSuse, Fedora, Debian, and Ubuntu. Retroshare is highly recommended for friends and teams who require simple, efficient, and secure communication tools.
Retroshare comes packed with an incredible array of communication protocols, including UPnP, decentralized friend-to-friend networks, F2F, and NAT-PMP port-forwarding capability. It is the only tool covered so far that allows default Tor traffic routing.
Retroshare also offers encrypted VoIP as well as Transport Layer Security using SSL. As if this wasn’t enough, Retroshare uses distributed hash tables to help users locate friends and the default option to utilize dynamic DNS routing.
From a developer perspective, Retroshare can be extended through plugins via its modular, REST-API-based architecture. The only downside to this fantastic piece of software is the lack of mobile clients so far.
Compared to Zoom, Retroshare’s primary advantage lies in its open-source, peer-to-peer nature, protecting user data from corporate and government surveillance.
A cross-platform instant messaging and encrypted video-chat application, Q-municate is well supported on mobile devices. The software is open-source as well and also offers a web client for conventional usage.
It has been billed as an open-source WhatsApp alternative but with a more diverse array of developer-friendly features. These include mobile-first SDKs for iOS and Android, a Windows SDK, a Blackberry SDK, and the standard REST API for integrations.
As far as standards for data compliance go, Q-municate is fully HIPAA-compliant. It also comes with default features for auto-filtering, data protection, and chat moderation inside the app.
Q-municate uses a beautiful combination of WebRTC and XMPP to achieve fast video calling and instant messaging. HD video calls are supported by default, and the application’s peer-to-peer architecture is designed to eliminate annoying latency during calls.
The Q-municate development team focuses on adding video call recording and easy integrations with enterprise software such as SharePoint, Microsoft Lync, and Airwatch.
However, more convenient features such as SMS and SIP integration support international messaging and calls are available.
“Mobil-first” is a guiding mantra for the Q-municate developer team.
OpenVidu is an open-source voice and video chat conferencing platform that creative developers initially built in Spain. The software was specifically designed to allow easy self-hosting for the tech-savvy.
OpenVidu also features several developer tools to enable rapid integration with other software and flexible development and extension of the software itself.
The conference tool is also fully compliant with all data security and privacy requirements by allowing developers to have complete control over the codebase.
OpenVidu is so customizable that the only limit is a developer’s imagination. One can choose how videos are displayed, which users can contribute videos, and which ones are allowed to join meetings.
OpenVidu also promises to support several front-end technologies such as React and Angular and back-end languages such as NodeJS and Java. Mobile tools such as React Native, Ionic, or full native are supported in OpenVidu by default.
Among the service offerings by OpenVidu include multiparty video, speaker layouts, screen sharing, chats, and device selection. Conversations are explicitly encrypted via WebRTC, an API server, and a role-based access control system.
In addition to this, OpenVidu users can record calls, publish and moderate video streams with predefined streams, and show IP cameras as participants in the video calls.
Apache OpenMeetings is an open-source instant messaging, collaborative document editing, whiteboard, and video-conferencing software by default. The software makes use of Streaming Kurento and Media Server API functions to achieve such versatility.
Spawn of the famed Apache open-source project, OpenMeetings also offers user management, calendars, meeting planning, and a built-in file explorer. Meeting scheduling and recording are also natively supported in OpenMeetings.
The software is available under the Apache license by default. It also allows users to do room management, backup, and polls all under the same roof.
Like all the other conferencing applications in this list, BigBlueButton is open-source. It enables screen sharing, classroom video conferencing, whiteboard animations, and an array of developer-friendly tools.
BigBlueButton is billed as a global teaching platform that was conceived and developed by educators. This, in effect, makes it the only virtual classroom software explicitly designed with teachers’ needs in mind.
BigBlueButton is available in more than 60 languages and has as its community of developers and design teachers worldwide. The software is continuously evolving to meet the needs of 21st-century remote learning.
By default, some of the tools built into BigBlueButton include deep LMS integration for platforms like Moodle and Sakai and an efficient API for developers to extend.
A fully open-source, real-time communication and messaging solution, Lynckia is a tool designed to meet the stringent requirements for communication in today’s world. Lynckia is used to develop ad-hoc solutions for client services, depending on specific end-user needs.
The platform’s leading core software is called Licode. It is also an open-source project that enables super-fast real-time communication such as video chats and streaming in custom web applications.
It is built on top of the WebRTC stack and is fully compatible with the latest versions of Firefox and Google Chrome.
Lynckia is designed to be fast, scalable, and accessible from the ground up.
Fully open-source, Nextcloud Talk spawned from the legendary Nextcloud project. It is designed to enhance meetings with customers, colleagues, and partners in one click.
Using Nextcloud Talk, you can rest assured that all your communications are private and confidential. This is achieved by employing proprietary Nextcloud encryption that allows users to have complete control over their data.
The same encryption measures safeguard against metadata leakage, keeping communication incredibly secure. Nextcloud Talk can be hosted on-premises and offers encrypted peer-to-peer audio and video calls.
Other features of Nextcloud Talk include a SIP bridge, full integration with Nextcloud Files, mobile clients for iOS and Android, and effortless screen sharing.
As the world continues to reel under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more businesses, NGOs, and government agencies are turning to online video conferencing software to maintain effective communication between teams.
Although many commercial conferencing tools such as Zoom exist, open-source alternatives are cheaper, better-designed, and provide higher security and privacy. Users can easily install these open-source collaboration tools on-premises for both small businesses and enterprises.
Some developed non-tech-savvy options include conventional free, web-based messaging, voice calls, and video conferencing. The best open-source tools include Rocket.Chat, Tox, Element, and Nextcloud Talk.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.