The Best Free Video Chat Apps For Hosting A Virtual Holiday Party

With more and more regions entering lockdown or more restrictive phases of the provincial pandemic response; it is looking less and less like gatherings of any kind are a good idea.

With that in mind, it might be beneficial to have plans in place for holding an online, socially distanced, social gathering. So to assist with that here is a look at several video chat apps that are or have making changes in order to help families out over the holidays.

There are a plethora of chat apps available, but for the purposes of brevity this article focuses on some of the more main stream video chat apps only, leaving out the less known and tested, as well as the audio only chat apps.

Beginning with Zoom, which came into prominence during the pandemic and after a very rocky start of security issues, did eventually become the most common app for companies and organizations to use. However, it is not without its restrictions. Free Zoom meetings are normally restricted to just 40 minutes, but for the Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S. they have made it so that calls can last as long as you want from 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday, November 26th, through 6 a.m. ET Friday, November 27th. So if you are hosting your celebration Tonight, it would work rather well. If not, then you may want to consider some other options.

Back in September, Google extended call lengths to a full 24 hours for free Meet users. You can enjoy a ton of talking time until March 31, 2021. More than long enough to enjoy a visit with friends or family.

Most recently, Microsoft Teams rolled out changes so its free users can hold 24-hour-long meetings with up to 300 participants. This makes it a very appealing option, as with Teams only the host is required to have an account, everyone else can join via a link.

Here’s a list of well known options and their pro’s and con’s:

  • Microsoft Teams: 24 hour-long calls for free with up to 300 participants. Only the host needs a Teams account; guests can open a meeting link from any device without installing the Teams app or needing a Microsoft account to join.
  • Zoom: Usually 40 minutes per free meeting, but unlimited on November 26. Standard size is 100 participants, options exist for more. Meetings can be joined from the web without the app or a Zoom account.
  • Google Meet: 24-hour meeting length (until March 31, 2021, then drops to 60 minutes). Free calls support 100 participants, but require a Google account to host or join.
  • Facebook Messenger: Unlimited call length with up to 50 users, but requires the Messenger app or desktop client and a Messenger/Facebook account to host or join.
  • Facetime: Unlimited call length with up to 32 participants, but the required app is only available on iOS, Mac, or iPad devices.
  • WhatsApp: Unlimited call time for a group of up to 8 users, but requires the WhatsApp app to host or join.
  • Houseparty: Unlimited video chat time for up to 8 people. Requires the Houseparty app, popular with game playing teens.

What ever choice you and your family make, be sure it is one that everyone is comfortable with using and be aware of limits on number of participants, as well as call length, so as to not leave anyone out of the celebration.


Posted in All Stories, COVID-19, Main Page, Richard Huskisson Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

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