Videoconferencing

Google Meet Now Available Free

Google Meet

Zoom has some new competition. Google has just made premium functionality in its online video meeting software freely available to anybody with a Google email account. As of this week, Google Meet enables users to host video meetings with up to 100 people for up to 24 hours. (Zoom cuts off freebie meetings at 40 minutes.) That unlimited amount of time will last until Sep. 30, 2020; then it will be shortened to 60 minutes in the free product.

Meet has been available to paying customers. Early on during virus closures, the company made advanced features free for use by organizations (such as schools) with G Suite. And last month Google announced that Meet would also be made available free for consumer user.

Among the features:

  • Basic scheduling and screensharing;

  • A tile layout that enables viewers to see up to 16 people at a time;

  • The ability for presenters using Google Chrome to share a single browser tab rather than showing their entire screen, which, the company noted, would enhance video and audio quality;

  • A lighting mode that brightens people's faces, even in a dark room or when they're sitting against a lighted background; and

  • Fairly accurate real-time captioning.

Recording is still a feature only available to users running Meet through G Suite.

On the security front, since Meet is built onto Google's existing account system, it has added layers of protection built in. That also adds to its complexity. You may find that recipients of invitations have to sign into a Google account to be able to access the meeting. Security features include host controls that allow the host to admit or deny entry to a meeting and mute and remove participants. Also, the company said that its video meetings are encrypted in transit and recordings stored in Google Drive are encrypted both in transit and in rest.

One new feature the company is experimenting with is background noise cancellation, the current enemy of productive video meetings everywhere. Google's servers handle the ambient noise suppression, to make voices clearer. That feature will be rolled out first to paying customers, then to web users, and finally to mobile users.

Meet is available to anyone for free on the web at meet.google.com and via mobile apps for iOS and Android.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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