Google’s decision to make Meet free for all isn’t charity — it’s effective marketing

google, marketing, zoom, video call, meet

Google surely knows how to capitalize on the string of security nightmares Zoom has been dealing with and the recent coronavirus-induced work-from-home situation.

The Mountain View giant announced it’s making its video conferencing service Google Meet free for everyone for the time being. The video call tool will gradually become available over the next few days, the company says.

Starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to our business and education users, such as simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to your preference, including an expanded tiled view,” said G Suite VP Javier Soltero in a blog post.

The rest of the announcement emphasizes how safe Meet is, and how it was built with security in mind. We all know what that’s about.

I’m not going to defend Zoom. It’s a security mess as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never been a fan of its user interface either.

Google Meet is, quite frankly, a viable alternative. Its interface is simple and you can use it with a Google account, which most of us already have.

That said, there are reasons why you should opt for something else, like Jitsi Meet, which is open-source, end-to-end encrypted, and doesn’t require an account to use.

For one, relying on products by smaller developer studios drives competition, which in turn can lead to better products. Also, Google is not exactly a saint when it comes to user privacy, even though I’m willing to believe it’s a safer alternative to Zoom.

And while I appreciate its decision to make a piece of paid software free for everyone, I’m not for one second convinced this is anything else but a temporary measure. It’s a good marketing tactic to steal Zoom’s “shine” and introduce more users to yet another service it eventually plans to charge you for.

Feel free to take advantage of the offer, as chances are most people will find Meet the easiest to use. But don’t be fooled: You’re still the product.

Read next: Uber’s longest-serving exec quits, while coronavirus threatens 5,000 jobs

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