Jitsi Meet vs. Whereby: What’s The Better Choice?

Video Conferencing solutions are what is talked about on the web a lot these days. Remote workers need a reliable solution for online meetings. Most of the hype was all about Zoom, but two strong alternatives are Jitsi Meet and Whereby.

So you heard about them, but what are the strengths and weaknesses of each solution? This post compares the two video conferencing solutions in-depth.

Table of Contents

Overview
What’s the story about Whereby?
What’s the story of Jitsi?
Security & Privacy
How secure is Jitsi?
Whereby Security
Is Jitsi more secure than Whereby?
Feature Comparison
Features that both tools lack (compare to Zoom)
Is the quality of the calls different?
How are mobiles supported?
How many people can join a call?
How about integrations?
How does the pricing differ?
Conclusion
Related Content

Overview

While Whereby and Jitsi Meet look and work very similarly, they are fundamentally different.

Jitsi is “a set of open source-projects”, and Jitsi Meet is one of those projects (the best-known today).

Jitsi Meet is free to use. You can use Jitsi Meet for free at meet.jit.si. If you want, you can also download the server software and install it on your own cloud server. That would allow you to have your own branded video conferencing solution on your domain (like meet.freshvanroot.com).

All you need to start a meeting on Jitsi: A unique name for it (otherwise you will join the meeting of someone else)

Whereby is a product from a Norwegian software as a service company called Video Communication Service AS. You can also use the service for free (for meetings with up to 4 people). The paid plans start at $ 9.99 / month.

Both tools have gained traction as security and privacy focused alternatives to Zoom recently.

“More secure, more flexible, and completely free video conferencing.”

Main headline on Jitsi Meet Homepage

Jitsi doesn’t advertise fancy video-conferencing features. Instead, it focuses on bringing across the message as being a security-focused service.

“Freedom to work from anywhere.”

Main headline on Whereby Homepage

Whereby focuses on supporting the remote work-case in their main message. The company itself is remote with its team spreading across 12 locations, according to their about page.

While Whereby does not focus on security and privacy in their main headline, you will quickly realize that these topics are also top of mind at the company. If you look at their privacy or cookie policy, you will see that the company is very transparent, and provides all the details in a natural language (vs. legal speak).

Screenshot at April 14th 2020 - 8.25.37 pm.png
The default view of a meeting in Whereby

What’s the story about Whereby?

The roots of Whereby go back to 2013. Back then, the service was called appear.in and developed as an intern project at Norwegian telecom company Telenor. It was spun out of Telenor in 2017, and the new parent company is called Videonor. In August 2019, appear.in was rebranded to Whereby. You can read the details on their about page.

What’s the story of Jitsi?

The roots of Jitsi go back to 2003. It started as a student project at the University at Strasbourg. The project has evolved over the years, it supports all platforms, and consists of a list of projects, with Jitsi Meet being the most prominent one.

The company driving the Jitsi open source project was at one point owned by Atlassian (Jira, Trello). In 2018 Jitsi was bought by a company called 8×8, which is today the main sponsor of the open-source project (See Wikipedia acquisitions section)

The company funding the Jitsi project also built a commercial online video solution called 8×8.vc that you can use for free. That is one main differentiator to Whereby. People can download the Jitsi project and customize it to their needs.

Security & Privacy

How secure is Jitsi?

Meeting rooms are created when calls start and destroyed after that. According to Jitsi’s detailed page on security, there is no way for an outsider to listen in on calls, nor does anyone store any information on the contents discussed or participants. To participate in a Jitsi meeting, you need a browser, nothing else.

On the matter of encryption, Jitsi writes:

Jitsi meetings can operate in 2 ways: peer-to-peer (P2P) or via the Jitsi Videobridge (JVB). This is transparent to the user. P2P mode is only used for 1-to-1 meetings. In this case, audio and video are encrypted using DTLS-SRTP all the way from the sender to the receiver, even if they traverse network components like TURN servers.

In the case of multiparty meetings, all audio and video traffic is still encrypted on the network (again, using DTLS-SRTP). Packets are decrypted while traversing Jitsi Videobridge; however, they are never stored in any persistent storage and only live in memory while being routed to other participants in the meeting.

via Security Page on jitsi.org

According to this interview, Snowden uses Jitsi (I tend to think he knows how to check if a software is secure).

You can download the Jitsi server software and install it on your own infrastructure. Compared to Whereby or any hosted video conferencing solution, this means you are responsible for securing the server and infrastructure.

Whereby Security.

We take data privacy and security very seriously at Whereby, and we’ve taken measures to ensure your data is stored in a secure way. Additionally, we are GDPR compliant and have systems in place so you can see how your data is used, delete your profile with all data or export any data Whereby is storing about you.

via Whereby website – page on data security

Whereby provides features to keep meetings private (lock a room), and all communication between participants is secured.

Whereby’s “Locked room” feature – avoid getting “bombed”

Whereby is saying that they do not store any audio or video recordings on their server. The recording add-on they provide allows only to save recordings locally. The main difference to Jitsi Meet is that the source code isn’t open-source, and you simply have to trust Whereby.

Whereby has much fewer third party cookies, it has a clear delete policy (probably because it is GDPR-compliant), all content is encrypted and data is stored in the EU. Ingrid Ødegaard, however, tells me that they use Amazon Web Services in Ireland as a cloud provider.

via dataethics.eu

Is Jitsi more secure than Whereby?

Jitsi is an open-source software project, but that does not mean that it is automatically more secure compared to other (commercial) options available (Whereby, Zoom, Webex, etc.).

But it does mean that there are several people involved to maintain it, and you can expect that security vulnerabilities will be fixed fast. Open-source software tends to be more secure by design.

Feature Comparison

Both tools are easy to use. You share a meeting link, and people can join without installing software or creating an account, right from their browser. That is a main differentiator to other products.

The core features are, of course, the same: You can share a screen, mute/unmute, turn on/off video, etc., and allow to chat along to the meeting.

For this section, I used meet.jit.si. I did not set up my own Jitsi server.

So, where are the tools different?

Jitsi Meet does not require the host or the attendees to create an account. In Jitsi Meet, you start a meeting by entering a unique room name (if the room name is not unique, you will join the call from someone else). For example, there is no way I can reserve the name freshvanroot as a meeting name for our company.

You can set a password to avoid uninvited guests.

Jitsi Meet does come with a beta version of a blur background feature to hide your messy room. You can also set the video quality for your camera.

In Jitsi Meet, everybody can kick everybody from a meeting.

Anyone can mute or kick me out of my meeting, what’s up with that?

Jitsi models its meetings after in-person gatherings. Take the case of 10 people having a discussion in a room. You wouldn’t expect one person to have exclusive “kick” and “mute” privileges in an in-person meeting and yet, those meetings usually go fine.

via Jitsi security page

Other notable features:

  • Mute everyone with one click
  • Record the meeting (upload to dropbox necessary)
  • A prominent raise hand button
  • Connect your gravatar account, so it shows your profile picture
  • Speaker stats

You can’t brand your online meetings on meet.jit.si with a branded meeting welcome page or a logo. For that, you would have to set up your own Jitsi Meet server.

The settings menu in a Jitsi Meet call on desktop browser
The settings menu in a Jitsi Meet call on desktop browser

Both tools allow you to watch a Youtube video together, lock a room (Whereby) or set a password to enter (Jitsi Meet).

To get started using Whereby you can create an account, but you don’t have to. With a paid account, you can reserve your meeting room ID (like whereby.com/freshvanroot).

But if you want, go to whereby.com/test123 from your browser and start a call, no account needed. You can even do that from your mobile (does not work with all mobile browsers), without the need to install the app (Jitsi does work from your mobile too, but only if you click on “request desktop site” on your mobile browser. That said, it seems Jitsi does not want you to join via mobile browser at this time).

If a room name is taken (like Luca), the owner can lock the room, and you can “knock” to get in.

Screenshot at April 13th 2020 - 10.18.44 pm.png
Screenshot of Whereby “Room is locked” message.

Other notable features by Whereby:

  • Chat emojis available via a prominent button
  • Recordings on pro plans
  • Subdomain on a business plan
  • Custom logo and background for your rooms (business plan)

Not really a feature, but worth noting: Whereby looks very polished, it has a nice design and great user experience. Jitsi Meet looks a bit nerdier. But that makes only a subtle difference, as there are only so many features to discover anyway.

All main functions for managing your online meeting are nicely aligned at the bottom of your Whereby meeting

Features that both tools lack (compared to Zoom)

If you have used Zoom or other tools for video-conferencing, you might miss the following features:

  • Virtual background
  • Remote control a shared screen
  • Whiteboard
  • A polling feature
  • Annotations on a shared screen
  • Collect registrations via web form
  • Host online events for large groups
  • Advanced recording features
  • Connect Paypal for payments
  • Connect Calendly for scheduling
  • Breakout rooms

As you can see from this list, Jitsi Meet and Whereby can’t compete with Zoom from a feature perspective. This is even not a full list of the features Zoom offers that Jitsi and Whereby don’t have, but the most notable ones.

If one of these features is crucial to you, Jitsi Meet and Whereby might not be the right tool for you. Keep in mind that Zoom has 2500 employees, at the time of writing Whereby lists 19 employees on LinkedIn.

Settings for recordings in Zoom

Is the quality of the calls different?

While I did several calls on meet.jit.si, I never faced any problems. That was different when I used the service on self-hosted servers.

Call quality on Jitsi instances can vary much. It depends on how Jitsi is set up. It is installed on corporate cloud infrastructure in datacenters worldwide or on a 5$ a month box at your local ISP. You also need to calculate your bandwidth costs when running our own Jitsi Meet instance. Check this thread.

With Whereby, you trust the company that they do a great job of running the infrastructure. Note: Whereby runs its service on Amazon Web Services. I have been in several online meetings in recent weeks and never ran into any problems (freezing video, bad audio quality, etc.).

Before making a decision about which tool to choose, make a few calls with the people you meet most online in each tool.

Note: One of the reasons Zoom is so successful isn’t virtual backgrounds, remote control, or any of that, in my opinion. It’s because it works really well on different bandwidth settings, and audio and video quality are quite well most of the time.

How are mobiles supported?

Both Jitsi and Whereby have apps for Android and iOS.

You can use Jitsi mobile app to start a meeting using the hosted service (default setting). In the settings menu, you could point the app to your own Jitsi server.

A Jitsi Meet call joined from mobile app
My own Jitsi Meet call, default view in Jitsi Meet app.

Whereby also comes with a mobile app. But the really cool feature is that you can join and start a call from your mobile phone (tested with Chrome on Android) without even installing an app.

Me joining my own Whereby call from my Android phone with Chrome browser
Me joining my own Whereby call from my Android phone with Chrome browser

How many people can join a call?

On Jitsi Meet, according to this thread, no more than 75 people can join a call. If you want to host larger meetings (or conferences in that case), live stream the Jitsi meeting to Youtube.

Jitsi comes with a built-in feature to live-stream your meeting to YouTube

With Whereby’s business plan, up to 50 participants can join a call, and it supports videos for up to 12 participants in such calls.

Up to 50 people can join a meeting in Whereby (Screenshot from Whereby for business website)

That said, both Whereby and Jitsi meet can’t compete with Zoom, which allows up to 100 participants with all plans and up to 500 with a meeting add-on. Plus, Zoom comes with a webinar feature that allows up to 10000 viewers.

How about integrations?

Both Whereby and Jitsi can be connected to your Google or Outlook calendar.

Apart from that, Jitsi also supports Slack.

At the time of writing, Whereby integrates well with

  • YouTube
  • Google Docs
  • Trello

More Slack integrations are announced.

How does the pricing differ?

You can use Jitsi Meet for free at meet.jit.si. (or at any of the public instances listed on GitHub)

The meet.jit.si instance is run by 8×8, the company that is also the main sponsor of the Jitsi open source project. After exiting a meeting on meet.jit.si you see this promotional message:

Screenshot at April 14th 2020 - 10.21.55 am.png

Jitsi Meet is also available as a downloadable server version to set up your own Jitsi Meet instance.

So you do not pay a monthly subscription to use Jitsi Meet. If you run it on your own server, you need to install, maintain, regularly update it. And of course, you need to pay for the virtual server you likely will use to run it and the bandwidth and CPU power you use. That can add up to a lot of costs if you use Jitsi Meet in a large company, see this thread on Hackernews or this discussion on Jiti’s community board about that.

Whereby is free to use with up to 4 users. After that, a pro plan starts at 9,99$ for one user with 3 “meeting rooms” with up to 12 participants.

If you have the know-how or resource to set up Jitsi (and maintain it), Jitsi might be a cheap option compared to a commercial option at first. But, if you are a business with no tech staff or resources at hand, you will probably prefer a service like Whereby, which means no worries about tech stuff, or just use the free meet.jit.si service.

Conclusion

Both Jitsi and Whereby are compelling solutions for online meetings. Jitsi Meet and Whereby are not making money by selling user data. To start meetings, they ask you for zero personal information.

Most people who get a meeting link to either platform won’t be able to tell the difference while using it. The fact that one solution is open source, and the other isn’t does not change anything for the user.

Jitsi is built with security being a top priority, but Whereby is nonetheless interesting in that regard by being very transparent about what kind of data is collected and where it gets stored.

Jitsi Meet and Whereby are perfect tools for online meetings for small and medium-sized groups. You won’t find advanced features you may know from Zoom, but I expect both tools to get new features in the coming months, because of the current momentum in the market.

You can easily try out both solutions: If you worry about security a lot, and discuss confidential stuff, trust the service Edward Snowden relies on, which is Jitsi Meet.

If you have to quickly get on a call (from desktop or mobile) with less nerdy users, try Whereby.

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