Google has seen explosive usage on its videoconferencing platform, Google Meet, during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, it’s opening up Google Meet free for anyone starting in early May.
The free version of Google Meet (at meet.google.com) provides meeting for up to 100 users per session. According to the internet company, meetings can run for an unlimited amount of time although after Sept. 30 it will limit free Google Meet sessions to 60 minutes for the free product. Previously, Google Meet (formerly called Hangout) was available only to subscribers of the company’s G Suite productivity and collaboration tools.
Since January 2020, Google Meet’s peak daily usage has boomed 30-fold, with daily participants of over 100 million, according to the company. In April, the platform is adding about 3 million new users per day and is hosting 3 billion minutes of daily video meetings.
Google’s announcement drove down the share price of Zoom, the internet videoconferencing provider that has become widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the stock falling more than 4%. Zoom last week said more than 300 million users daily have been participating in its online meetings, up from a peak 10 million in December 2019. The company earlier this month said it was freezing product development for 90 days to focus on enhancing security in its system.
The free-to-all Google Meet move also comes after Facebook last week announced the rollout of Messenger Rooms, which will provide free videoconferencing to groups of up to 50 people with no time limits.
Initially, Google is going to phase in availability of the free version of Google Meet “so you might not be able to create meetings” right away, Javier Soltero, VP and general manager of Google’s G Suite division, wrote in a blog post. “It’s important that everyone who uses Meet has a secure and reliable experience from the start.”
Google emphasized the security and privacy aspects of its videoconferencing platform. Google Meet video meetings are encrypted in transit and all recordings stored in Google Drive are encrypted in transit and at rest, the company said. The systems doesn’t allow anonymous users to join meetings created by individual accounts, and the meeting codes are “complex by default” and “therefore resilient to brute-force ‘guessing,'” according to Soltero.
Google Meet doesn’t use browser plugins “so it’s less vulnerable to security threats,” Soltero said. He added that Google Meet data “is not used for advertising, and we don’t sell your data to third parties.”