Google has announced plans to extend the number of participants in Google Duo calls to 32, elevating it beyond a personal video chat tool.

Hot on the heels of Google’s announcement that it’s making its enterprise video chat tool, Meet, free for all users with a Google account, the company has confirmed to Android Police that it plans to extend Google Duo calls from a recently announced max of 12 people all the way to 32, making it a valid way to hold meetings and socially-distanced get-togethers without having to trust your security to Zoom.

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Zoom has seen a massive surge in users thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but security issues that have arisen have created an opportunity for competition to swoop in and steal users, which Google has seemingly been enthusiastic about doing.

Google Duo began life as a one-on-one mobile chat app for Android and iOS, and Google has since added a web client that is capable of doing group calls as well.

The larger 32-person calls will be rolling out in the coming weeks to Android, iOS, and the Duo web client, but that isn’t the only way Google has modified Duo to make it more of a Zoom competitor.

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While Google Meet is free for everyone (at least until the end of September), it’s still not completely unlocked for everyone. Some premium features, like meeting scheduling, are still limited to paid Meet accounts, but Google Duo’s new features seem designed to account for those limitations, provided you don’t need to meet with more than 32 people.

Duo users will be able to send invite links in an email, similar to Zoom, and Google has made end-to-end encryption a big part of its Duo (and Meet) marketing in light of the fact that, until recently, Zoom didn’t offer similar security.

Zoom has done a lot of work recently to clean up the flaws in its software, releasing Zoom 5.0 to address many of the issues piling up since March 2020. Included in the release of Zoom 5.0 was 256-bit encryption, automatically enabled meeting passwords, password protection for cloud-hosted meeting recordings, a default waiting room for participants, and a host of other features.

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Whether the changes have come too late remains to be seen, but many Zoom users are hesitant to trust the company again; an early April study found that 12% of Zoom users had already abandoned the platform completely.

With the new features Google has added to Duo, and its new freemium model for Meet, it’s likely to attract plenty of new users, both in the enterprise world and from individuals and small businesses looking for a safe, secure Zoom alternative.

Image: Google