You may have heard that Zoom has had some problems in the last few weeks as millions of people try to figure out the best way to keep working remotely. I won't rehash them all here since I've covered most of them already. Of course, I wasn't the only one to notice. Google has apparently been paying attention too, and is now the search giant is making changes to its Meet video conferencing platform that may make Zoom completely irrelevant.
For example, Google is adding the ability to view 16 participant windows at one time in Meet. That layout has been available on Zoom for years, and it makes it far easier to hold larger group meetings. The company has also expanded the features available during the current Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting surge in remote working. The company is also allowing larger meetings, even on lower-tier plans.
Google is also making it easier to make or join Meet calls directly from Gmail. Considering the number of businesses that already use Gmail for their company email, this could actually be a game-changer.
One of the reasons that companies like Google (and Microsoft, for that matter) present an existential threat to Zoom is that millions of companies already have access to Google Meet through their G Suite subscription. The company appears to be making Google Meet as frictionless as possible for G Suite users, which would eliminate the need for Zoom and its associated security issues.
Of course, let's be honest--it's not so much that Google is trying to save us from anything. Google is merely doing what smart businesses do: seize opportunites. And there has never been a bigger opportunity to be in the videoconferencing business than right now. Google certainly has the engineering resources to quickly build out the features users want, especially when it means the possibility of taking share from the competition.
And Google appears to be in a position to do some damage. The company told Reuters that it is adding 2 million users a day and that it has over 100 million education users in 150 countries.
In the past, Zoom attracted customers because it was so easy to install, setup, and use. That lack of friction, however, also led to the security and privacy concerns that are now causing so many issues. Now that it's had to make changes, competitors have taken aim at the features users have grown to like.
And Google's strategy has worked. Sure, Zoom has seen extraordinary growth during the past month, but it's also faced intense criticism. That criticism has led some organizations to ban its use. For example, New York City Public Schools switched from Zoom to Google Meet due to the string of high-profile privacy problems the former has faced.
Ironically, Google isn't exactly known as the most privacy-forward tech company. In fact, it makes a lot of money by gathering activity and personal information and using it to display targeted advertisements. As a result, it has faced plenty of criticism of its own.
But with Google, you at least have the confidence that your meetings are secure and won't be invaded by "Zoombombers." In fact, with Google Meet, only invited guests are able to join a meeting, and then only if they're logged in. That's in contrast to Zoom, which allows anyone with a meeting ID to join unless you use a password or other features like a waiting room.
Here's the bottom line: Google is doing what every smart business should be doing right now. It's making its products easier to use and more helpful at the same time. Global pandemic or not, that's a pretty good strategy.