Open source Zoom match: Jitsi, simplicity, vs Nextcloud Talk, efficiency

Alternatives to Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet, the two videoconferencing solutions can be installed on site, contributing to data confidentiality. Update on their respective advantages.

With the spread of teleworking, video has become essential in most organizations. This mode of remote collaboration is cited by 51% of professionals in the latest barometer from the Lecko firm, while the practice was almost non-existent during the 2020 edition. Taking advantage of this call for air, the generic solutions on the market – the Zoom , Microsoft Teams and other Google Meet – have seen their user numbers grow exponentially in recent months. This success also highlighted security flaws in certain tools and sometimes very permissive privacy policies in terms of the collection of personal data, as revealed by the American NGO Consumer Reports. An exposure to risks which leads Dinum (Interministerial digital directorate) to advise civil servants to use open source solutions. In this area, we note in particular the very popular Jitsi Meet or Nextcloud Talk. At their side are also BigBlueButton or the French Tixeo.

Jitsi Nextcloud Talk
AdvantagesEase of use. Gateway to integrate Slack. Recording of sessions. Community dynamism.Integration into the Nextcloud collaborative suite (file sharing, calendar). Audio and video calls, with end-to-end encrypted communication. European publisher.
DisadvantagesAmerican publisher and solution in SaaS mode hosted on an American cloud.Limitation of the number of participants in peer-to-peer mode. Less intuitive interface than Jitsi Meet.
LicenceApache 2.0AGPL
Support, paid offers8×8 Meet Pro: $ 0.99 per user per month. Hosted versions offered by Arawa, Ikoula or Jamespot.Nextcloud Talk Enterprise: 65 euros per user per year. HPB server from 4,000 euros per year. Hosted versions offered by OVHCloud or Ionos.
ReferencesGreenpeace, Comcast, Weschool, Symphony …Ministry of the Interior, German Federal Government, Harvard Medical School,
Jitsi Meet vs Nextcloud Talk comparison

“When choosing a videoconferencing tool, questions arise between a proprietary solution or an open source application on the one hand, and SaaS mode or on-site hosting on the other,” says Nicolas Vérité, consultant for open source collaboration solutions at Arawa. “True sovereignty assumes both the use of open source and self-hosting. Otherwise, the SaaS mode must offer hosting of the solution in France, or at least within the European Union for be in compliance with the GDPR. ” Open source videoconferencing tools are aimed primarily at the public service (ministries, administrations, communities, universities, schools), regulated professions (lawyers, notaries, etc.) and more generally companies operating in sensitive areas which must guarantee business secrecy. In this niche, Jitsi and Nextcloud Talk stand out.

Jitsi Meet: up to 50 participants
Jitsi Meet owes its current popularity to its ease of use. From its home page, one click allows you to start a conference, without creating an account. Once the web interface is launched, all you have to do is copy and paste the generated link or share the invitation by email to bring together other participants. It is also possible to join the conference via a telephone bridge. Jitsi Meet is accessible from any web browser or mobile device (via iOS and Android applications). A gateway allows the tool to be integrated into Slack collaborative messaging.

No theoretical limit in number of participants, obviously depending on server resources and allocated bandwidth. “A conference can bring together up to 50 people with all cameras on,” says Nicolas Vérité. “After the interface may seem confusing.” Chat module, screen sharing, session recording, Jitsi Meet offers all the expected features with even a beta option allowing the participant to blur his background.

In terms of security, the tool offers a waiting room mode (to validate people entering a conference), the addition of a password and end-to-end data encryption. “With Jitsi Meet, all participants are on an equal footing”, continues Nicolas Vérité. “The administrator role exists, but it’s a bit hidden. It allows you to adjust the quality of the video or mute all microphones when a meeting gets carried away.”

Alongside this open source solution, 8×8, the Californian publisher behind the project, offers a cloud version. It offers a free edition, and a paid offer with advanced functions such as calendar synchronization or the transcription of recorded meetings. This SaaS range is hosted in the United States, on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

Sovereignty therefore involves hosting the open source solution on a separate server (Nginx or Apache). This tutorial explains the procedure. Another possibility is to use a service provider who will take care of its administration and maintenance, or to use a European public cloud. The French publisher Jamespot markets a hosted version of Jitsi Meet on the 3DS Outscale cloud. Likewise, Ikoula offers to host it on its public cloud.

For the record, Jitsi Meet has French origins since it was developed in 2003 by Bulgarian Emil Ivov while he was studying at Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg. The project will take different names (jsPhone, SIP Communicator) before being taken over by Atlassian then by 8×8, a unified communications specialist.

However, Emil Ivov still works at 8×8 and continues to develop the application. Jitsi Meet remains an open source project under the Apache 2.0 license. “The community is solid,” notes Nicolas Vérité. “8×8 is not interventionist and leaves a lot of freedom to open source developers, content to repackage the tool and distribute it.” The solution appeals to geeks. Fosdem, the European conference of open source developers, bringing together thousands of participants, was held this year online via Jitsi Meet. Jitsi was also dubbed by state services. It is referenced by the interministerial base of Free Software (SILL).

Nextcloud comparable to Microsoft Teams
Launched in 2018, Nextcloud Talk is NextCloud Hub’s latest app. An open source collaborative suite that includes, among other things, messaging, calendar, discussion thread and online file storage. While the video conferencing tool can be used on its own, NextCloud Hub’s online desktop is a powerful collaborative environment that can be compared to Microsoft Teams.

“Integrating Talk into the Nextcloud ecosystem promotes collaboration,” says Nicolas Vérité. “Colleagues can co-edit a document in real time and activate a Talk room alongside them to exchange views and make their comments. Video conferencing is natively integrated into the interface without having to open another window with a third-party tool.”

Talk, which is already in version 10, integrates chat, screen and file sharing, and manages peer-to-peer (P2P) audio and video conferences. This P2P mode guarantees end-to-end encryption but limits the number of participants to around five.

Talk is available on iOS and Android mobiles through dedicated applications. A bridge, called Nextcloud Briding, connects Talk rooms to third-party services such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Matrix or Mattermost. The Nextcloud Talk Enterprise paid plan offers, in addition to the support of the German publisher, a SIP bridge and the possibility of holding webinars and public web meetings. The invitation of a member outside the organization is done by sending a link.

“As for Jitsi Meet, the videoconference mode is very simple with the display of videos of participants in a ribbon alongside the large-format video of the person speaking”, describes Nicolas Vérité. “Unlike Jitsi Meet, Nextcloud Talk maximizes floor space with stretched webcams. Like it or not, it’s a matter of taste.”

To exceed the limit on the number of participants, Nextcloud offers hosting on a dedicated HPB (high performance back-end) server designed with its partner, also German, the company Struktur AG. Cloud providers like OVHCloud or Ionos also offer Nextcloud virtualized servers. The publisher can boast of having seduced the Ministry of the Interior among its references.