Google has brought an end to its effectively “unlimited” group video calls in Meet for free Gmail accounts, according to support pages spotted by 9to5Google. Now users with free accounts logging on to Meet will have group calls capped at an hour rather than the previous 24-hour meeting duration. Google’s unlimited group meeting offer was helpful because so many traditionally in-person functions moved online due to COVID-19. Not having to worry about a call cutting out or creating new meeting links meant you could leave your video call on during long family get-togethers.
Meet was opened up to non-enterprise users in April last year to better compete with Zoom, and at the time Google promised to keep unlimited meetings in place until September 30th, 2020. The company later extended that window into March of 2021, and then again until the end of June. Google still allows one-on-one calls to last as long as you need, but heading into the second pandemic summer, longer group calls will now cost extra — like a currently $7.99 per month subscription to Google’s Workspace Individual tier ($9.99 a month after January 2022).
Like Google, Zoom’s one-on-one calls are unlimited and free, but group calls have been handled differently. Zoom has periodically expanded beyond its 40-minute meeting limit during specific holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams all started out as business communications products that were adopted by non-business users in the early days of the pandemic. Now that some of the freebies are going away, it’ll be interesting to see which services people stick with.