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Google Chrome gets group video calls to compete with Zoom

Google Chrome
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google Chrome will soon let you hold 12-person chats in your browser, courtesy of Google Duo. The mobile version of Google Duo has offered group calls for some time, but until now the web version has only supported conversations between two people.

Now, Google has announced that it's bringing bigger causal conversations to the desktop, starting with a preview for Chrome. You can sign up for Duo for Web right now using your mobile phone number for one-to-one calls, and Google says that a group calls will launch "in the coming weeks".

While the likes of Skype and Zoom are handy for both work and play, Duo is designed specifically for casual chats with family and friends. There are various masks and filters to liven up calls, and as ZDNet reports, one of the latest additions to the mobile app is a dedicated family mode that lets you send colorful doodles while you're speaking.

There's also no mute button in Google Duo's family mode, which is intended to avoid conversations being interrupted accidentally by a wayward click or tap.

It's not yet clear if or when these features will be brought to Duo for web, but sketches seem like a natural fit for a larger screen.

Decisions, decisions...

For businesses that need a free video conferencing tool (and don't want their employees messing about with astronaut filters), Google recently announced that it's making Google Meet free for anyone with a Google account.

Meet was originally only available to paying G-Suite customers, and allows up to 100 people to join a call for up to 24 hours (compared to just 40 minutes with the free version of Zoom). This will eventually drop to one hour, but not until September 30.

With WhatsApp Web soon to offer video conferencing for up to 50 people via Facebook Messenger Rooms, and new tools like Twilio arriving on the scene, there are now so many free options available, the hardest part might be making sure everyone agrees which one to use.

Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis (@CatEllisTech) is the fitness and wellbeing editor at TechRadar. She's been a technology journalist for 11 years, and cut her teeth on magazines including PC Plus and PC Format before joining TechRadar. She's a trained run leader, and enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the pavement. If you have a story about fitness trackers, treadmills, running shoes, e-bikes, or any other fitness tech, drop her a line at catherine.ellis@futurenet.com.