Google Meet, a premium video conferencing tool that was previously only available to paying businesses, will soon be free for everyone.
If you've been looking for a free alternative to Zoom and Skype for video calls – whether they're work meetings or just catching up with family – you'll be able to dial in for free from May, though the exact date has yet to be announced.
You'll be able to invite up to 100 people to join a meeting, and there'll be a call time limit of one hour, though this won't actually be enforced until September 30, when hopefully the coronavirus pandemic is thoroughly under control and normal face-to-face contact can resume. Until then, calls can last up to 24 hours.
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You can create, schedule and join meetings using the Google Meet website, or the mobile apps for iOS and Android. If you use Google Calendar, you can also create a meeting by clicking any time slot and entering the details.
Get it together
Google Meet is a very different proposition to the likes of Zoom and WhatsApp, and Google has taken pains to spell out the reasons for picking its service over rival video conferencing platforms.
The company notes that only people with a Google account can join calls in Google Meet, and meeting codes are a complex mix of numbers and letters that makes them tricky to guess (Zoom IDs and passwords are both strings of numbers). Meetings are encrypted in transit, and if recorded, are stored securely in Google Drive. Google Cloud doesn't process data from Meet calls for advertising, or share it with any third parties.
Interested? You can start setting up meetings on the website right now (provided they're scheduled for after May 4), or ask to be notified when the free service goes live.