Google is moving to stem the stratospheric rise of Zoom, by offering its own mass-scale online meeting solution Google Meet to everyone with a Google account. Starting from 4 May, Google enabled access to Meet to all Google account holders to help them stay in touch. That roll-out should now have covered most users, so it's available to all - all you have to do is head over to meet.google.com.
Meet is normally reserved for users of the paid-for G Suite service - Google's solution for businesses and education - but to help people stay in touch the company is making it available to any Google account holder until 30 September 2020. Google confirmed that it was seeing 100 million daily users for Meet at the end of April, and since January has seen peak Meet users increase 30x.
What does this all mean? It means you can now get many of the benefits that has made Zoom so popular, including video conferencing for up to 100 participants, the ability to schedule meetings, and the ability to share your screen - which is great for quizzes.
But Google is really keen to push the security of Google Meet, following widespread criticism of Zoom's platform. That means Meets are encrypted in transmission and when stored on Google Drive. Meeting IDs and passwords are complex and randomised and the host has lots of controls to prevent Zoombombing, or Meetbombing, if you prefer.
Google Meet normally has a 60-minute time limit on meetings for the free product, but this has been waived until 30 September. Want to watch a Marvel movie marathon with your friends? You can have a 24-hour Google Meet while you do it.
Recently Google added some of the most-requested features for Meet, including a tiled view for up to 16 people on one screen - very Zoomy - the ability to present a single Chrome Tab rather than the whole desktop, an AI-powered low light mode to make your video look better in bad lighting and noise cancellation to get rid of background noise.
The only thing you need to get started with Google Meet is a Google account. You'll be able to use Google Meet through your desktop browser, or through dedicated Android and iOS apps, with no need for plug-ins, which Google again says makes it more secure.
It's not just individuals that are getting access to Google Meet however. Google is also making all of the top-level functions available to G Suite subscribers, meaning that those on the Basic or Business package will get access to Enterprise level features.
For those businesses outside of G Suite, Google is launching a new package - G Suite Essentials - which will give you access to advanced Meet functions like telephone dial-in and large scale meeting hosting, to support businesses. G Suite Essentials will also be free until September.
Updated on 13 May to reflect that the roll-out has now happened.