Agaric Web Development Technology Cooperative has been using BigBlueButton video chat to host several organizations for a while with excellent results.

The BigBlueButton video conferencing software is a feature-rich Free/Libre Software designed with the specific focus of online learning. It is built specifically for education, but works exceptionally well for other purposes like a classroom or a presentation. BigBlueButton basic features work well for a variety of collaborative uses:

  • Streaming movies from multiple servers like Youtube, Vimeo, DailyMotion and more.
  • Breakout rooms
  • Presentation sharing
  • Screen sharing
  • Private messaging
  • Multi-user Whiteboard
  • Multiple Language choices
  • Recording
  • Polling
  • Shared Live Notes
  • Public
  • More details below >>>

Features that BigBlueButton has and as of today (5/9/2021), Zoom does not have…

BBB is similar to Zoom, and it is encrypted. There are many better features provided in BBB, and it protects our privacy. A few examples of things BBB has over Zoom — like Shared Live Notes …

  1. Integrated Whiteboard allows multiple people drawing and writing
  2. Shared Live Notes/Etherpad  for interactive editing
  3. Public Chat messages posted before you entered are available upon entry, unless an admin has cleared the pad
  4. Shared Live Notes/Etherpad and Public Chat messages will persist if you reload the browser
  5. Shared Live Notes/Etherpad  and Public Chat messages will persist if you choose “logout” and the room will be cleared if you “End meeting”
  6. BBB allows multiple rooms open in multiple tabs
  7. Breakout Rooms are easier to manage and assign rooms by dragging names
  8. Multiple options for Status: ‘Away’, ‘Hand Raised’, ‘Confused’, ‘Happy’, .etc
  9. Easily share the Presenter and Moderator roles with multiple people, to share Moderator and Presenter roles
  10. Nothing to download or install, works on your phone or in a browser – no APP
  11. Allows you to preview your webcam before going live (fix your hair etc.)
  12. Settings for notifications when someone enters the room
  13. Change the overall font size and choose the language for the interface
  14. Easily scroll back through messages in Public Chat tab
  15. Text chat, Shared Notes, Whiteboard available all in one window
  16. Integrated Live Polls with Interactive Polling options for voting
  17. Download Shared Notes and the Public Chat or export the HTML
  18. Bandwidth optimization settings to turn off all cameras
  19. Move the webcam images to the sides or bottom of the presentation area
  20. Pan and zoom into documents while using the highlighter to focus or draw on your presentation or image
  21. File Sharing and Desktop sharing options
  22. FREEDOM – BigBlueButton is Free and Open Source software

Even more new features have been added to BBB in v2.3 check them out on the BBB Test Server.

Why not just use Zoom, or Skype or any popular proprietary chat?

Since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, most of our social interactions have transitioned onto the Internet. Many people have chosen Skype or Zoom as their video conferencing platform of choice. Skype hackers were able to spoof messages on the system after using lists of stolen usernames and passwords to gain access to accounts. This is just one incident in a pretty long list of breaches. Note that a Corporation may have verbiage in their privacy policy that allows them to keep it a secret when their/your data is stolen or hacked. Since Black Lives Matter protests have erupted around the globe following the murder of George Floyd, the visibility of police brutality has increased. In addition, the usage of racist surveillance technologies is on the rise. In a public statement, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan shared that “Zoom will work together with the FBI and local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.” Our question would be: Who determines the meaning of ‘bad purpose’?

By blocking activists accounts, Yuan is suggesting that activists are criminals and might be using Zoom for a bad purpose. Might that bad purpose be to disrupt the status quo? To upend patriarchy? To demand rights for the oppressed in a society that provides them no mechanism to be heard or affect change?

There was a small outcry, but it died down swiftly and people happily continue to pay money to Zoom. We now have an alternative solution with BigBlueButton and no longer need to be held hostage…

Zoom is a proprietary Software, a black box, that the public is not allowed to peer inside of. We do not know what information it is saving about our usage of the software. A Zoom user installs the software on their computer and they do not know entirely what it does: what it collects from your computer, what it shares, with whom it shares, and what they do with that information. What we do know for sure is that Zoom has access to your camera and microphone and is prepared to give as much to the police and the FBI as they can without being noticed.

Our intention is to render invasive insecure surveillance technologies extinct by providing an alternative service that entirely respects your privacy.

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