Google is making Meet, its “premium” video calling service free for all, to better take on Zoom that’s also rolling out Zoom 5.0 today with enhanced privacy and security controls including stronger encryption. This means, anybody with a Google account can now video call with up to 100 people simultaneously and without any time limits using Google Meet. Until now, you needed to be a “paying” G Suite customer to access Meet video calls. The announcement comes just days after Google made premium Meet features free for all G Suite users till September 30.
To refresh, Google Meet is the rebranded version of Hangouts Meet, the global search engine giant’s video conferencing app that rivals Microsoft’s Teams and the overnight sensation Zoom.
Starting from next week, anybody with a Google account will be able to video call with 100 people for as long as they want, though after September 30, Google will cap all “free” Meet video calls at 60 minutes. All free Meet users will be able to access popular features like screen sharing, real-time captions and the new tile-based interface that gives it a more Zoom-like look and feel.
Google says it’s seeing Meet’s peak daily usage grow by 30x since January and as of this month, the en masse video calling platform is “hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users every day.” That’s a lot of users and lots of video calling minutes, which isn’t very surprising.
The coronavirus outbreak has entailed a surge in video calling apps around the world. More and more people are now using these apps for work, for education, or simply staying connected with their near and dear ones, while being cooped inside their homes to curb the spread of COVID-19. Zoom is a classic example. But the increased reliance on these cloud-based solutions is also raising concerns about privacy. Again, Zoom is a classic example.
Google has been highlighting how Google Meet is more secure, private and reliable than competing apps via regular blog posts, and the latest announcement is coupled with a list of privacy-preserving assurances as well. Google has been particularly touting end-to-end encryption and how its network is engineered to accommodate peak demand and handle future growth during these unprecedented times — something that Zoom has been unable to crack, at least initially.