The increased need for social video calling across the globe amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown has seen video conferencing apps like Zoom, Messenger Rooms, Microsoft Teams, Skype and more becoming hugely popular among employees working from home and students doing online education.
In a move to compete with its rival video chat service Zoom, Google announced that it is making its premium video conferencing app, Google Meet free for everyone until September 30.
The free version of the Google Meet app will be available to everyone with a Google account starting in early May. However, those who do have a Google account will not be able to join meetings created by individual accounts.
Previously, the app was available for subscribers to the premium G Suite software tools for businesses. Users will now be able to enjoy many of the same features available to G Suite Business and education users.
“Today, we’re making Google Meet, our premium video conferencing product, free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks,” wrote Javier Soltero, Vice President & GM, G Suite in a blog post.
“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.
“Through September 30, we’re providing G Suite Essentials and all of these advanced features free of charge.”
The availability will be rolled out gradually over the coming weeks. This means users might not be able to create meetings at meet.google.com right away. However, users sign up here from next month (May) to get notified when their account is eligible for free access.
“With Google Meet becoming free for everyone, individual users will be able to host meetings with up to 100 participants and the meeting length is going to be 60 minutes, but we are not enforcing it until September 30,” said Smita Hashim, Director, Product Management, Google Cloud.
This means that Google says it won’t enforce the time limit on meetings on the free version of Meet until September 30. However, the company could apply restrictions on meeting to 60 minutes for the free product after September 30.
According to Hashim, the company would want consumers to use Meet over Hangouts. Google Meet is a more secure, reliable, modern product and overtime, “we expect our Hangouts users to switch to Google Meet,” she added.
“We make certain essential services free. For Google Meet, we do not have plans to monetise it. We hope video conferencing will continue to be an essential service.”
While Zoom has been receiving backlashes for its security and privacy issues, Google says its platform is safe and secure.
“Meet operates on a secure foundation, keeping users safe, data secure, and information private—including between patients and caregivers,” Google said. “Your Meet data is not used for advertising, and we don’t sell your data to third parties.” Also, users will be allowed to enter a meeting only if the host approves.
Currently, Meet is hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users every day. As of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million.
Google Meet will be available to anyone for free on the Web and via mobile apps for iOS or Android. Also, if you use Gmail or Google Calendar, you will be able to easily start or join from there, too.