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Google is capping Meet’s group video calls to an hour for free accounts (theverge.com)
199 points by BlackPlot 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 143 comments

From 2020-04-29: https://blog.google/products/meet/bringing-google-meet-to-mo...

> Until now, Meet has only been available as part of G Suite, our collaboration and productivity solution for businesses, organizations and schools. Going forward, Meet will be available to anyone for free on the web at meet.google.com and via mobile apps for iOS or Android.

> Meetings are limited to 60 minutes for the free product, though we won’t enforce this time limit until after Sept. 30.

This is clearly stated as the intended policy at the launch of the free version. They temporarily lifted this restriction at launch due to COVID. They then delayed enforcing this restriction by ~9 months, because guessing the future of COVID was hard, especially in April 2020.

They also launched Google Workspace for Individuals in some countries, which grants access to unlimited Google Meet calls (and other perks) for a monthly fee as well.

Oh, it's only available in some countries? That explains why the docs reference options that don't exist!


> Workspace Individual is available in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan and coming soon to Australia.

I signed up recently from NL and half of their signup flow was pushing me towards personal workspaces, but I never got the option to actually select them. Was very confusing.

So this news story is meaningless?

It's not meaningless. It's an opportunity for HN to complain about the shutdown of Google Reader

Ah, see I was going to take the opportunity to complain about shutting down the gateway from Hangouts to Google Voice!

I'm a Fi customer with an iPhone, and when April of this year rolled around, I was living juuuust outside of cell service, thus relying heavily on Hangouts to forward SMS and provide voice calls.

Google was supposed to replace this with something called, I believe, Messages by Google. But somehow they didn't manage to release this for iPhone... like ever as far as I can tell? Or at least not so far.

So I was stranded without the ability to make voice calls for two months. Paying customer mind you.

To be fair, Fi was an amazing deal when I was doing a lot of international travel, and I've stuck with it because the pay-as-you go aspect is still pretty nice (and because international travel will presumably return someday).

But part of me wishes that after Reader was canceled I had just pronounced anathema on the whole company.

good one :)

I’m pretty sure this is another Google branding thing. I’ve been using it for free as “Hangouts Meet” for years. Now it’s just “Meet” and there’s no personal version anymore.

I am losing track of things. In a personal Gmail account, I now have two options for video calls, Hangouts and Meet, listed separately in the l/h nav bar.

This is also the case for a corporate Gmail account.

Product has never been Google's strong suit, but I'm in awe of how incredibly poor their messaging/communication product strategy has been over the last decade. They had a decade long headstart and they more than squandered it through the selective application of neglect where attention was needed and attention where things were already great.

It's one of the most confusing things I've ever seen in a Google product.

At some point I accepted a clickthrough and Hangouts disappeared from my Gmail. I've been using it for years to stay in touch with my parents, now they still see Hangouts and can call me on it, but I have no way to initiate a call with them except by sending them a text chat with a link to a meet?! That's useless, it doesn't make a ringing sound on their end. Personal video calls are not corporate meetings!

I sort of defaulted to using Hangouts for a long time because I used to work on Gmail. The current state of things is embarrassing for Google - I have literally no idea how to do video calls with my parents using Google products now (as they can last longer than an hour and we don't set a fixed time for them, just a date). There's this thing called Duo but it's mobile only, or at least tied to mobiles, but my parents use their computer to do video calls so I don't know what to tell them to do.

I'll probably just look for some alternative. Maybe Skype still exists and works well? Does anyone have any recommendations?

Not really. I wasn't aware they had read the point where it was going to be limited again, but it was always the plan to limit it again at some point.

Of course with Teams and now Facetime essentially free (as long as at least on in the group has an iPad, iPhone or Mac) I doubt it will make that much of a difference.

The article contains that information. Were you trying to highlight anything specific?

> They temporarily lifted this restriction at launch due to COVID.

due to Zoom. Covid was just a pretext. Google aggressively pushed Meet everywhere because Zoom posed a threat to them.

I don’t understand what is difficult with WebRTC videos. It seems they should push the service to everyone, unauthenticated, until Zoom is dead, if Zoom is a threat.

Whereby does it…

> I don’t understand what is difficult with WebRTC videos.

It is difficult to scale a pure p2p model to multiple participants. Each participant would need to create multiple WebRTC streams, one for each participant. So if some call has 10 participants, each one of them would need to broadcast 9 streams and receive 9 streams with the assumption that each one of them have their microphone and cameras turned on. This would consume a lot of CPU and bandwidth. There are alternate models where you send your stream to a central server, and that server distributes the stream to other participants. This reduces the CPU and bandwidth required per participant, but requires a central server. This looks like the model google follows. So I don't think keeping such a service unauthenticated would be a good idea.

I’d pay extra to have my meetings capped to half an hour.

At the previous company I worked for, we had a meeting secretary and a hard agenda that was decided before each meeting (a Google doc). Everyone added items to the agenda, an estimated time, and made sure the total was less than 45 min.

The secretary made sure to keep the discussion on-topic and that we stuck to the times. If an item needed more discussion, we'd either have a breakout meeting or add it to the agenda of the next meeting (in the front of the queue).

This made meetings almost enjoyable, and is still the best meeting experience I've ever had.

Somewhat regarding meeting length. I learned in Marine boot camp that if a group is asked, "any questions?" that first, you do not say, "No" because then anyone with a question can't be heard. Second, under virtually no circumstances should you actually ask a question.

Obviously the second has its exceptions, but for the general meeting where everyone is present, a question should be confined to something relevant to everyone at the meeting. Instead, what some people here is, "What would you personally like me to discuss with you?"

under virtually no circumstances should you actually ask a question

Its funny, as this advice is the opposite of the advice we got when doing engineering onboarding at Google in 2013. They told us that if we have a question in a meeting, go ahead and ask it. The reasoning is that its likely that many other people have the same question and will benefit from the answer, but were too shy to ask it themselves.

Different target audiences, I guess :)

There's a difference between teaching to a group and working as a team.

I'd expect almost everything said in "engineering onboarding" to be equally relevant for all of an homogeneous group of new recruits who have the same questions and varying ideas about their importance and obviousness.

On the other hand a meeting in the Marines is likely to be about the respective orders and status reports of several people, with everybody having different problems that should be discussed individually.

I should have been clear. The advice to ask questions in meetings pertained to all meetings at Google, not to the short onboarding session.

I don't really agree with this.

We have this issue a lot with our standups.

The wording we've agreed on is "can I talk to anyone later about xxx?"

Where you agree to take something offline, but don't necessarily who to talk to it about or if it's appropriate to the whole group.

It's actually pretty weird thinking about how much time effort and sweat that was put in into coming up with those exact words.

Hmm, that's interesting, maybe the question should be changed to "any questions relevant to the entire group?".

I'm not sure it would matter. It's the same people every time. I really don't mind a legitimate question, that isn't relevant by someone who genuinely is lost. It's the person who wants to work out their personal project with 40 people in attendance. Some three letter acronym, older US companies seem to be more prone to collecting these people, but they exist everywhere.

Possible responses: "That is beyond the scope of this meeting." "Let's take this offline."

"You need to talk to Dave." - bonus if Dave knows nothing about it - double bonus if Dave does not exist

I will use this, complete with the name "Dave".

Triple bonus if you work at a Perl shop since they seem to proliferate with Daves?

I’d pay extra to be absent and imitated by an AI perfectly trained to behave as me, based on the sheer amount of data they have on me already.

The problem is that any AI able to perfectly imitate my behavior would also be me and doesn't want to be stuck in that meeting, either.

Remeniscent of the "Duplicator" storyline from Calvin and Hobbes https://calvinandhobbes.fandom.com/wiki/Duplicator

All I want is an AI that tries to unmute itself a few times and plays noise for a bit when my name is mentioned and then stays on mute until the rest of the meeting.

OBS Studio totally needs a "British Rail announcement" audio input filter. "T-Mobile phone in Tippecanoe County, Indiana" would be good, too.

Ah, yes, the Decoy Rick problem.

Eventually meetings would be nothing but AIs talking with each other

AI will take over the world sooner than we expected. I imagine the G7 with realistic avatars.

Wouldn't work. AIs might actually accomplish something. Everyone would immediately know its fake.

Depending on the level of necessary engagement, you might be able to automate at least all of the large meetings with ease. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-VCzLiyFxc

This, but for my whole job :)

It'll work great until one day the AI responds to a simple question by regurgitating every line of dialogue Samuel L. Jackson ever spoke.

PM: "Why did we miss the sprint commitment?"

AI (in Samuel L. Jackson's voice): "Legacy code motherf****r"

This could be awesome.

Be careful what you wish for.

My opinion is that if programmers are replaced by an AI, then almost everyone will be fucked too, so why stress.

Free Zoom version have a 40 min cap. The problem is that when you organise yourself some amount of crashes or connection losses they sometimes make your meeting unlimited as a "compensation" that you didn't ask.

This is a nice benefit of not having an upgraded zoom account! All meetings are capped at 40 minutes, which is a perfect amount of time

I really think that it should be more common to limit meetings to around this length, or at least have a five minute break every 40 minutes or so. My team's weekly meeting has got inexorably longer as the business has grown which in all other ways is a huge positive, but it's a real struggle to meaningfully engage with an 80 minute long meeting once you're past an hour in my opinion.

That gave me a good laugh, thank you.

1 hour unlimited participants group video call is fair. Google is a business and Meet must justify it's investment.

I am vary of BigCorpGoogleApple as much as the next HNer, but this seems fair to me.

Or perhaps my expectations were so low anticipating another product shut down ;)

Can’t wait till I have to click “skip ads” twice during a meeting.

"Google Fi, Listen to my badly rhythmed jingle. Using buzzwords from a corporate meeting!"

Zoom is pretty close, they require lots of training data (captcha) to join each meeting.

the fun part is when the group call is interrupted by an ad based of a participants browsing habits

"30% of our special ointment just for you!"

We have the technology to run different ads for each person.

But then you are in the middle of a presentation (screen sharing).

Product placement within the presentation itself. Or interstitials between slides.

are you sure?

Charging is fair but the entire model of free service that turns into premium after a critical mass leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I'm not sure how you could sensibly guard against this behavior but it seems anticompetitive.

> Charging is fair but the entire model of free service that turns into premium after a critical mass leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It was clear that Meet for individuals' limits were waived due to COVID-19. They have done an announcement about lifting the limits and even stated that it was originally slated to end at September 30 last year. I was a bit surprised they extended it though.

In Google's defense, they aren't the market leader, that's zoom, they are the market challenger. So by definition, they can't be anti-competitive in the market of video conferencing tools, even though Google's otherwise enormous.

You can definitely be anti-competitive as a market challenger. Uber (with their subsidised fairs) would the obvious example of that.

If anything, Uber was competitive instead of anti-competitive. Anti-competitive by definition only applies to potential monopoly.

see FTC: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/anticompetitive-practices

Predatory pricing is the usual term.

Maybe Google should get a huge fine or be split for being a monopoly that uses it's market position to under-price the actual cost of providing services such as e-mail, video calls, etc.

If Google wasn't dumping prices this way there would already be great alternative services that provide this, but it's hard for someone else to have a selling point when there's a huge conglomerate basically providing this service for free.

I would say generally I am happy where this is going. The more Google makes decisions like these the more opportunities there are for customers to learn what they are actually "paying" for and they would be more willing to give away money for a better service.

For a relatively low cost you can already get an account from Zoom, WebEx, or the like for a low price.

Microsoft even offers options through Skype (although it's limited to 100 people and the calls are limited to 4 hours), and Teams Personal accounts also allow free calls with similar limits.

Since these various services seem to be doing fine, it's hard to say there's a problem with competition in this space right now.

Skype is all good and fun, until you just want to exit the application.

For the down-voters, I was pointing to the anti patterns employed by the developers to make it just about impossible at first sight to exit. You can't right click the task bar, there's no option on the file menu to exit.

You actually have to sign out first. THEN you are given the option to exit the app. Before I discovered this, it was enough for me to uninstall the app. I have no idea why you'd make it this hard to just exit an app.

(My son uses it to talk to his friends across the world, and for him it works great; that's why I opened with "it's all good and fun".)

100 people, 4 hours.. that’s not a call, that’s a conference.

Similar vibes from that Brennan Lee Mulligan's Skype CEO impression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI0w_pwZY3E

Yes but what about when we need all hands on deck to brainstorm synergy ideas Bob? Better call a meeting with everybody.

So, Google should stop dumping and raise prices or remove features sure as calls lasting for more than one hour from the free version...?

Yes, it’s going to be way better for the diversity of products offered on the market. Probably not for long-term Google strategy.

They should have charged for this feature. People I know would have paid a bomb for a feature that put hard limits on call duration.

Make it part of google one. "Buy any google one storage plan and get google meet for free". At least then they can tie it to something people are used to paying for.

If it would be seen as a luxury service people might want to pay for it, in spite of it actually being cheaper for Google to supply.


This is good. It's a sign that Google is actually moving Meet towards a sustainable business model.

Until they kill it, and replace it with a new chat/videocall product, again.

This product is how Alphabet itself gets all its business done, so that seems unlikely. Could it be replaced with something similar in the longer term future, like the Hangouts -> Meet transition? Sure. But that transition was pretty easy since it was still the same accounts on both ends, which would be true of any future Meet transition as well.

I think what OP specifically meant is that it's a first they actually charge for a product like this, so your predicted outcome is less likely.

The problem with google killing and making new "same" products is not monetization, but internal power struggles, where noone wants to be just a maintainer, but every boss wants to be the one to bring a new product out, even if it essentially does the same thing as before.

It's at least partly about monetisation. Nobody is worried about Google discontinuing their search or ad businesses.

Diane is basically running the business now and the vision is fairly clear at his point. I doubt that will be happening for meet. Google is organizing itself around key verticals (websearch, cloud, media, office/collab, and devices). Meet is a key feature for their office suite.

Diane Greene left Google over two years ago.

Meet, until April or so last year, was always a part of the paid Google Workspace product. They only just turned on actual free access to people without Workspace accounts.

Overall its probably one of Google's best products IMO. It has enough functionality to be useful, but in general just gets out of your way and lets you get on with talking to people.

I use https://meet.jit.si

It's open-source, you don't need to sign-in, and in my experience it survives bad connections better than Google Meet.

Been a fan of Jitsi, but switched our group lunch meetings over to Meet a year ago because one coworker was having quality issues. Now that his entire network at home has been replaced (Ruckus AP, symmetric gigabit fiber ISP, AP moved to a better location), we're just on Meet because that's the URL we are in the habit of going to.

We were hoping to have some of the Meet features to filter out background noise, but our old Google Business account is grandfathered in as free, but doesn't get those upgrades apparently.

Yeah they are no longer allowing unlimited time because covid seems to be coming to a close (or at least the USA is treating it like it is). It wasnt free before. I don't love the move but it's not surprising at all.

If I can suggest a change to the title for clarity (and still remaining in the character limit): "Google is capping free Meet's formerly unlimited group calls to an hour". Not perfect but more clear.

"Google is implementing its previously-announced one-hour cap"

Zoom caps to 40 minutes and has an easy "upgrade now or this meeting will end" button. Very effective conversion tool.

Ugh, wish it were 70-75 minutes to account for meetings that run over...

(Please no hate, I'm just being practical - high value conversation can happen in the final minutes and if participants aren't running off to another meeting, then it's best to just give them a few extra minutes)

Even a 60 minute cap is generous. If they made it 75 minutes why would anyone ever pay for it? The point of the cap is to be annoying enough to temp and upgrade without making the service unusable.

I believe the goal for Google isn't to make money but deter abuse.

It’s to avoid “hanging out” on Hangouts, er, Meet, and instead use it for Meet-ing. It steers the product.

If you can't finish your meeting in 60 minutes, you won't finish it in 75. Set the meeting length to 55 minutes. Use the 5 minutes to take water/bathroom break before the next meeting.

Set meetings for 50 minutes. Overrun problem solved.

Is this maybe to lend a bump to their new 'Individual' Google Workspace Plan? [1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27831735

Can’t there be just another meeting back to back ? After ending the first ?

Try our free demo (uncapped for the near future) with collaborative plugins at demo.dyte.io (YC W21)

Google Meets is not as good as Zoom for our major use case: multiple couples of family or friends, each with a laptop.

If you try this with Google, at least when we used it, it didn't have multi-display: You could only see the "main group" talking, which might be someone laughing or ruffling a bag of crisps. Furthermore, the sound quality was straight up worse than Zoom, borderline inaudible with the same equipment Zoom gets.

Honest question: When did you last try using Google Meet for this purpose?

At the beginning of 2020, I agree with you that Google Meet was a pile of hot garbage.

It got drastically better at everything you mentioned throughout 2020 (when I assume people at Google had to actually start using it regularly).

I'm surprised anyone would ever want to use Google Meet, but now Google wants you to pay for it. Oh the irony.

Unlimited time version is available if adsense ads, and voice & video recording with telemetry is permitted for all users. */S*

just a reminder jitsi still has an unlimited free tier

Vesy good

And noone was surprised

So, about a year and a half until Meet is canned?

This is entirely due to the record meeting feature has been decimating their google drive infrastructure.

I don't know a single person (personal or business) that uses Google Meet. I'm in the UK though - it it popular in the US or elsewhere?

The last 2 companies I've worked at in the UK have used G Suite / Workspace and therefore Meet. It integrates well and runs well in the browser. No complaints here.

> ... and runs well in the browser.

On Chrome on Windows. Otherwise it turns on the jet engine mode on laptop cooling / energy consumption.

I use Google Meet on Firefox on Linux, and haven't noticed any excessive power use; and the laptop fan stays slow.

In fact, of the video conference systems I have used at work, Google Meet is the only one that works perfectly on Firefox, without having to use Chromium or even a dedicated flatpak package.

It used to be pretty bad on Firefox Linux but for the pass couple of months it runs well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Meet claims (with citations)

> During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the use of Meet grew by a factor of 30 between January and April 2020, with 100 million users a day accessing Meet, compared to 200 million daily uses for Zoom as of the last week of April 2020.

Can this sudden growth be mostly attributed to opening up Google Classroom?

Over here I've seen schools going from zero online infrastructure to using Google Classroom in a week. Teachers and students started using Meet since there was nothing in place before.

I can't really imagine millions of businesses suddenly jumping onto G Suite. They just scaled up their existing collaborating tools, and Office 365 with Teams is absolutely killing it among SMBs.

That's nuts - 100 million users and I don't see a single one. Crazy how enormous ecosystems can grow and still be outside of one's radar.

We were a small tech company before being acquired and used Meet (and GSuite). It worked fine, but what I liked the most is that it's built around the browser with nothing to install. Click link, in a meeting. Now we use Zoom a bit more, but I have yet to ever use MS Teams.

What other product people in the UK use, then?

For business it's a pretty even split between Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Some still uses Skype for Business - which as you can imagine is a pretty awful experience. Note that we work with global financial services organisations with fairly strict infosec policies and antiquated architectures.

For personal video calls it's Zoom, WhatsApp video or Facetime.

Having worked until recently for a European bank, they were still using Skype for Business, and I agreed it was a horrific experience. Naturally they now migrate to Microsoft Teams.

I agree with others in this thread, however, that Meet is quite popular in US otherwise. I guess it's because pretty much everyone here has a GMail account, and it's super easy to get everyone join the meeting without any hassle.

We use it daily. Teams is still the most popular by far among our costumers here in Denmark, but I see Meet much more often than Zoom.

It is one of Googles better products, but for all we know Google Meet and Teams could be the same product with a different skin. They work very similar, have mostly the same features and work much the same.

My children's school district uses meet and google classroom. I think it's pretty common in schools in the US.

It is very common. My child's school district used Google Meet for remote learning during the last school year. They also give all students a Chromebook.

It is very popular with smaller companies that already pay for gsuite where I am in Colombia. It is well integrated out of the box with the tools you are already using.

In our case we use Meet for around 95% of day to day calls. Zoom for more conference style calls.

We have a diverse mix of operating systems, and it least in my experience Meet is the one that works best in browsers by far. Especially since you don't have to jump trough hoops actually using the browser version.

Google Workspace is the default option for most small tech companies in India.

The company I work for is in the UK and uses Meet. My last one did as well.

I used to use Meet for most calls. I found there were more technical and quality issues than Zoom or, for quick internal calls, Slack.

On almost every two person Meet call one of us would have some kind of technical issue. Not working with the correct mic, video not working until the browser was restarted, etc.

I know many public schools used it for classes as many schools already had G Suite. My friend taught his class on it (the latency and audio dropouts were terrible, FWIW, but much of that may have been the poor internet of the kids).

Meet has been the most popular tool in the companies I've worked for (in the Benelux and Portugal), followed by Webex. Never met anyone using Teams. That said, I've mostly worked for small-to-medium companies.

It replaced LifeSize for town halls at my old company (London, fintech) during lockdown. We used LifeSize in part because of the various integrations and dedicated hardware.

It tends to not get blocked in places where other video chat like Skype and WhatsApp Video are blocked by the government, such as the UAE.

I imagine a lot of businesses who use google workspace use it as it's bundled (why pay for zoom, teams etc. on top).

How many meetings go on more than an hour?

Does the time limit really save Google much bandwidth/cpu/money?

Is this just to prevent people who use it as a baby monitor? Or perhaps the limit is just to persuade people to start paying for Google Apps for your Worksuite?

In a company where everyone is working from home Meet is used for much more than meetings - we regularly use it for pair programming which can run all day, and product development workshops which are very hard to fit into a single hour. Way back when I even once used it as the only remote employee in an otherwise co-located office as a telepresence solution, with a constantly open call to the main office so that people didn't forget I existed (protip: don't be the only remote employee in a colocated company).

Even if 99% of meetings are less than an hour, occasionally people will want to do two-hour pair programming sessions, all-day training courses, meetings where people can connect 15 minutes early to check their equipment works, and suchlike.

A lot of people will pay $$$ to avoid needing something different for that 1% of their needs - just like people will choose a 300-mile-range electric car when 99% of their journeys are <100 miles.

> Or perhaps the limit is just to persuade people to start paying for Google Apps for your Worksuite?

I'd say this is the case. Individuals might work around the limit, but companies will be persuaded to pay even if most meetings are under 1h.

I work in a large company and I very rarely see meetings that last less than 1 hour.

The issue is nobody really read terms & conditions expecting that Meet will go the way all Google communication apps went.

Now that it proved useful for some people, people are expecting that it will stay the way it made it useful.

But it will not, limited free calls means less usage, and Google will eventually shut it down.

It's funny that a company with unlimited resources can't be successful in creating something that is basically a commodity and a solved problem.

Limited to an hour is hardly "no free calls".

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