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Comment: Now that it’s free, Google Meet needs to copy Zoom’s account-less participation

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Google has pushed a lot of resources into improving its Meet — formerly Hangouts Meet — video calling service. Today, Google Meet has gone free for everyone, but it’s still missing one of the biggest features that made Zoom so popular.

Zoom has exploded in popularity over the past few months, and while Google Meet has also grown, the service always faced the roadblock that it wasn’t free to use. You had to be a G Suite account holder to access the service, something that requires a monthly subscription.  Now, Google has announced that Meet is free for everyone with a Gmail address, but it’s still not copying Zoom’s lack of an account requirement.

If you want to join a Google Meet call even after the service becomes free in the next few days, you’ll still be required to have a Google account. That’s regardless of whether you’re setting up the call or just joining it.

By contrast, Zoom has long made it possible to join a meeting without any type of account.

If you want to join a Zoom call, you just click a link, enter a name and/or password, and you’re in. Have an account? Great, you can skip entering your name, but that’s the only big difference in the experience. Only the host — the person who started the call — needs to have a Zoom account (whether that be paid or using Zoom’s free tier). Just recently, Skype copied that exact same option, too.

google meet free account

Why is Google requiring a Google account for Meet calls? That requirement has always been a part of the service, but it sounds like the company doesn’t want to budge on it.

In a blog post, Google pitches the account requirement as a security feature, playing off the security concerns Zoom has dealt with over the past several weeks. That’s reasoning I take issue with, personally. “Zoombombing,” admittedly, was made possible in part due to Zoom’s lack of an account requirement, but the simplest of security measures such as a password-protected meeting or waiting room — both default settings on Zoom, now — greatly take away the chances of a disruption or unwanted guest.

This is a simple case of the pros outweighing the cons. Yes, requiring a Google account would help with security a bit. However, it also presents a barrier of entry to the people without a Google account, and that’s a whole lot of people, too.

Personally, I was tasked with finding a solution for video conferencing with hundreds of people, very few of whom I knew had probably never even used a video conferencing tool. I wanted to use Google Meet at first, even when it was paid, but I wrote it off because of the account requirement. Zoom was an immediately more attractive option for this reason because it just requires less work to instruct people on how to use it.

Zoom is popular for the simple fact that it had the fewest barriers of entry. Don’t want to pay? Fine! Here’s a free meeting with a few limits. Don’t want an account? No problem, only the host needs one. Google Meet is catching up to Zoom in a big way by making the service free for everyone, but requiring an account is still going to limit the service.

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