The pandemic has catapulted many into communicating online instead of in-person. But, for many the bewildering range of choices, and negative news stories mean that they are hesitant to try a new platform for  online communication. So  I have decided to compare some of the following platforms so you can see which would best fit your needs:

Video Calling for one-to-one, or one-to many 

For one-to-one chatting there are a few options you can try. Some platforms are free, some have a payment plan. Most products require you to create an initial account. some are free for the basic package, and some are free but have limitations. Here are a few you could try. Some you might know, and some might be new to you.

Facetime is available for Apple devices such as IPhone, IPad, iPod. you can only chat to people who have an Apple device. It is free to make calls to  other users. You can make group calls to up to 32 other people who also have Apple devices.

Facebook Messenger is owned by Facebook and allows you to text chat share emojis, and have audio and video calls.  you can install it on all devices, your iPhone, Android, PC and Apple Mac. Call one to one, or in a group.  You do need to have a login to Facebook Messenger to participate in the call.

Google Duo is a video calling app that works on iPhones, Android, tablets, computers and smart displays. you can make one-to-one calls, or create a group of up to 32 participants – perfect for classes.  You do need to provide your Google login details – but if you download it from the play store, or the apple store, it will remember your login details for your device.

Microsoft Teams is a product that allows collaboration, chatting by text and video calling. you can share your screen so that other people in the conference can see your documents, web pages or videos. You can chat to individuals, groups or full teams for free. You can add people to the team and invite guests. It also has lots of other features for sharing information as a group. If you run classes with the same group every week, you can use Teams to invite the group.

Microsoft Teams

If you want extra features, then Microsoft 365 business basic costs £3.80 per month. For this cost you also get access to web versions of Office apps: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote (plus Access and Publisher for PC only). The only downside to Microsoft Teams is that you need to sign in to access Microsoft Teams and your guests might not be too keen on signing up with a username and password.

Skype has been around for a long time and before the rise of the other platforms, was the main product that people used for one-to-one meetings.  It can be used on a browser, Windows app, or on a mobile device. To create a call you do need to login to Skype to invite other people who also have a Skype address. You can add additional people to the call by using the invite button. You can also create a link which can be used by groups. If you have three people on the call, you can use the Skype link to have recurring meetings. You can also manage the list of people on each call. You can also use the web-based ‘Meet now’ to create a unique link that looks like this: http://join.skype.com/eEcNzU3QWiqh  You can send it to your friends and they can join in. The person who generates the link must have a Skype account to host the call.

WhatsApp is a popular messaging application for your phone, tablet and desktop which is owned by Facebook. It uses your phone number to log you into the app. You can start a video call from the app on your phone or tablet.  You can make video calls from your iPhone and Android mobile devices only, It is not possible to make a video call from PC or Mac. You can host video calls for more than one person by adding them to the call.

Whereby

Whereby does not have an app, and once you have created an account, you get the same meeting link each time you make a call. To use the free version, you can speak to up to 4 meeting participants, share your screen and lock rooms so only the people you want in the meeting can join. It is simple to use – and very like Zoom. If you need more participants, try the Professional version for up to 12 meeting participants for $9.99 per month, or the Business version for up to 50 participants for $59.99 per month.

Zoom

Zoom  is a simple way for users who are unfamiliar with technology to get started. Users receive a link to click and can enter the session. The password to enter the conference is embedded in the link and all security settings are encrypted. You might be held in a waiting room before the organiser admits you to the video call. This can be controlled by the organiser. you can share your screen to show people images, videos, documents and web pages. Teaching one to one classes online, or running fitness sessions, or speaking to a friend can be done in the free version of Zoom.

If you want to If you want to chat with more than one friend, organise a quiz with multiple participants, run cooking demonstrations, or set up a multi-party committee meeting you can add others to the call in Zoom. Although calls with more than 2 connections are limited to 40 minutes in the free plan you can have a longer call with a paid for plan. These plans are: Pro which costs £12 per month or £119.90 if you pay annually). You can organise unlimited meetings wit up to 100 participants. If you want to go further and have the ability to split your conference up into smaller Zoom Rooms then this will cost £399 per year.

The Zoom webinars feature is a paid-for  is an add-on to the zoom  Pro pricing. You can get people to register for your webinars and let attendees interact from their desktops, tablets or mobile devices. It will work on iPhone, Android, Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

Live Streaming video

If you want to host (or watch) an event you can use a few platforms. You might want to host a regular class, or have a Q&A session with your friends, colleagues or followers.  Most people are aware of  Facebook Live. Once you have recorded your session, you can edit it to your Facebook page, or profile so that people who could not make the live session can still see your posts.

You can also live stream on YouTube. you do need to have a YouTube channel with 1000 subscribers to the channel and have the correct equipment for live streaming. Once the live streaming has ended the video will be posted to your YouTube channel

Periscope is a way to quickly broadcast video from your mobile and share your videos to Twitter. it can be used for breaking news that is published immediately, or you can share your videos to other social networks. You can broadcast privately to specific followers or friends. It is not two-way chatting over video, but your users can interact with you by clicking like on videos.