With people practicing social distancing during theGoogle’s latest effort to boost video-conference capabilities brings group calling on its Duo app to the web.
Duo, which launched in 2016, was originally only for mobile platforms. The company last year added support for one-to-one calls on the web, but soon Google will roll out group calls on the web as a preview on Chrome.
The Duo feature offers one more way people can use Google products to connect with friends, family and colleagues during the pandemic. The Chrome preview of Duo group calls is rolling out over the coming weeks.
Duo users can invite anyone with a Google account to join a group call by sharing a link with intended participants.
Duo is also gaining a ‘family mode’ that lets participants add doodles as well as effects and masks. Family mode can be accessed in the menu icon and again is available when signed into Duo with a Google account. Family mode hides the mute button so family chats aren’t interrupted by accidental presses.
Google is bringing the masks and effects to one-to-one video calls on Android and iOS devices, as well as more effects.
Last month Google rolled out the new AV1 video codec (AOMedia Video 1) to improve the quality of video calls on lower bandwidth internet connections.
In addition to Duo group calls for Chrome, Google is expanding the number of faces people can see on mobile device screens. It recently expanded the group size from eight to 12, and a new layout expands that further via a scrollable bar at the bottom of the screen.
And for Google users who don’t use Duo, Google recently rolled out Google Meet as a feature within Gmail as a free service for everyone.
With Zoom working to fix security and encryption gaps in its platform, Google emphasizes that Duo is end-to-end encrypted.
Zoom last week announced it was buying Keybase to provide users with end-to-end (E2E) encryption, addressing criticisms over it claiming it used E2E when it didn’t.
Microsoft has also been promoting its security and privacy features in Teams video conferencing, recently highlighting that it encrypts video and audio at rest and in transit.
Google for its part is trying to simplify its messaging and communications apps, which include Hangouts or Meets, Duo, Allo, and other products.
As The Verge reported last week, Google has brought its messaging and communications into a single team under Javier Soltero, current head of G Suite and the founder of email app Acompli. Soltero joined Microsoft in 2014 when it acquired the app and made it the Microsoft Outlook Mobile app.
As VP and HM of G Suite, Soltero headed up Google Meet and Google Chat, but Google recently made him boss of Messages, Duo, and the Android phone app – essentially putting all its communications products under one umbrella.