A quick look on Jitsi, the self hosted Zoom alternative that doesn’t sell your data.

Zoom has turned into the de facto default conferencing solution for the lockdown, and as we all know this hasn’t worked out brilliantly for Zoom so far.  (Side note on the larger scale of things, another opportunity Google has missed to get some conferencing/video chatting market share.)

Bruce Schneier has possibly the best brief overview of the situation, but his summary is what I’d like to highlight for the purpose of this post:

In the meantime, you should either lock Zoom down as best you can, or — better yet — abandon the platform altogether.

His next suggestion is to look at Jitsi, and ethical/open source/privacy minded/call it what you will alternative; so I did.After a really simple install on a VPS, we did a little test (2 web and 1 mobile participants), and I ran a top, an iftop, a nethogs, and an nload in a terminal each (so I/you can choose my favorite graph).

What I can see:

  1. With 2 devices the connection is clearly peer-to-peer. No load on the server.
  2. With 3 devices, network traffic suddenly goes up to 8-11 Mbps, because of the video routing/bridging; I’ll have to see how this increases with some more devices. If linear (and why wouldn’t it be), I can foresee the performance degradation above ~8 participants on a 100Mbps link that people mention in the Schneier post’s comments. I want to reach this limit, then change my uplink to 1Gbps and see what happens.
  3. Screen sharing from one of the devices, even if 1080p, significantly drops the network load; a screen is better compressable than video, and with screensharing the big picture is the shared screen, so video feeds can go on low bandwidth mode.
  4. Also very clearly bandwidth becomes an issue faster than CPU.
  5. To contradict one of the comments under Schneier’s post, my Debian installed version of Jitsi does not contain any trackers.

So there. I really need to see this with more people to make a good judgement call. Luckily I don’t have to use Zoom but I know many do. For small meetings Jitsi can be an alternative. For larger meetings I still have to see.

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