Google Meet, the company's premium video conferencing service, is going free for all users in order to better compete with Zoom and give people yet another means of staying in touch during the coronavirus pandemic.
Google Meet has previously been the domain of corporate video calls for organizations that make heavy use of Google’s G Suite; for consumer-level calls, Google has Hangouts. But now the search giant is switching gears and opening Meet up.
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“Today, we’re making Google Meet, our premium video conferencing product, free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks,” Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager for G Suite said. “Starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to our business and education users, such as simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to your preference, including an expanded tiled view.”
People interested in Meet will have to wait until Google notifies them that the service is ready for them to use. Soltero said the gradual rollout is in order to keep Meet users safe and secure, and ensure they get a reliable experience from the service.
While the likes of Zoom and Houseparty (opens in new tab) have become popular tools for groups of people to keep in contact while under coronavirus lockdown or practicing social distancing, Google Meet is a viable Zoom alternative.
In fact, Google has been expanding the service’s features (opens in new tab), taking inspiration from some of the capabilities Zoom has and integrating them into its user interface. For example, Meet now has a Zoom-like layout, but also has an ace up its sleeve in the form of Gmail integration, which can help make setting up video calls a lot easier.
Meet also has some other neat features, such as the ability to live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a user’s domain. That's handy if you’re a budding stay-at-home rockstar or wannabe comedian.
There is one small caveat in that those using the free Meet service will have to make do with meetings being limited to up to 60 minutes in length. But Google isn’t going to enforce that limit until after September 30.
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