By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.
As Zoom became a videoconferencing thing during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sight of talking squares, all lined in rows, got people to thinking about older television shows.
These talking heads were akin to “The Brady Bunch” opening, some comedians opined. Others were reminded of “Hollywood Squares,” a long-running, daytime game show in which such celebrities as Charley Weaver and George Gobel mixed their answers with a variety of wisecracks from a nine-cube, tic-tac-toe-like studio set.
Zoom actually has been around awhile, though not as long as those older TV shows, having made its debut in 2011. Many people just didn’t know about it much until this year, because they mostly had met physically, rather than virtually, in actual conference rooms before the pandemic arrived.
Zoom’s popularity has surged during the pandemic’s stay-at-home, working-remotely times, though, thanks to what’s viewed as an easy-to-use interface. Designed mostly for corporate use, there now is a free basic version for individuals, as well as updates to address some privacy and security concerns raised this past spring.
The free version lets up to 100 users to meet, but there is a 40-minute limit on meetings that involve more than two people, which some users find restricting. Nonetheless, Zoom reported quarterly earnings this past spring of $328 million, more than doubling the $122 million it made the previous spring.
Zoom is not the only videoconferencing app by any means. There are alternatives that, like it, have been around awhile but now are gaining in popularity because of the pandemic. Yet other alternatives have popped up this year as videoconferencing has become more of a norm for millions of Americans working remotely from home.
If you’re scoping out some Zoom alternatives for your marketing team, here are six that seem to stand out as among the top applications, though there are many others in the videoconferencing landscape.
Skype (Meet Now)
Skype has been with us as a voice app since 2003, but it now sports a “Meet Now” feature that allows videoconferencing. As many as 50 people can meet with no time limits on those sessions.
Skype (Meet Now) also includes a separate page that lets users create a free video meeting without having to sign up for the service; however, if you register for a free account, you can get more features.
Seems all of the experts interviewed on news shows use this videoconferencing app; you often see the brand’s name prominently displayed in the upper-right corner of the screen as they speak. Acquired by Cisco in 2007, Webex is chiefly known as a business application with a start-up cost of $13.50 monthly, but it now offers a “freemium” version as well.
In response to the pandemic, it also has boosted features of the free version to allow the hosting of 50 to 100 people, with a 50-minute time limit.
Formerly known as Hangouts Meet, this app was once available only to educators and those subscribing to G Suite, Google’s paid service. But now, in these pandemic times, Google has made the app available to all users of its free Gmail service. Just look for “Meet” on the left once you sign into the Gmail app.
Google accounts are required for both hosts and participants using Google Meet.
One of the original entrants into video conferencing services, GoToMeeting is a paid app packed with such features as allowing multiple meeting facilitators. The entry-level plan allows for 150 participants. The enterprise plan, meanwhile, is particularly pandemic-friendly for bigger companies — it can include up to 3,000 people.
Pricing starts at $12 per month.
Facebook Messenger Rooms
This is a newer app that seemingly is Facebook’s answer to Zoom’s popularity.
Or, as the editors at Tom’s Guides recently noted, in a wryly sort of way: “Facebook is never one to cede digital territory, so it’s beefing up its video chat options with Messenger Rooms.”
The newer meetings feature within Messenger allows Facebook members to create chatrooms for up to 50 people — for an unlimited amount of time, compared to Zoom’s 40-minute limit.
Also arising as a result of Zoom’s popularity has been Microsoft Teams, which allows paid users — via Microsoft’s two different Office 365 plans — to host videoconferencing calls for up to 300 people.
There also is a free version with fewer features. But, you can take note of this bonus: Microsoft currently is offering free six-month trials of its paid Office 365 plans, also in response to the pandemic.
Maybe we’ll hear some cheers from the casts of “The Brady Bunch” and “Hollywood Squares” for that.