Google’s Zoom rival, called Meet, is now free to consumers

Meet was previously only for paying customers of G Suite, Google’s line of enterprise apps.

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Google on Wednesday said it’s making its teleconferencing service, called Google Meet, free to consumers. The move takes aim at Zoom, the rival video chat service that’s become a household name during the stay-at-home era spurred by the novel coronavirus.

Previously, Meet was only available to paying customers of G Suite, Google’s line of enterprise apps that includes Gmail, Drive and Docs. Until now, anyone could join a meeting by clicking on a link, but creating a meeting required a G Suite membership. 

The free version of the product requires a Google account, and video calls have a 60-minute cap. But Google said it won’t enforce that rule until after Sept. 30. The free version will also allow up to 100 participants and include features such as screen sharing and real-time captions. 

MORE ON TELECONFERENCING

The move underscores how crucial video chatting has become for a world stuck in physical isolation. Around the globe, schools, libraries, bars and other businesses deemed nonessential in a time of contagion crisis have closed their doors. 

As millions of people shelter in place, Google says usage of Meet has surged. On Tuesday, CEO Sundar Pichai said the service is adding 3 million new users a day during the pandemic, up from 2 million new users a day earlier this month. Pichai said the service has 100 million meeting participants a day. 

Still, the breakout product of the coronavirus lockdown has undoubtedly been Zoom. The service has ballooned from 10 million daily users in December to 300 million daily users now. But the service has been plagued by data-sharing issues, as well as “Zoombombing,” in which uninvited participants invade a video session. The drop-ins are sometimes coordinated attacks, filled with hate speech and harassment.

Google isn’t the only tech giant chasing Zoom’s runaway success. Last week, Facebook announced Messenger Rooms, a new feature that lets users video-chat with multiple people through Messenger, even if they don’t have a Facebook account. And Microsoft is pushing Teams, its own video-chat app.

Despite the high-profile security problems, Zoom is in an enviable position when it comes to name recognition. According to The New York Times, Google business chief Philipp Schindler was on a video call with thousands of employees last month when someone on the call asked about Zoom’s success. As Schindler replied, his young son reportedly barged into the room and asked if Schindler was on a Zoom call with his workers. 

In an interview, Smita Hashim, director of product management for Google Meet, declined to comment on the Schindler incident. She also declined to address the competition with Zoom, instead pivoting to Google Meet’s security benefits. 

“It was designed from the onset to be secure,” Hashim said. “We haven’t had to really make changes to the product to become more secure.”

As Google builds out Meet for consumers — not just business customers — the company might consider moving beyond productivity features. Other video chat apps, for example, have been successful with entertainment features like filters and photo tools. When asked about eventually building consumer features, Hashim said the company will listen to customer feedback, but has nothing to announce. 

How to use Google Meet, a free Zoom video chat rival

Google’s Meet video conferencing service will soon be free for everyone to use for personal video chats.

Google is making more moves into the video chatting space during the coronavirus pandemic, soon providing its premium video conferencing service Google Meet free for consumers. Previously available only to organizations using G Suite, Meet will soon be open to everyone, in a move that puts Google in competition with rival video chat service Zoom

While Google Hangouts and Duo were previously available for casual video chatting, Meet allows up to 100 participants on a call at once, and includes features such as scheduling, screen sharing and real-time captioning. 

Read more: 10 free Zoom alternative apps for video chats

The free version of Google Meet will require you to create a free Google account. Video calls will have a 60-minute cap, but Google said it won’t enforce that cap until after Sept. 30. 

Google also laid out a number of default privacy protections in place with Meet, including host controls (like the ability to admit or deny entry to a meeting, and mute or remove participants), complex meeting codes and encryption in transit. This seems to be taking aim at Zoom, which saw a massive surge in users after the coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines started — but has recently faced a number of security issues, including uninvited guests “Zoombombing” meetings. 

Google is far from the only tech company looking to scoop up some of Zoom’s business — FacebookSkype and Microsoft have all recently released new free group video chat features and services. 

Meet will start rolling out its free version in early May, according to Google. You’ll be able to use the video chat service on the web at meet.google.com and on mobile apps for iOS or Android

How to use Google Meet, free

To sign up for the free version of Google Meet, go to the Google Meet page. Enter your name, email, country and primary use for Google Meet (personal, business, education or government). Agree to Google’s terms of service, and hit Submit. You’ll get a notification when the service is ready for you to use. 

Once it’s available, here’s how to use the free version of Google Meet: 

1. Go to meet.google.com (or, open the app on iOS or Android, or start a meeting from Google Calendar). 

2. Click Start new meeting, or enter your meeting code. 

3. Choose the Google account you want to use.

4. Click Join meeting. You’ll have the ability to add others to your meeting, too. 

And that’s it! Happy video chatting.

For more help on your video chats, check out how to make video meetings less weirdtips for how to use Zoom like a prohow to look and sound great online with your webcam and how to turn your phone into a webcam.

Messenger Rooms: Here’s how to use Facebook’s free new video chat app

Up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit.

Facebook Messenger Rooms is set to compete with Zoom and other group video chat apps.Facebook

Facebook’s new group video chat feature Messenger Rooms is getting ready to compete with services like Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams, as more people turn to video chat amid coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines

Facebook users will soon be able to create a video chat room via Facebook or the Messenger app and invite up to 50 people to join a video call — even if they don’t have a Facebook account. There will be no time limits on calls. 

Messenger Rooms arrives as some people are looking for an alternative to Zoom, which has faced a number of security and privacy issues in the past two months. (If you are still using Zoom, you can take steps to lock down your meetings and prevent Zoombombing, and learn other hidden tips and tricks). 

Facebook Messenger Rooms will be rolling out in certain countries this week before expanding globally, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a livestream on Friday. Keep reading for Facebook Messenger Rooms’ stance on privacy, and how to get started using the new video chat platform.

Read more: 10 free Zoom alternative apps for video chats

Facebook Messenger Rooms privacy concerns

While Facebook has also grappled with many security and privacy problems, Zuckerberg said in the livestream that the company has been “very careful” and tried to “learn the lessons” from issues with other video conference tools in recent months. 

More than 700 million accounts participate in voice and video calls every day on Facebook Messenger and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, and the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began, the company said in a press release.

Messenger Rooms privacy protections include the ability to control who sees your room, and can lock or unlock it. If it’s unlocked, anyone with the link can join and share the room with others. But the room creator has to be present to start the call. They can control who can join, and can remove participants at any time, too. People can report a room for violating Facebook rules — though those reports will not include any video or audio from the call. Facebook doesn’t listen to your calls at all, the company said. 

How to create a Facebook Messenger Room

Once it’s available in your area, here’s how to create a Room from your phone: 

1. Open the Messenger app.

2. Tap the People tab at the bottom right of the screen. 

3. Tap Create a Room, and select the people who you want to join. 

4. To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups and Events. 

You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.

Facebook plans to add ways to create Rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal as well. Features will include 14 camera filters and changeable backgrounds. 

For more, check out 11 video chat app tricks for Zoom, Skype and FaceTime and how to stay healthy and entertained at home during the COVID-19 pandemic

Google beats sales expectations despite economic toll of coronavirus

But the search giant warned of a “difficult” second quarter.

CFO Ruth Porat warned of a slide in sales that could be coming. 

The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on the global economy, but Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has so far weathered the storm. The search giant on Tuesday reported better-than-expected sales for the first quarter of the year, though it warned of a “significant slowdown” of revenue in March after the COVID-19 crisis began to take hold. 

CEO Sundar Pichai, on a call with analysts, said the stark contrast was a “tale of two quarters.” 

The report gives investors and the public a glimpse of how the pandemic has affected one of the most powerful companies in the world. Alphabet was the first major tech giant to announce its business performance for the first quarter — Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Amazon will report later this week — so its financial snapshot could also be a preview of how other Silicon Valley juggernauts might fare amid the crisis. 

Stay in the know. Get the latest tech stories from CNET News every weekday.

For the quarter ended March 31, Alphabet revenue grew 13%. The company tallied $41.15 billion in sales, beating analyst estimates of $40.33 billion. But earnings per share were $9.87, falling short of expectations of $10.33 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

“Given the depth of the challenges so many are facing, it’s a huge privilege to be able to help at this time,” Pichai said in a statement. “People are relying on Google’s services more than ever and we’ve marshaled our resources and product development in this urgent moment.”

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

But while the company managed to top revenue expectations for the first quarter, CFO Ruth Porat warned of a slide in sales that could be coming. “Performance was strong during the first two months of the quarter, but then in March we experienced a significant slowdown in ad revenues. We are sharpening our focus on executing more efficiently, while continuing to invest in our long-term opportunities,” she said in a statement. On the analyst call, she was more direct: “We anticipate the second quarter will be a difficult one for our advertising business.” 

Alphabet shares rose almost 9% in after-hours trading. 

‘Significant and lasting’ changes

Google’s advertising revenue, which makes up around 85 percent of the company’s annual sales, was expected to take a hit as marketers across several industries pull back their ad budgets. Travel and entertainment ads, normally plentiful across Google’s platforms, have been especially scarce as people cancel trips and movie studios push back their major movie releases. For example, Expedia, which usually spends $5 billion a year said it probably won’t crack $1 billion in ads this year.

For weeks, there have been signs Alphabet was feeling the weight of the economic downturn. Earlier this month, Pichai told employees the company is slowing down hiring for the remainder of the year, as the search giant focuses on a few important categories. 

Pichai has said the company would “dial back” plans in areas that aren’t critical to the company’s success. Alphabet hired 20,000 people in 2019, he said, and would’ve been poised for similar growth this year. Alphabet is also reportedly cutting its marketing budgets by as much as half for the second half of 2020.

On the call, Pichai also gave an update on how people are using Google’s products during the pandemic. Google Meet, the company’s teleconferencing service and a rival to Zoom, is adding 3 million new users a day, up from 2 million a day earlier this month. Pichai also said people are using Android apps more, as well. App downloads from Google Play, the company’s digital marketplace, rose 30% from February to March.

Pichai predicted the world would be a different place after it moves past the coronavirus emergency. He said businesses and institutions would increasingly move to digital work, especially in education, entertainment and medicine. “These changes will be significant, and lasting,” he said.

First published on April 28, 2020 at 1:12 p.m. PT.

Google to cut marketing budgets for second half of year, report says

The news comes a week after CEO Sundar Pichai told employees the company is slowing down hiring.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on the economy, Google is cutting its marketing budgets by as much as half for the second half of 2020, according to a report Thursday by CNBC.

The news comes a week after CEO Sundar Pichai told employees the company is slowing down hiring for the remainder of the year, as the search giant focuses on a few important categories. 

“As we outlined last week, we are re-evaluating the pace of our investment plans for the remainder of 2020 and will focus on a select number of important marketing efforts,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday. “We continue to have a robust marketing budget, particularly in digital, in many business areas.”

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

While people all over the world shelter in place to combat the spread of COVID-19, the global economy faces a downturn. The tech industry, with giant corporations that have at times been valued at more than $1 trillion, hasn’t been immune. Google and Facebook could face slumps in advertising — the lifeblood of both companies — as travel and entertainment ads disappear and people cancel trips and vacations. 

Google is set to announce its first quarter earnings on Tuesday, giving the public its first look at what effects the pandemic might be having on the search giant’s business. 

Last week, Pichai said Google would “dial back” plans in areas that aren’t critical to the company’s success. He said the company had hired 20,000 people in 2019, and would’ve been poised for similar growth this year. People who have already been hired, he said, could also see delays in starting work because of difficulties in providing them with training or equipment, like laptops or security keys.

Source : C|net

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