Google has very clearly had enough of the hype around video streaming platform Zoom, as Zoom usage takes off during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Google, of course, has its own, dedicated, multi-participant video conferencing option, called Google Meet, but up till now, Google Meet access has been limited to paying G Suite customers. Now, Google's changing that - this week, Google has announced that Google Meet will be made available, for free, to everyone, for meetings of up to 100 people at a time, for up to 60 minutes in duration - and even longer untill September 30th.
As explained by Google:
"Today, we’re making Google Meet, our premium video conferencing product, free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks. 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."
And from the announcement, it's very clear that Zoom is the target of this switch.
As noted, Zoom usage has exploded in recent months, with the app going from 10 million DAU in December, to 200 million right now. But what that growth has come increased scrutiny, and Zoom has been forced to significantly revamp its data security and system communication processes in order to keep user information protected.
Google's keen to emphasize that point.
In its announcement for Google Meet, the words 'secure' and 'security' are collectively mentioned 20 times, while Google also notes, in detail, the measures that it has in place within Meet to keep user data safe.
"Meet is designed, built and operated to be secure at scale. Since January, we’ve seen Meet’s peak daily usage grow by 30x. As of this month, Meet is hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users every day. And as of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million. With this growth comes great responsibility. Privacy and security are paramount, no matter if it’s a doctor sharing confidential health information with a patient, a financial advisor hosting a client meeting, or people virtually connecting with each other for graduations, holidays and happy hours."
Essentially, Google's trying to say that Zoom can't be trusted with that responsibility - and given its own tools are free, and better quality, you should be heading over to Meet instead.
If you don’t have a Gmail Account, you will need to create one, which you can do by using your existing work or personal email address of choice.
Up to 100 people can join the meeting, and free meetings will be limited to 60 minutes - though Google says that it won’t enforce this time limit until after Sept. 30th.
It'll be interesting to see if people do shift away from Zoom and towards Meet. Zoom's various security concerns have spooked many, which could potentially push them to seek alternative options. Meet could indeed fill that void - but then again, habitual behaviors can be formed quickly, and Zoom has already become the weapon of choice for many through the pandemic.
Which one should you use? It'll likely be worth testing them out and seeing what best suits your needs.
You can read more about the latest Google Meet features and updates here.
UPDATE (4/30): Zoom has corrected its original claim that it now has 300 million daily active users. Zoom is actually serving 300 million daily 'meeting participants', which is an important distinction.