Google Meet goes free in bid to counter Zoom

The tech giant is making its premium video conferencing app free until September

Google Meet, the tech giant's premium video conferencing platform, will be free to use until September, the company has announced. 

From May, anyone with a Google email address will be able to sign up for Meet and use the service's business-focused features.

Video conferencing has become an essential tool during the coronavirus lockdown, with Zoom quickly become one of the most popular services, partly down to it being free. While Google already has a free conferencing service in Hangouts, it has limits on participants and offers very little in the way of functionality. 

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, cloud-based services have seen spikes in usage. Microsoft Teams, for example, reportedly surpassed 44 million users in March, up from 32 million at the beginning of the month. 

"Now more than ever, we've seen the power of video meetings to connect us - whether we're working with teammates, talking to healthcare professionals, sharing with loved ones, or learning at home," said Javier Soltero, Google's VP and GM of G Suite. "Technology that keeps us connected - even while we're apart - keeps us safe, productive and together."

With free Meet accounts, users will be able to create meetings for up to 100 people, share screens and adopt tiled layouts. What's more, until the end of September, Google will scrap the 60-minute time limit on meetings, allowing them to go on for 24 hours. The free tier of Zoom only allows for 45-minute meetings. 

Another issue with Zoom is the persistent reports of security flaws. A number of companies have banned the service due to a range of issues, such as 'Zoom bombing', where hackers infiltrate user meetings and its lack of end-to-end encryption.

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Similarly, Facebook recently launched a video conferencing tool called 'Messenger Rooms', which also doesn't offer end-to-end encryption. The free service will offer Facebook users the tools to host catchups with up to 50 participants with no time limits. 

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