Jitsi Videobridge

Sudo apt-get -y install jitsi-videobridge sudo apt-get -y install jicofo sudo apt-get -y install jigasi Important: Read the quick-install guide and its advanced section for further configuration (Firewall, Port Forwarding or for Running jitsi-videobridge behind NAT)!!! Jitsi Meet install on a Raspberry Pi 4 with Ubuntu Server 20.04. This guide helps you host your own Jitsi server on a Raspberry Pi 4B. It is adapted from Jitsi's quick install guide and the Jitsi on ARM guide written by crouchingtigerhiddenadam. Jitsi Videobridge (JVB) - WebRTC compatible server designed to route video streams amongst participants in a conference. Jitsi Conference Focus (jicofo) - server-side focus component used in Jitsi Meet conferences that manages media sessions and acts as load balancer between each of the participants and the videobridge. Jitsi-videobridge; When this happens, just run the uninstall command a second time and it should be ok. The reason for the failure is that sometimes the uninstall script is faster than the process that stops the daemons. The second run of the uninstall command fixes this, as by then the jigasi or jitsi-videobridge daemons are already stopped. Jvb: Jitsi Videobridge, the video router. Jigasi: Jigasi, the SIP (audio only) gateway. Etherpad: Etherpad, shared document editing addon. Jibri: Jibri, the broadcasting infrastructure. Design considerations. Jitsi Meet uses XMPP for signaling, thus the need for the XMPP server. The setup provided by these containers does not expose the XMPP.

Based on the current situation video chat systems are becoming more and more popular. There are a lot of different solutions on the market. Some of them are free to use. Some of them need a paid subscription plan. Some of them are encrypted and guarantee a certain level of data privacy. Some others don’t have that.

I would like to show you how to setup your self-hosted video chat server with the Open Source software Jitsi. There are a lot of tutorials online and everything seems to be super easy. I would like to focus on a few more topics so we end up with a usable, production ready system that you can deploy for one of you customers for example.

Since Jitsi is under active development and some of the settings may change please keep in mind that I recorded this video in April 2020 and even though I try to keep it as general as possible some details might have changed depending on when you are watching this.

Installing Jitsi

First off, you need to setup a dedicated or virtual server that hosts the Jitsi video chat software. There are a lot of providers and I will not go into the details of setting this up. Make sure to setup a domain name that points to your server. I also do not want to reiterate what the Jitsi quick install guide already tells you. Have a look this at the jitsi.org website.

Setting up the firewall

When it comes to setting up the firewall the Jitsi quick start guide only states which ports you need to open but does not exactly tell you how to do this. I’m using ufw the uncomplicated firewall for this so let’s have a look at the details.

You install the Debian package ufw and issue the following commands to setup the firewall rules. This opens the SSH port and HTTP and HTTPS ports. Furthermore it will open port 10.000 UDP (not TCP) for Jitsi. In some older tutorials you will see that the whole range from port 10.000 to 20.000 was opened which is not necessary anymore.

TLS certificate addition

At the end of the installation process you will get the hint to install a Let’s Encrypt TLS certificate using the script install-letsencrypt-cert.sh. It also states that you should rerun the script to renew the certificate but this is generally a bad idea and you should automate this process of course.

Ki engage task chair review. Simply create a file in /etc/cron.daily/ named certbot and add the following content to it:

Save and close the file and make it executable like so:

If you’re using Nginx – which is the default dependency on Debian right now – you need to tell the webserver that it should reload its configuration when a new certificate is deployed. Add a file 01-reload-nginx to the directory /etc/letsencrypt/renewal-hooks/deploy with the following content:

And again, make the file executable with this command:

Placing the script in the deploy hook makes sure that it only runs after a successful renewal. If you would use the post hook instead it would run after each attempt to renew it. This might not be really bad but the deploy hook just seems to fit better. You can read about more details in the Certbot documentation.

Hardening Nginx

By default the Nginx configuration and the Jitsi virtual host configuration get a B score when you test your Jitsi domain with ssllabs.com. Let’s improve this with a few simple steps.

First off, set server_tokens to off in the nginx.conf to hide the exact version number of the webserver. Then run the following openssl command to generate custom parameters for the Diffie-Hellman (DH) key exchange.

Finally add or change the following settings both in the nginx.conf and your specific virtual host file under sites-avalable in /etc/nginx.

Depending on where you generated the dhparams.pem file please make sure to move it to /etc/nginx.

Optional Nginx changes

The following steps are completely optional and you do not have to do this.

Clear the default homepage of Nginx:

Disallow web robots to crawl the Jitsi website:

Depending on what you are trying to archive with regard to data privacy you might want to disable the logging of the Nginx webserver altogether with this in the nginx.conf:

Customizing Jitsi

The default Jitsi website already looks pretty neat but your can easily customize the look if it. If you are hosting such a website in Germany for example you definitely want to include links to the imprint and to a page with the data privacy information.

Change the logo in /usr/share/jitsi-meet:

And yourlogo.png should be something like: https:///path/to/logo.png .

Then you might want to edit the file interface_config.js (example for German translation given) in /usr/share/jitsi-meet/:

The last one („generate room names“) is just a matter of your personal preference. Since most of the not so tech-savvy users may get confused with this random typing in the input field I disabled the feature.

Change welcome text in /usr/share/jitsi-meet/lang/main-de.json

It depends on your situation and it’s just my personal preference to clear the standard description that comes with Jitsi.

Again, if you are required to link to certain information by law you should change the footer and include those links there. It involves changing the following two files:

You can find a nice description how to do this in the community forum: https://community.jitsi.org/t/welcome-page-additional-content/17144/6

Monitoring Jitsi

You can have a look at the log files jicofo.log and jvb.log in /var/log/jitsi/ but unfortunately it’s not that easy to get a hold of the number of active meeting rooms or the number of participants in those rooms.

The jitsi-videobridge comes with a REST API that has endpoints for common stats and the conference rooms. You can activate the webservice by editing /etc/jitsi/videobridge/config and adding the following:

Then run “service jitsi-videobridge2 restart” and after that you can access stats and conference details here:

If you ssh into your server you can forward the port 8080 to your local machine so you can easily access the webservice with your local browser:

You can check out the following links for more details:
https://github.com/jitsi/jitsi-videobridge/blob/master/doc/rest.md
https://github.com/jitsi/jitsi-videobridge/blob/master/doc/rest-colibri.md

Securing Jitsi

By now you have a Jitsi installation that allows everybody to start a new conference. If you are seeing a lot of abuse on your server or want to restrict this to users with a username and password right away you can configure something called a “Secure domain” in Jicofo. More details can be found here: https://github.com/jitsi/jicofo#secure-domain

I will not go into the details of setting this up because there are other possibilities for you and it depends on what you’re trying to archive. For example you could simply use HTTP authentication to protect your whole Jitsi website as well.

Jitsi Videobridge Docker

Conclusion

Setting up your own video chat server with Jitsi is very straight forward. I hope this post helps you to get it production ready for your clients.

© Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Things may be starting to open up, but for now, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit face-to-face association and most of us are still relying on video calls to keep in touch with work colleagues, family, and friends. And for most of us — especially those who are facing financial difficulties — free is best. Zoom continues to top the list of videoconferencing apps, but there are a bunch of applications out there that will allow you to meet others online for free.

We’ve listed a few of the best known videoconferencing apps, along with a couple of popular text chat apps that include video calling features. While most of these already have free versions, some are offering access to additional features for those who are currently working from home or who want to check up on friends and relatives online.

There are a number of apps we have not included, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and FaceTime, that allow you to do video chats. We’ve left them out because they require that all participants be members of a specific social network (Facebook, WhatsApp) or that you use a specific type of device (FaceTime, which is Apple-only). We’ve also tried to concentrate on applications that allow you to participate without having to download the app (unless you’re the host), and that allow at least ten or more participants.

A good idea is to try one or two out for yourself to see how well they fit in with your style and those of your friends. This list is a good place to start.

Zoom

The most popular video meeting app

Zoom is one of the most widely used video meeting apps.

Zoom has become one of the most well-known videoconferencing apps — in fact, its name is quickly becoming synonymous with video meetings. Before the pandemic hit, the company pushed Zoom mostly for corporate use, but it also provides a free basic version for individuals. At first, because Zoom didn’t expect its sudden popularity among non-business users, there were several missteps involving privacy and security; the company quickly instituted a number of changes and updates to address these issues.

The free version of Zoom allows up to 100 users to meet, but there is a 40-minute limit on meetings of more than two people, which can be pretty limiting. As of this writing, Zoom was not offering any special deals for those now working at home, but it does have a page offering help and advice to new users.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 40-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes
Jitsi Videobridge

Skype Meet Now

A longtime go-to for online calls

Skype’s Meet Now feature supports up to 50 people with a four-hour time limit.

Skype has been the go-to platform for one-on-one conversations since the beta was released in 2003. Its Meet Now feature (which is accessed by choosing the “Meet Now” button on the left side of the app) allows for videoconferencing; up to 50 people can meet with a generous four-hour time limit on meetings.

There is also a separate page that lets you create a free video meeting without having to actually sign up for the service. However, you get more features using the app, so if you’re okay with registering for a free account, you’re better off doing that.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 50
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: Four hours per call, 10 hours per day, 100 hours per month
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Cisco Webex

A corporate app with a solid freemium version

Webex, a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ‘90s, has a useful free version.

Webex is a videoconferencing app that has been around since the ‘90s; it was acquired by Cisco in 2007. While it’s been mainly known as a business application and continues to focus on serving companies, it does have a fairly generous free version that’s worth checking out. During the current pandemic, it has widened the features of the freemium version from 50 to 100 participants, and you can meet for up to 50 minutes.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 50-minute limit
  • Group meetings: 50-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Google Meet

Now featured on your Gmail page

Meet offers a very simple and efficient way to video chat with colleagues, friends, and family — assuming they all have Google accounts, which is a requirement for both hosts and participants. In fact, Google is not only pushing people to use its Meet videoconferencing app instead of Zoom but also instead of its own soon-to-be-sundowned Google Hangouts app. (We previously included Google Hangouts in this roundup, but Hangouts users are now being actively urged from within the app to use Google Meet for their video chats.) You can find a Meet link in the Gmail app and in every appointment you make using Google Calendar.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour limit
  • Group meetings: 24-hour limit through June 28th, one-hour limit after
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Microsoft Teams

Not just for business

© Provided by The Verge

Microsoft Teams was built as a competitor to Slack and is an especially good idea if you’re part of the Office ecosystem. While the application is mainly focused on business use, Microsoft has stepped out of its three-piece suit and unveiled a free personal version of Teams, which lets anyone chat, talk, or have video meetings — you just have to create an account with Microsoft in order to use it. Currently, due to the pandemic, Microsoft has extended the maximum number of participants from 100 to 300, and it has pushed the time limit from 60 minutes to 24 hours, which gives it an edge over most other free videoconferencing apps.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: Normally 100; extended to 300 during pandemic
  • One-on-one meetings: Normally 60-minute limit; extended to 24 hours during pandemic
  • Group meetings: Normally 60-minute limit; extended to 24 hours during pandemic
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Google Duo

A mobile app best suited to one-to-ones

You don’t really expect Google to only offer one simple videoconferencing app, do you? Besides Google Meet, Google also has its mobile app Duo, which was built as a consumer app (whereas Meet was originally designed as a business app). While Duo was first touted as the app to use for one-to-one conversations and could only be used on phones, it now allows you to create groups of up to 32 participants and includes a web app. All participants must have Google accounts.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 32
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Mobile only
  • Record meetings: No

StarLeaf

A corporate meeting app with a free basic version

© Provided by The Verge

If you’re not a company, you may not have heard of StarLeaf. It’s really a platform for companies rather than individuals; its lowest-cost paid plan starts with five licenses suitable for a small business. But it is now offering a basic video and messaging product free of charge for those trying to keep in touch during the pandemic.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 20
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 45-minute time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Jitsi Meet

Open source with plenty of features

Another “you probably haven’t heard of it” videoconference app, Jitsi Meet is an open-source platform that lets you easily meet online by simply navigating to the site and clicking on “Start meeting.” If you’re a developer, you can build your own conferencing app via Jitsi Videobridge, but most people will be happy with the quick web version, which offers many features found in more well-known apps, such as fake backgrounds, chat, session recording (to Dropbox), and the ability to “kick out” unruly participants.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Jitsi Videobridge

Whereby

Single meeting rooms with up to 50 participants

© Provided by The Verge

Whereby’s free version gives you the use of a single meeting room with up to 50 participants, along with the ability to lock rooms (participants have to “knock” to gain entrance). Each room has its own URL that you get to choose, which is great — assuming that nobody else has already taken that name. (For example, I first tried whereby.com/testroom and found it was already taken.) But it also has a chat function, lets you share a screen, allows you to mute or eject users, and offers breakout groups.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 50
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: 45-minute limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

Glip Pro

A wide range of free features

Glip Pro offers a nice range of features for a free video meeting app. It does insist that you have either a work email address or a Google account, and wants access to your contacts on that account. But if you’re good with that, you get 24 hours of meeting time (as long as you sign up by July), screen sharing, recording, chat, and virtual backgrounds, among others. It even offers closed captions (although, as with a lot of AI transcription software, some of the captions leave something to be desired).

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100
  • One-on-one meetings: 24-hour limit (for signups by July 2021)
  • Group meetings: 24-hour limit (for signups by July 2021)
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: Yes

Spike

A simple web-based system

Spike can be used without having to download anything.

Spike, an expanding email service, offers videoconferencing to its subscribers, but it has also made a basic video meeting web app available to anyone who wants it. It’s quick and easy to use: just go to video.spike.chat, type in a name, and click on “Join Video Chat Meeting.” Spike generates a unique URL for the chat and even lets you share your screen.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 200
  • One-on-one meetings: No time limit
  • Group meetings: No time limit
  • Screen sharing: Yes
  • Record meetings: No

More alternatives

There is a wide range of other Zoom alternatives out there, including RemoteHQ, Talky, and 8x8 (which acquired Jitsi in 2018). Some of these don’t have a free version or the number of participants who can use the free version is limited. For example, BlueJeans starts at $9.99 per month for unlimited-time meetings with up to 100 participants, while the free version of Zoho Meeting only permits a maximum of three participants, and Intermedia AnyMeeting allows four.

Jitsi Videobridge

Other apps offer some video meeting as an added feature. Slack is mainly set up for text chat, but it does give you the ability to make voice and video calls as well. If you’re on the free version of Slack, you can make a video call to an individual. But if you want to host a meeting between several people, as opposed to a one-on-one conversation, and want to do it for free, you’ll need to look for an alternative. The messaging app Signal offers group video calls with a maximum of eight participants.

There are also apps like Houseparty, which lets up to eight people use a virtual room to chat. In fact, anybody can drop into a friend’s online session without an invitation (although you can “lock” your room to prevent intruders). However, it does demand that all participants register in order to use it — and registration includes your name, email address, birthdate, and phone number. So we didn’t include it among our recommendations.

Update May 4th, 2021, 2:40PM ET: This article was originally published on June 11th, 2020. Since then, all entries have been updated; in addition, two apps have been dropped (Hangouts and Spike) and Glip Pro has been added.

Jitsi Videobridge Sfu

Update May 5th, 2021, 9:15AM ET: Updated to reflect the fact that Whereby’s breakout groups feature is out of beta and to add Signal to the list of alternatives.

Update May 6th, 2021 4PM ET: Updated to add Spike back to the main list.