Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Google Chrome will soon offer yet another alternative to Zoom with free video calls

Google Chrome will soon offer free video calls thanks to a new web app that will let you hold 12-person chats in your browser. The new feature comes courtesy of Google Duo, which has been around since 2016, but until now has only been available for mobile devices.

Now, Google has announced that it's bringing the casual conversation app to the desktop, starting with a preview for Chrome. You can sign up for Duo for Web right now using your mobile phone number, and Google says that a full launch will take place "in the coming weeks".

While the likes of Skype and Zoom are handy for both work and play, Duo is designed specifically for casual chats with family and friends. There are various masks and filters to liven up calls, and as ZDNet reports, one of the latest additions to the mobile app is a dedicated family mode that lets you send colorful doodles while you're speaking.

There's also no mute button in Google Duo's family mode, which is intended to avoid conversations being interrupted accidentally by a wayward click or tap.

It's not yet clear how many of these features will be brought to Duo for web, but sketches seem like a natural fit for a larger screen.

Decisions, decisions...

For businesses that need a free video conferencing tool (and don't want their employees messing about with astronaut filters), Google recently announced that it's making Google Meet free for anyone with a Google account.

Meet was originally only available to paying G-Suite customers, and allows up to 100 people to join a call for up to 24 hours (compared to just 40 minutes with the free version of Zoom). This will eventually drop to one hour, but not until September 30.

With WhatsApp Web soon to offer video conferencing for up to 50 people via Facebook Messenger Rooms, and new tools like Twilio arriving on the scene, there are now so many free options available, the hardest part might be making sure everyone agrees which one to use.

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