Google isn’t pulling any punches in its fight to overtake Zoom, which established itself as the go-to videoconferencing platform amid the coronavirus pandemic, having grown from 10 to 200 million daily users in a matter of months.
On Wednesday, the company announced that Google Meet, its premium videoconferencing software, is going free for everyone.
Meet is one of several videochat apps Google offers: The company’s Duo and Hangouts are free, but come with a fair number of limitations – for example, Hangouts only supports up to 25 participants, while Duo only supports up to 12 participants. Google also recently added several new features to Meet, including a Zoom-like grid view with support for 16 participants at once, as well as a low-light mode and a noise cancellation feature.
Previously, Meet was only available as a part of Google’s G Suite business-oriented service package, which starts at $6 per month per person, but now it will be free to anyone with a Google account. Availability will be gradually expanded in the “following weeks,” as Google wants to make sure the experience stays secure and reliable.
There’s a pretty big catch, though. Meetings on the free version of Meet will be restricted to 60 minutes – though Google says it won’t enforce the time limit until after Sept. 30. For comparison, some Zoom video calls on the free version of the software are limited to 40 minutes. There are other limitations, too: The free version only supports 100 participants versus 250 for the paid version, and recording and saving calls is only available on the paid version.
Security and privacy haven’t traditionally been Zoom’s strong sides – although the company is furiously working on that – which is why Google put a big emphasis on Meet’s security in an introductory blog post. The company pointed out that Meet offers versatile host controls, hard-to-guess meeting codes, and encrypted video calls. Furthermore, Meet doesn’t allow anonymous users to join meetings created by individual accounts, and it doesn’t require plugins or separate apps – it runs completely in Chrome and other browsers, which should make it less vulnerable to security threats.
It’s worth noting that Google recently banned the use of Zoom on its workers’ laptops, citing security concerns.
To get notified when Meet will become freely available to you, sign up here.