Here’s a free, open source programme for online chat / video chat. The corporate equivalent is Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft.
This is how it works
You don’t have to download anything. This is the address – https://meet.jit.si – everything happens on the site.
Just add a code word or phrase at the end – anything you like.
So, for example, you could choose https://meet.jit.si/cheese-sandwich. The bit you add to the end (in this case, cheese-sandwich) is in effect a password. You can then tell anyone you want to chat with what the ‘password’ is, or just send them a link, and tell them what time to meet up.
Anyone who clicks on that link (or types in the address), at the right time, can join the conversation.
When you click on the link, first you’ll probably be asked for permission to use your microphone and camera. Click yes (share selected device).
Anything else, just ignore it, and after a few seconds, you’ll see yourself on the screen (if you have a camera).
There’s a little toolbar at the top of the screen – it might be a good idea to stop the camera, as it sometimes takes up too much bandwidth.
And that should be it!
I’ve tried it a couple of times. I chatted (with video) with someone in the States and it was crystal clear (and when I tried it with someone in Shropshire, we had to turn the video off to chat).
What’s wrong with Skype?
Corporations like Microsoft and Google are trying to normalise the invasion of internet privacy and the harvesting of our data for marketing purposes.
Apparently, people who use Microsoft products can have information such as calendar events, emails, browsing history, contacts etc. swiped so that Microsoft can ‘serve’ you by delivering targeted corporate advertising.
Microsoft pleads that getting access to your data means that not only can they ‘serve’ you in this way, but advertising revenue means that they can provide services for free. But open source services are already free, without contributing to Microsoft’s advertising revenue or pestering anyone with corporate ads.
Worse – according to Wikipedia, Austrian Interior Ministry officials admitted that they could listen in on Skype conversations – which almost definitely means that any country can. Plus Skype handed over data of a pro-Wikileaks activist to a private security company without a court order; and global surveillance disclosures show that the FBI and NSA are able to eavesdrop on Skype conversations.
But we don’t have to put up with it now that there is a huge range of free and open source programmes around that don’t do those things.
So dump Skype, and use the very, very easy Jitsi site instead.