Google Meet Is Free For Everybody
Google has announced that its G Suite video conferencing product is now free and available for any person that would like to use it.
In the past it has been called, ‘Google Hangouts Meet’ but up until the recent announcement, it was only available for customers of the G Suite.
It looks like Google has gradually been building to this situation, as last month all G Suite customers were given access to the premium version of Meet. At this stage, a person would be able to take part in a Meet call without having to buy the product, but a person with a paid G Suite account still had to start the call.
In a further stage with the latest news, now everyone is able to start Meet calls without having to own a paid for account. These free meetings are able to include up to 100 people and can go on for an indefinite period of time. However, after September, free calls will be limited to 60 minutes.
In a blog post, Javier Soltero, Vice President & GM of G Suite, stated, ‘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.’
Because of the scale and amount of people who use the g suite, as well as the huge demand for video call services during the Covid-19 pandemic, Google is rolling this out in stages. This will take a number of weeks to complete. This does mean that the service might not be available immediately to you, but if you have a Gmail account, you’ll be notified when it can be used.
Soltero also commented on the increased use of the service in his blog post, ‘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 the increase in the amount of people using the service, there is the potential for malicious attackers to take advantage and pose a threat to online security. This is taken very seriously by Google, with Soltero making the point that:
‘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.Our approach to security is simple: make products safe by default. We designed Meet to operate on a secure foundation, providing the protections needed to keep our users safe, their data secure, and their information private.’
There are a number of safety features included as default within Meet, including host controls, no anonymous users to join meetings created by individual accounts, encryption of meetings and recordings, self sufficiency with no plugin requirements, and no selling of data from Meet to third party or advertisers. This is alongside an option to enroll in Google’s Advanced Protection Program, which offers security against phishing and account hijacking.
Google Meet was first created to help companies and organisations collaborate better, particularly when in different geographical locations. Up until this point, it was never possible to use Google Meet outside of the G Suite. Google is suggesting, as examples, that individuals outside of organisations can now make the most of the service by taking part in fitness classes, book clubs, community get togethers, and catching up with friends - amongst others.
Groups and teams can also make the most of the service with access to G Suite Essentials. Up until the 30th of September, teams will have access to some advanced features that includes recording the meeting, and dial-in phone numbers.
The huge increase in demand on video conferencing has been driven largely by the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the world. Zoom, a close competitor of Google has soared in a popularity that it seems that Google would also like a stake of. With Zoom being given a head start, there’s a long way to go to catch up, but this free service from Meet will undoubtedly prove popular to many.