With people spending a lot more time at home over the past couple of months, video messaging apps have seen a dramatic increase in usage.
As people stay in touch with loved ones virtually, names like Zoom, Houseparty and Skype have all become synonymous with limited social interaction.
Now Google are looking to get in on the action, as they make their premium Google Meet service available for free to everyone. As long as they have a Google account.
Here's everything you need to know about it:
What is Google Meet?
Google Meet is Google’s own video conferencing software; you might know it better as Google Meet Hangouts, though it hasn’t gone under that name for a while now.
Until now, Meet has only been available as part of G Suite, Google’s collaboration and productivity solution for businesses, organisations and schools. But going forward, Meet will be available to anyone for free on the web.
“Starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to our business and education users,” said Google, “such as simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to your preference, including an expanded tiled view.”
How is it different to Zoom?
For the first time, Meet users will be able to create and host meetings for up to 100 people (providing they have a Google account) for no charge, complete with live captions for speakers and screen sharing
Calls are usually limited to 60 minutes for the basic product, “though we won’t enforce this time limit until after 30 September,” Google say.
This essentially means you can host 100-person calls for as long as you like for the next few months.
According to Google, Meet is hosting three billion minutes of video meetings as of this month, and adding roughly three million new users every day. Meet’s daily meeting participants recently surpassed 100 million.
How do I use it?
Google Meet’s video calling capabilities all take place within your existing web browser, meaning no downloads of extra software or applications to get it running.
Aside from the logistical benefits of that, Google says its in-browser method is a far more secure approach to video conferencing.
If you have an existing Google Account (for example, if you’re a @gmail.com user), sign in at meet.google.com to get started.
If you don’t have a free Google Account, it only takes a minute to create one using your work or personal email address of choice (Google require this step as a security measure, and you’ll only need to do this once).
You can use Meet to schedule, join or start secure video meetings with anyone, and now Meet available to anyone for free on the web at meet.google.com. And if you use Gmail or Google Calendar, you’ll be able to easily start or join from there, too.
For more information, head to Google’s blog