Zoom video chat rival Google Meet releases free version

Google says it has now completed the rollout of the free version of its videoconferencing tool.

Previously available only to its G Suite enterprise customers, the move to make Google Meet more widely available is an attempt by the company to capitalize on the recent boom in videoconferencing brought about by the coronavirus outbreak. With the pandemic causing untold disruption around the world, video meetings have really taken off, with workers, as well as friends and family, using the technology to connect with one another from the comfort of their own homes.

Calls on the free version of Google Meet allow you to chat for as long as you like, though after September 30 you’ll be limited to 60 minutes per session unless you upgrade.

While rival service Zoom has been getting most of the publicity — not always for the right reasons — there are in fact a slew of competing videoconferencing platforms out there. However, Google’s huge setup and solid brand recognition has allowed it to quickly adapt Meet for a wider audience and push it into the spotlight in a bid to give Zoom a run for its money.

In a message posted online this week, Google executive Javier Soltero said that in April, Meet was “adding roughly three million new users every day.” Some of those are likely to have been Zoom users concerned about the tool’s well-publicized security and privacy issues, though it should be pointed out that the company behind Zoom has been working hard to improve its service.

To get started with Meet, all you need is a Google Account, which, if you don’t already have one, can be set up pretty quickly with any existing email address. If you have a Gmail address, then in the coming days you’ll be able to use Meet directly within the interface of Google’s web-based email service. For tips on how to get started with Meet, check out Digital Trends’ handy guide.

Soltero said that in response to the recently elevated importance of video meetings, Google developers have been working to fast-track commonly requested features, which are now being rolled out to everyone using the software.

“Anyone can use Meet’s simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to your preference, including an expanded tiled view — all built on Google’s secure, reliable global infrastructure,” Soltero said, adding, “Speaking from my own experience, the new features in Meet are already making our team (and my family) meetings better. We love how tiled view makes us feel more connected — and the occasional surprise visits from kids and family pets!”

Google Meet and Zoom are two videoconferencing services that for most people will get the job done, though there are a number of other services worth considering, too.

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