The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many parts of the world do things. Perhaps the most profound shift has been due to the recommendations of governments for their citizens to stay in their homes whenever possible, and to reduce physical interactions in order to slow the spread of the virus.
For many Baha’is across the world, this has meant changing many activities such as holy day celebrations, Nineteen Day Feasts, children’s classes, study circles, devotional gatherings and Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Programs from in-person meetings to virtual meetings. Fortunately, there are a number of readily available applications that can be used to keep communities, neighborhoods, families and friends connected through live video calls. In this Baha’i Blog post, I will briefly review seven such applications that you might find helpful:
Facebook, with its 2.3 billion users around the world, has become almost synonymous with the internet. It launched its Messenger application in 2011, and added video calling in 2015. Messenger allows up to 50 people to stream video and audio in a group chat. The first 6 individuals in the chat will be able to watch streaming video of each other in grid-like view, but after six people only the dominant speaker’s video will be displayed. Facebook Messenger is free to use for anyone with a free Facebook account.
You can find out more about using video chat on Facebook Messenger here.
WhatsApp, a Facebook subsidiary, released video chat capabilities in 2018. It allows up to 4 individuals to have a group video chat. Text, voice and video on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted so they can’t be intercepted by outside hackers.
For more information about using Whatsapp to video chat, please click here.
You can find out more about using the video chat feature on Instagram here.
Google offers a variety of options for its Hangouts Meet video chat application. Up to 10 participants can video chat for free. For those in need of a video chat capable of supporting more connections, Google offers G Suite, a subscription service that enhances the capabilities of Hangouts Meet and a number of other Google applications. G Suite is available at three price points, Basic ($6 USD a month), Business ($12 USD a month), and Enterprise (#25 USD a month) which allow for 100, 150, and 250 participants per video call, respectively.
You can find out more about Google Hangouts Meet here.
Click here for more information about G Suite.
Snapchat is an app very popular amongst the young, hip generation (a generation I definitely belong to. Definitely.). Snapchat became popular for its vanishing video messages, filters and lenses that allow for amusing augmented reality experiences. In 2018 they added a free group video feature to their app that allows up to 16 people to join a video chat or up to 32 people to join a voice chat.
Click here for more information about Snapchat.
Skype is a free app that allows group video calling for up to 50 participants on mobile devices, tablets or computers. It allows for group screen sharing so that PowerPoint slides or videos can be displayed to the entire group. Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype for Business) is also available to schools or businesses. There is a free version available which supports up to 300 people, but more robust versions require subscriptions to Office 365 for a monthly fee. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft recently announced that the free version of Teams will be available to the general public for personal use as well.
You can find out more information about using Skype here.
Zoom is video meeting application popular with many schools and businesses. It offers both a free service and three levels of paid subscription service. The free service allows anyone to host a meeting for up to 100 participants, however, the meeting is limited to 40 minutes. If you need longer meeting times the Pro subscription allows for 24-hour long meetings and costs $15 USD a month per host. There have been recent reports of Zoom meetings being interrupted by non-invited visitors so if you do decide to use Zoom, I would recommend protecting the privacy of your meeting with a password.
Click here to find out more information about using Zoom.
Though we all miss the familiarity and comfort of in-person community gatherings, meetings and activities, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t need to bring our activities to a halt. Video conferencing apps can bring us together even when we are apart.
We hope you’ve found this list useful, and please let us know in the comments below how you have been using video conferencing apps to continue or enhance your activities, and if there are any you recommend!