Google has made its premium video calling application Meet free for all Google account users.
The company has seen daily usage of Meet increase 30-fold since January and as of April, the service hosts 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adds around 3 million new users every day.
In the past, the application was only available for paying customers as part of Google’s G Suite productivity tools.
Starting 1 May, any user with a Google account will be able to sign up and use Meet for personal video chats or meetings at no charge.
Google said availability will continue to be rolled out in the coming weeks, in the event you cannot access the service immediately.
Features – Free Meet vs Free Zoom
Meet offers an alternative to the increasingly popular Zoom video conferencing app, which has also seen a massive increase in usage.
Users of the free version of Google Meet will be able to host and partake in meetings with unlimited duration until 30 September.
After this, the length of meetings will be limited to 60 minutes. By comparison, Zoom’s free tier has a limit of 40 minutes per group session.
Both Meet and Zoom meetings can take up to 100 participants per video call session, and screen-sharing is also available for free on both platforms.
Meet is supported on various browsers – including Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge – and is available as an app for both Android and iOS devices.
Security is key
One of the main features of Meet is its superior security.
Zoom has faced backlash over its apparent lack of proper security policies, which has caused concerns over the privacy of its users.
Google said Meet is designed, built, and operated to be secure at scale.
As it requires the user to be signed into a Google account, it eliminates the possibility of “Zoombombing”.
Zoombombing allows unwanted users to intrude on meetings, gaining access to meeting codes shared publicly.
Additionally, Meet complies with IETF security standards for Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) and Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP).
Google said implements the following security measures in Meet:
- Host controls the ability to admit or deny entry to a meeting, and mute or remove participants.
- No anonymous users can join meetings created by individual accounts.
- Meeting codes are complex by default, which makes them resilient to “guessing.”
- Meet video meetings are encrypted in transit, and all recordings stored in Google Drive are encrypted in transit and at rest.
- No plugins are required to use Meet on supported web browsers.
Additionally, Meet users can enroll their account in Google’s Advanced Protection Program for additional protection against phishing and account hijacking.
To use Google Meet, you will require a Google account – which includes a Gmail address.
Once you have an account set up, head to meet.google.com on your browser.
From the main page, click on Start Meeting to create a new session or Join Meeting if you have a code for an existing video call.
Meeting hosts have the option of creating a nickname for a meeting so that people can quickly join it, too.
To add participants to a meeting, click “Copy joining info” and paste the details into an email or messaging app to send to people you would like to add.
Alternatively, you can click “Add people” and type in an email address to send an invite, or a phone number to call a participant.
The video below shows how the process works.
Once users have entered the meeting, they have four options of layouts – Auto, Tiled, Spotlight, or Sidebar.
To access the options, users click on the three-button menu in the lower-right corner of the display.
Auto lets Meet choose the layout for you, while Tiled shows up to 16 people when no presentation is being shown.
In Spotlight, the presentation, active speaker or pinned feed fills your window, while Sidebar lets you view the active speaker or presentation with other participants on the side.
Meet also allows users to pin, arrange, remove, and mute participants in a video meeting.
In addition, users can turn on captions for English speech to make it easier to follow conversations.
You can also send text messages and attach files for participants to download in the meeting.
For full descriptions on how to use these and other features in Meet, visit the Google Meet Help Centre.