Tech

Google unlocks Hangouts Meet premium features in response to coronavirus

G Suite customers can host large video conferences for free through July 1st.

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The coronavirus outbreak is leading many companies to halt business travel and enact work-from-home policies, and Google in its typical altruistic fashion wants to help make such remote work easier. Starting this week through July 1st, G Suite and G Suite for Education customers can access Hangouts Meet's premium functionality for free. Hangouts Meet is Google's video and audio meeting software aimed at large groups.

The unlock means customers will be able to host virtual meetings with up to 250 people and live streams with up to 100,000 viewers. They can also record the events and save them to Google Drive for free.

"As more employees, educators, and students work remotely in response to the spread of COVID-19, we want to do our part to help them stay connected and productive," Google said in a blog post. "We're committed to supporting our users and customers during this challenging time, and are continuing to scale our infrastructure to support greater Hangouts Meet demand, ensuring streamlined, reliable access to the service throughout this period."

Hangouts could address a need to isolate — Google, like many other companies, has responded to the outbreak — which does not yet have a vaccine — by canceling its public events and banning employees from international business travel until further notice. There are now more than 80,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and more than 3,000 dead worldwide, with cases starting to appear in the U.S.

By reducing travel and human-to-human contact, companies hope to reduce the risk of employees being exposed to the virus. Today we have many software applications, from Slack to Zoom, tailored to remote work, so getting work done from a distance should be easier than it might've been during past epidemics.