If you aren’t already familiar, Zoom video chats have completely taken the world by storm in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, there have been some issues with the service and user data sharing, but Zoom has done a good job at trying to combat the negative press and is hard at work to fix the issues that still persist. By all measures, Zoom was thrust into the limelight much sooner than anyone would have ever anticipated, and that sort of growth can lead to blemishes showing up quite a bit more frequently and fragrantly than anticipated.
With the hiccups along the way, however, Zoom has left the door wide open for competing services to continue to gain traction. Players like Skype and Google Meet (formerly Hangouts Meet) already have built-in audiences and expanded feature sets in light of the pandemic: all they need is a chance to shine. Having been in multiple Zoom meetings in the past few weeks, I can attest to the fact that Google Meet is a superior product in all the ways that matter. From call quality to the polished, web-based UI, Google Meet just feels like a more solid option for those who choose to use it.
However, there is one feature of Zoom that I’ve actually grown to like and it is something you can’t do out of the box with Meet. When in a call, no matter how you lay out your other callers, Meet simply keeps your own camera view minimized in a tiny window up in the right-hand corner. Until I used Zoom, I didn’t really think much of this. However, after using it quite a few times, I’ve grown fond of being able to see my own feed right along with everyone else via Zoom’s default grid view. I’m not sure if it is the feeling of inclusion or simply the ability to keep an eye on my camera so I know I’m not making weird faces; I just like having my camera feed equally represented in the chat alongside the other participants on my screen.
Up to this point, you don’t have this basic option in Meet. Thanks to a nice little extension built just for this purpose, however, you now can have that Zoom-like layout with little fuss in Google Meet. The extension’s name is Google Meet Grid View and, like its title, this extension is here to do one very simple task. After installing the extension, you will have a new set of options right at the top of your chat that allow you to enable the grid view and make some other selections on how you would like your layout to function. Options include only showing users with video in the grid and highlighting those currently speaking.
Hiding the extension from the top bar of your Chrome browser saves you some space and honestly doesn’t impede on functionality at all as all the abilities of the plugin are accessible from your Google Meet window. With this all in place, the layout and feel of your Meet takes on a decidedly Zoom-like feel but retains the stability, privacy, and quality of Google’s servers. It’s worth noting that the webRTC protocol all of these chat services are running on was developed by Google, so it stands to reason that their service will always be just a bit better at delivering video chats on the web.
While I wish this fantastic service was freely available to all Google users, all it takes is one person with a G Suite account to open up the chat and everyone else can join with or without need of a Google account. For those of us already using Meet as the go-to video chat client, this is a nice improvement to the already-great usability of the service. The Google Meet Grid View extension is available in the Chrome Web Store and should work on all versions of Chrome on the desktop.