Updated

Google Meet extends unlimited meetings until March, possibly without a key feature

It's unclear whether Google is also extending the ability record meetings for free.

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Google said Tuesday that it would extend the period during which customers could make unlimited calls using Google Meet until March 31, 2021, ending speculation that it would end the free period on September 30.

While that might be good news for those who use Meet casually to keep in touch with friends and family, one feature seems to have disappeared: the ability to record and archive Meet calls to Google Drive, which Google had offered for free as part of its original offer. Google said Wednesday, however, that it's maintaining its recordings feature for education customers until a more limited "temporary" version rolls out later this year.

Unlimited Google Meet calls will still be available to anyone with a Gmail account, regardless of whether they belong to a G Suite plan. “As we look ahead to a holiday season with less travel and important milestones like family reunions, PTA meetings and weddings hosted over video, we want to continue helping those who rely on Meet to stay in touch over the coming months,” Google said in a blog post.

Google had extended the premium features of Google Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers until September 30, a decision Google made in March in response to the pandemic. Consumers, too, could sign up with a Gmail account.

As the deadline neared, there was concern that “unlimited” calls (lasting up to 24 hours) would return to becoming a paid feature for the paid Enterprise tier for Education, and for G Suite customers. (G Suite for Education is free, but Google charges $4/student/month for G Suite Enterprise for Education, and the same amount for faculty and staff. G Suite’s basic plans start at $6 per user per month.)

In our overview of what digital classrooms might look like for the 2020 school year, one teacher we interviewed—Bill Vacca, Director of Instructional Technology at Mohonasen Central School District in Rotterdam, NY—was not concerned about the end of Meet’s unlimited free calls, possibly because his classes fell below the 60-minute limit that Google normally set for free calls, pre-pandemic.

Vacca was more concerned about losing the ability to record Meet meetings and archive them for students to review. “What they have done is going to bite schools in the butt in the end,” he said at the time

Google’s blog post didn't indicate that the ability to record meetings was extended, for free. A Google representative, however, confirmed Wednesday that while Google had ended its ability to record meetings for Gmail and G Suite customers, G Suite for Education customers will be able to continue to use the premium Meet recordings feature available for G Suite Enterprise for Education until Google launches its "temporary recordings" feature later this year. Temporary recordings, and Google's timetable for such, was announced by Google in August

"With this new feature, any meeting creator will be able to record a meeting and share the recording within their domain for up to 30 days before the video expires," Google said in a statement describing temporary recordings. "Given disparities in internet access, temporary recordings are intended to help students or meeting participants replay a class or session they couldn't attend live. Temporary recordings can not be shared outside the meeting creator’s domain or downloaded, even if it's within the 30 days."

This story was updated at 12:38 PM on Sept. 30 to clarify Google's plan for allowing customers to record Meet meetings.

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