• Google on Wednesday announced that its new video conferencing tool Google Meet will be available free of charge to anyone with a Gmail address.
  • The premium version of Meet will roll out to all Gmail account holders in the coming weeks.
  • Users will be able to enjoy secure, unlimited video calls until September 30th. The usual limit for free video conferences on Meet is 60 minutes.
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Video conferencing is one of the trends of 2020, and it’s all because of the primary trend of the year, the novel coronavirus pandemic. Billions of people are practicing some sort of social distancing right now, which involves using video chat apps more than ever. Those lucky enough to be able to work or study from home have to rely on video chat apps for work purposes. And everyone else uses the same apps to stay in touch with their friends and family now that face-to-face meetings aren’t possible.

Zoom quickly became the must-have video chat app. It works on all sorts of devices, it supports plenty of people, and it lets you share the screen o your computer with ease. But, as more people got on Zoom, it was soon discovered the app had various privacy and security issues that needed fixing. Several competitors emerged, looking to steal market share from Zoom, including products from Facebook and Google. And Google Meet premium is available free of charge to everyone.

Google rebranded Hangouts for G Suite users to Google Meet and updated the video conferencing app to replicate some of Zoom’s features. Meet, however, wasn’t available to all Google account holders. That changes today, as Google just announced that Google Meet premium will be available for free to anyone looking for a video chat app.

“We’ve invested years in making Meet a secure and reliable video conferencing solution that’s trusted by schools, governments, and enterprises around the world, and in recent months we’ve accelerated the release of top-requested features to make it even more helpful,” Google’s Vice President Javier Soltero said in the blog post.

Google Meet will be available in May to anyone with a Gmail address, he said. The rollout will be gradual, so you should start seeing a Meet tab inside Gmail soon — it’s already there if you’re a paying G Suite subscriber. All you have to do to access it is to create a Gmail address if you don’t already have one.

Free Meet video chats will be limited to 60 minutes, but the rule won’t be enforced until September 30th. G Suite Essential features, including dial-in phone numbers, larger meetings, and meeting recordings, will be available for free to groups and teams until the same date.

Aside from G Suite, Meet is also included in G Suite for Education, and you might be using the app for at-home education.

Soltero also said that Meet’s peak daily usage increased by 30x since January, with the app hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding 3 million new users every day. As of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million, the report says.

The exec reminded users that Meet is built with strong security protections in place, a clear hit at Zoom and other competing products:

  • We provide a strong set of host controls such as the ability to admit or deny entry to a meeting, and mute or remove participants, if needed.
  • We do not allow anonymous users (i.e., without a Google Account) to join meetings created by individual accounts.
  • Meet meeting codes are complex by default and therefore resilient to brute-force “guessing.”
  • Meet video meetings are encrypted in transit, and all recordings stored in Google Drive are encrypted in transit and at rest.
  • We don’t require plugins to use Meet on the web. It works entirely in Chrome and other modern browsers, so it’s less vulnerable to security threats.
  • On mobile, we have dedicated Google Meet apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Meet users can enroll their account in Google’s Advanced Protection Program—our strongest protections available against phishing and account hijacking.
  • Google Cloud undergoes regular rigorous security and privacy audits for all its services. Our global compliance certifications can help support regulatory requirements such as GDPR and HIPAA, as well as COPPA and FERPA for education.
  • Your Meet data is not used for advertising, and we don’t sell your data to third parties.
Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he's not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.