Zoom may have been the first platform to capture the influx of videoconference users due to the coronavirus. However, Microsoft and Google aren’t going away without a fight. Both tech companies are touting their own videoconferencing tools.
Part of their strategy has been to make the software free to users in order to better compete with Zoom. On Wednesday, Google announced that Meet will be free for anyone—giving non-enterprise and non-education customers access to it. The only thing that participants will need is a Google account.
One caveat of Zoom’s free tier is that meetings with more than two participants can only last for 40 minutes. That might be fine for casual users, but it almost certainly doesn’t cut it for professionals. Rather than paying for a Zoom Pro plan, consumers may instead want to consider carrying out their videoconferencing on Google Meet.
The tech giant’s offering allows up to 100 participants to join in on a call that lasts an unlimited amount of time—at least until September 30. After that, Google will reassess the situation and may add a 60-minute time limit to free meetings. Such a decision will depend heavily on what sort of state the world is in.
Regardless, the ability to host meetings with no time limit and no cost is definitely attractive to small-to-mid-sized businesses and casual users alike.
Google’s Meet platform is pretty intuitive and includes just about all the features you need in a videoconferencing tool (minus virtual backgrounds). Users will find things like a grid view that displays all of the participants at once.
Moreover, Meet is well-integrated with Gmail. Just like how Microsoft is using its suite of Office apps to promote its Teams videoconferencing software, Google is trying to convert users by adding integrations for Gmail.
Focusing on Security
Zoom enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top on the back of the coronavirus pandemic. As millions of people transitioned to the work-from-home life, it seemed like the only viable solution. The company noted that its number of daily active users jumped from 10 million to over 200 million over the last three months.
That growth put all eyes on the platform. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite ready for the challenge. Over the past couple of months, a host of security-related concerns have arisen and are sowing distrust in Zoom’s userbase. Issues like Zoom-bombing and unsecured data servers are driving users to search for other platforms.
Google is touting Meet as a more secure alternative. By default, anyone who hasn’t specifically been invited to a meeting via a calendar invite will be added to a virtual green room. The meeting’s admin will need to approve them before they can join the actual meeting. This should eliminate problems like Zoom-bombing (or at least make them occur less often).
Meanwhile, the fact that users will need a Google account to join meetings is a good thing. Although it may seem like a hassle, millions of people already have an account. Zoom is convenient because users don’t need to worry about logging in to join a meeting. However, that isn’t great from a security standpoint.
Meet gives users more peace of mind knowing that—at the very least—all of the participants are signed in with a Google account.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if Google is able to capitalize on Zoom’s security mishaps and lure users to Meet with its new free offering.