BBB vs Jitsi

I previously wrote about how I installed the Jitsi video-conferencing system on Debian [1]. We used that for a few unofficial meetings of LUV to test it out. Then we installed Big Blue Button (BBB) [2]. The main benefit of Jitsi over BBB is that it supports live streaming to YouTube. The benefits of BBB are a better text chat system and a “whiteboard” that allows conference participants to draw shared diagrams. So if you have the ability to run both systems then it’s best to use Jitsi when you have so many viewers that a YouTube live stream is needed and to use BBB in all other situations.

One problem is with the ability to run both systems. Jitsi isn’t too hard to install if you are installing it on a VM that is not used for anything else. BBB is a major pain no matter what you do. The latest version of BBB is 2.2 which was released in March 2020 and requires Ubuntu 16.04 (which was released in 2016 and has “standard support” until April next year) and doesn’t support Ubuntu 18.04 (released in 2018 and has “standard support” until 2023). The install script doesn’t check for correct apt repositories and breaks badly with no explanation if you don’t have Ubuntu Multiverse enabled.

I expect that they rushed a release because of the significant increase in demand for video conferencing this year. But that’s no reason for demanding the 2016 version of Ubuntu, why couldn’t they have developed on version 18.04 for the last 2 years? Since that release they have had 6 months in which they could have released a 2.2.1 version supporting Ubuntu 18.04 or even 20.04.

The dependency list for BBB is significant, among other things it uses LibreOffice for the whiteboard. This adds to the pain of installing and maintaining it. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the interactions between all the different components have security issues.


If you want something that’s not really painful to install and run then use Jitsi.

If you need YouTube live streaming use Jitsi.

If you need whiteboards and a good text chat system or if you generally need to run things like a classroom then BBB is a good option. But only if you can manage it, know someone who can manage it for you, or are happy to pay for a managed service provider to do it for you.

3 comments to BBB vs Jitsi

  • Rickyx

    Thank you for the review.

    I have to say that, starting a virtual machine with Ubuntu 16.04 and all the spec requested, using the provided script ( and the documentation ( I was able to start a working instance in ~30 minutes, which I have pleasantly used throughout the lockdown.

    I admit that I have not tried to update Ubuntu.

  • linkspace

    Whoever wrote this article seems to not really know what they are talking about:
    – The current stable release version of BBB is 2.2.30.
    – The Ubuntu 16.04 dependency – well, honestly this doesn’t matter for real world production. Set up a new dedicated server with Ubuntu 16.04.6-hwe, run the bbb-install script or use ansible and it works. The past 6 months fixing bugs and simplifying usage for millions of new users was more important than continuing work on the 2.3.x-alpha branch which already supports ubuntu 18.04. Ubuntu 20.04 is not yet supported by Kurento, the video server component.
    – LibreOffice is not the whiteboard, but instead it is only used to convert uploaded documents to jpg files so they can be used (for example as whiteboard background).
    – there also exists LXC/dockerized version of bbb, but only very few people use it because it makes customization a pita.

    If you don’t really know the software (jitsi or bbb), then you should not host it, because you’ll probably not be able to properly maintain it or keep it compliant to various data protection laws.

  • I think that using a version of Linux that has it’s “standard” support expiring in less than a year does matter for real world production.

    The way one learns about software is by using it. Recommending that people not run software unless they are experienced in it is another way of saying that no new people should use it.