Just this week the news broke here and everywhere that Google was branching Hangouts into two standalone apps for G Suite users: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat.
We gave Meet a try yesterday and wanted to share the experience of getting up and running.
Simplicity Will Be Key
Let’s face it: simple wins with these types of ventures.
Regardless of your video chat app of choice, you’ve surely run into issues here and there. One user didn’t download the right app. Another’s device isn’t fast enough to handle the processor load. Another doesn’t have the right account or account type.
There are all sorts of things that make video chat a bit of a hurdle and why things like Facetime (and Duo, to some extent) have found some foothold. Both of those general consumer apps work with minimal setup and resources.
Open the app and confirm your phone number and you are ready to call. Call people with a phone number, email, or other account. The choice is yours. They are simple and effective at what they do.
Granted, both of those apps serve a one-to-one call, so that removes certain complexities.
What Google is attempting with Hangouts Meet is far more ambitious. And it seems they are pulling it off.
How It Works
Sure, there are apps (just search for Hangouts Meet), but the real beauty here is the web portal.
Navigate over to meet.google.com and you’ll be ready to start.
One note: your G Suite Admin will need to click on a little check box in the settings for your accounts in order for you to start meetings from the app or the site. Without this, chats can only be initiated via Calendar events and invites. See the image below which can be found by going to your G Suite Admin > Apps > G Suite > Google Talk/Hangouts > Meet Settings
Once there, make sure the account shown in the upper left section is your G Suite account. I have 3-4 Google accounts I use regularly, so this will only work fully with a G Suite account if you are trying to initiate a meeting. As we’ll see in a second, literally anyone can join a meeting.
Once all that is in place, here’s what you should see:
So, as long as your account admin has done their job, the steps so far are: go to meet.google.com and sign in with your G Suite account.
Starting a Chat
Now, you simply need to hit that ‘Start a New Meeting’ button on the right. This will load up the pre-chat screen where you can see the link to the chat and set any mute buttons. This is where Chrome will ask if it can use your microphone and camera for the call.
You can copy that chat link now or grab it later, but that link can be shared with anyone and with it, they can hop into the chat as well. Standard G Suite accounts allow up to 25 (25!!!) people in the chat. Enterprise level accounts go up to 30.
Now, just click ‘Join Meeting’ and you are in the room. If you initiated, you are the only one there until you invite some others.
Once again, that is as simple as sharing the short link that can now be obtained by clicking ‘More Details’ in the lower left part of the chat window.
Simple With Great Features
Probably the best part of this newer setup is the low barrier to entry. When another user clicks on that shared link, they will be met with the same ‘Join Meeting’ dialogue and when they click the ‘Join Meeting’ button, a pop up will come up for the chat initiator asking for permission to be let in.
No downloads, no extensions, no plugins. This thing runs smooth right in your browser. The computational overhead is minimal as well, allowing you to do other tasks on your machine without much fuss.
You can do the main stuff like mute, turn off your camera, and present your screen by showing either just a window and/or your entire desktop.
What I don’t see at this point is the ability to have a side, text-based chat during these calls. While not completely necessary, it can be handy to share links or other text-based info during the chat.
My guess is when Hangouts Chat rolls out, there will be some integration there.
Additional Ways To Start a Meet
You may also get started by creating a meeting in your Google Calendar and inviting people to it. Once that is done, you will see the meeting chat room appear in your list of upcoming/ongoing meetings at meet.google.com.
You may also start a meeting from your phone with the Hangouts Meet app as long as the earlier steps from this article are all done.
We are clearly in early days, here, but this duo of new services from Google looks to be launching with a lot to like.
For Meet, the ease of setup, sharing, and joining meetings is a big deal. Nothing to install or log in to, nothing to download. Simply click the link and join.
As long as the focus remains on frictionless communications between coworkers and clients, Google could have a very big hit on its hands with this new duo. As new features show up and roll out, we’ll be the first to try them and let you know.