From today, Google Meet is available to anyone with a Google Account. These free accounts can be created with your existing email address – so you won’t even have to sign-up for a Gmail address if you don’t want to – and will enable anyone to kickstart large-scale video calls with dozens of people at a time. Until now, Google Meet was a solution for business and education users only. However, Google has rolled out the web app to everyone as more people turn to video chats to keep in touch with friends and families.
The free Google Meet option will be limited to 60 minutes – still more generous than the 40 minutes allowed by rival Zoom –when the time limit is enforced from September 30, 2020 onwards. Google has picked this deadline as it hopes some of the social distancing rules will have been lifted by then, reducing some of the need for video calls.
Simply head to meet.google.com where you can now kickstart a meeting with up to 100 friends or family at a time.
Since Google Meet was originally envisioned as an enterprise solution, there are a truckload of extra features built-in, including the ability to share a screen with everyone else on the call – to present PowerPoint slides or watch a YouTube video together.
Relatives and friends will be able to dial-in to the Google Meet call using a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer using either the dedicated app or a web browser. Google Meet also allows people to call in with their mobile phone, although this will be voice-only.
Just like Google Meet for enterprise and education customers, personal users will be able to kickstart a meeting from their Gmail or Google Calendar web apps – as well as the dedicated Google Meet apps on iOS and Android.
Google hopes users will use Meet to schedule secure video meetings for everything from virtual yoga classes, weekly book clubs, neighbourhood meetings, or happy hours with friends while in lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The move to make Google Meet free for all is not simply about Google trying to unseat the likes of Zoom and Houseparty as the most popular video calling apps. It’s also part of a plan from Google to slowly phase-out Google Hangouts – the only Google-designed video call option previously available to consumers whose company or school didn’t pay for G Suite accounts that included Google Meet. Google wants everyone to use the same Google Meet platform, which should make it easier for the company to roll out new features to the service and mobile apps.
Of course, there are some differences between the free-to-use Google Meets and enterprise and education paid-for option. For example, the latter can record an entire meeting into a single video file directly into Google Drive cloud storage to re-watch at a later date. Up to 250 people can take part in the paid-for Google Meet plans, while the maximum will be 100 for personal use.