Zoom and Google Meet have skyrocketed in popularity during the lockdown, with each of them having their pros and cons. Unfortunately, Zoom offers several advanced features that aren't available on Google's conferencing service, such as advanced moderation controls and customizable backgrounds. Thankfully, the company is working on improving Meet: It recently unveiled a live noise cancelation feature, and just presented a load of new features that will make conferences more engaging and easier to moderate. Surprisingly, these will be exclusive to education users for now.
The first feature set Google is announcing for G Suite for Education and G Suite Enterprise for Education users is the ability for teachers and educators to have more control over their virtual classes. First, the "knocking" interface, which lets the host know someone wants to join the meeting, will be less intrusive to avoid disturbing the educator. Also, people won't be able to knock again after being kicked out of a class, and won't be able to knock more than twice. Finally, anonymous participants will be prevented from entering any Education meetings by default, avoiding unwanted attendees from getting into a virtual class.
During the meeting, hosts will be able to mute all participants, turn off the chat, and restrict who can present. Google will also add an option that prevents people from joining the meeting before the host is online. When a class is over, moderators will also be able to end the session for all participants, ensuring nobody can stay on the call after the host has left.
Most of the above features are already available in Zoom, but one particular offering that's loved by users is the option to use a virtual background. Google is also working on providing similar functionality, with the ability to blur out or replace the background, both with preset or custom images.
Google is also adding a hand raising feature, as well as a new video grid that can display up to 49 participants at once, which will make the meeting much more engaging. On top of these, Meet will receive a bunch of premium features, including attendance tracking, breakout rooms, Q&A, and polling.
The company says these features will be available later this year but hasn't mentioned any availability for non-Education users. It's encouraging to see Meet gain so many features at once, but in all fairness, most of them have already been available on Zoom for a while, and not only for virtual classes. Hopefully, they'll be rolled out massively later on, which will make the two services compete even more closely.