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Zoom has been the go-to application for video calling since Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we can communicate with others. Virginia Tech uses Zoom to facilitate virtual instruction and to hold university events. Clubs host meetings through Zoom, and my friends and I have had Zoom get-togethers. However, recent events have shown the shortcomings of Zoom, specifically when it comes to the security of calls. This has led me to question if Zoom really is the best application. And if it isn't, what is? Sure, my Zoom happy hours or game nights aren't being targeted by Zoom "bombers," but if I can take greater measures to prevent this from happening, why shouldn't I?

It turns out, there are plenty of applications out there that allow for video conferencing. So here are three, free alternatives you can use in the future.

Discord

Last semester I was in a project-based class. So, when the University shut down, my group and I had to find a way to stay connected with one another. We decided on Discord and we were not disappointed. 

Discord is typically used by gamers, but anyone interested in encrypted chat, messaging and video calls should use it. Through Discord, you can create a “server” and then make multiple rooms within that server. If I had to compare it to anything, it’s most similar to Slack but for video calling. You create a slack channel, which is like a server, and each channel is similar to the rooms within the server. 

One of the coolest features I found on Discord was being able to mute others. This was very useful if I needed help from someone in the group. Instead of having to get on a completely different call, I could mute everyone but the person I wanted to talk to, and the rest of the group could mute me. 

Facebook Messenger

I know I have definitely talked bad about Facebook Messenger in the past, but I recently have started using it for a project I am working on, and I must admit, it is pretty great. My group and I have a Facebook chat and, within that chat, we can just start a video call on the same app. It is super convenient because the video link shows up directly in the chat, so there is no need to send out a link, and there are fewer mix-ups with what link to join.

On Facebook Messenger, there is another feature called Messenger Rooms. Personally I have never used it, but these rooms can be private or public and can hold 50 participants for an unlimited amount of time. 

Skype

Back in middle school, I remember getting on Skype calls with my friends. I definitely thought Skype was going to make a resurgence when COVID-19 hit and schools started shutting down, but it hasn’t made as much of a come-back as I thought it would. However, that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten! 

Skype has a feature called Skype Meet Now that allows up to 50 users on a call and doesn’t require you to have a Skype account — just access to the meeting link. 

Even though COVID-19 requires us to stay apart, these tools can help you continue to stay connected. So next time you’re planning a Zoom hangout, try out one of these new applications instead! 

Devon Lee

Virginia Tech '20

Just a multimedia journalism major, minoring in computer science and political science, who is passionate about sharing stories, random thoughts and life experiences.
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