Google Zooms In on Zoom With a Freebie

A screenshot of Texas Supreme Court justices hearing arguments in a case last week using the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Google on Tuesday made its business videoconferencing service free to all users, ramping up competition for Zoom as people flock online to stay connected during the pandemic.

Google Meet had been reserved for subscribers to the premium G Suite software tools for businesses.

Now, Meet will be available “to all users around the world, to enable people all walks of life to communicate collaborate and really stay in touch more effectively through the pandemic,” G Suite vice president Javier Soltaro told AFP.

Google touted security and reliability features of Meet, and its foundation in the California-based internet giant’s computing cloud.

Use of video calls and conferencing has rocketed as people work, learn, and socialize remotely while staying home to avoid the coronavirus.

Many people have turned to Zoom, which has scrambled to stem security problems such as data hacking and harassment by people who crash sessions in “Zoombombing.”

Google said in a blog post that it has “invested years in making Meet a secure and reliable video conferencing solution that’s trusted by schools, governments and enterprises around the world.”

People will need use or create free Google accounts to take part in meetings, which will have a 60-minute time cap that will be enforced starting at the end of September, the company said.

Google said free access will roll out gradually in coming weeks.

Some 6 million businesses and organizations from hospitals and banks to manufacturing facilities and warehouses using G Suite already have access to Meet videoconferencing, according to Google.

The move comes days after Facebook unveiled a new video chat service with virtual “rooms” where people can pop in to visit friends.

Through the Facebook Messenger application, users will be able to start video call sessions that as many as 50 friends can join and linger in as long as they wish, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts.

© Agence France-Presse

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