Google has now announced that its business video conferencing service is free to all users, bringing competition to Zoom as people all around the world opt for online means to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic.
Google Meet was previously only available to members subscribed to premium G Suite software tools for businesses.
“Google Meet will be available to all users around the world, to enable people all walks of life to communicate collaborate and really stay in touch more effectively through the pandemic,” G Suite vice president Javier Soltaro told AFP.
Google has also touted security and reliability features of Meet, and its foundation in the California-based internet giant’s computing cloud.
Use of video calls and conferencing has rocketed as people work, learn, and socialize remotely while staying home to avoid the coronavirus.
Many people have turned to Zoom, which has scrambled to stem security problems such as data hacking and harassment by individuals who crash sessions in what is referred to as “Zoombombing.”
Google said in a blog post that it has “invested years in making Meet a secure and reliable video conferencing solution that’s trusted by schools, governments, and enterprises around the world.”
People will need to use or create free Google accounts to take part in meetings, which will have a 60-minute time cap that will be enforced starting the end of September, according to the company.
Google said free access will roll out gradually in the coming weeks. Some six million businesses and organizations from hospitals and banks to manufacturing facilities and warehouses already using G Suite already have access to Meet video conferencing, according to Google.
The move comes days after Facebook unveiled a new video chat service with virtual “rooms” where people can pop in to visit friends and also updated its WhatsApp video calls to hold 8 people
Through the Facebook Messenger application, users will be able to start video call sessions that as many as 50 friends can join and linger in as long as they wish, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts.