The height of the pandemic last year had the more fortunate of us working remotely to curb the spread of the virus. Whether or not this accelerated the need for more streamlined online communication tools, there’s no doubt that they’re here to stay long after the pandemic (hopefully!) ebbs away. They’re ridiculously efficient at remote communication regardless of the purpose. From a client pitch to catching up with relatives across the globe, you definitely want to make sure you’re using the right platform for your needs. Below, we break down some of the top video communication tools right now to help you decide which one to settle on.
First, we’ve got Google Meet. Previously an exclusively paid service, Google Meet launched tiered pricing plans from April 2020, including a free tier accessible to all Google users. This video conferencing platform is primarily for professional use, though it wouldn’t be unusual to schedule social meetings too. The biggest plus going for Google Meet is its integration with the Google Workspace, one of the most prolific productivity suites to most consumers and companies.
Everybody’s heard of Zoom. Alongside Dalgona coffee and BENEE’s Supalonely, Zoom has an iron-clad association to the pandemic given its massive growth over this period. It was — and may continue to be — the go-to video conferencing platform for companies and institutions alike for some time to come.
Deviating away from video conferencing is Twitch. Though most people may think of teens and gaming when it comes to this live streaming platform, more non-gamer streamers have risen in recent years, live streaming natural conversations and interactions with their viewers rather than playing Valorant.
Wrapping up our list of contenders is Discord, a platform that could be described as a midway point between Twitch and Zoom. Though initially launched for gamers in 2015, this video, audio, and text group-chatting application has since branched out for use by all types of communities on the internet, from niche hobbies to even organisations experimenting with it as a communication channel.
To begin with, all four of the platforms here possess free tiers, so there’s no need to pay for the essentials of each tool! For comparison’s sake, we’ve included the priced tiers of each below.
Google Meet and Zoom’s pricing tiers are most similar, with the maximum number of participants and accessible features increasing at each tier. However, if you only intend to use video conferencing within a small group, Google Meet may be your best bet. Each meeting can last for up to 24 hours for up to 100 participants, with the duration the same across every tier. Pretty impressive compared to Zoom’s measly 40 minute group meeting limit for free users!
- Google Meet Free
- Google Workspace Essentials ($8 per active user/month)
- Google Workspace Enterprise (price dependent on need)
- Zoom Free
- Zoom Pro ($149.90 per year/license)
- Zoom Business (199.90 per year/license)
- Zoom Enterprise ($240 per year/license)
Meanwhile, Twitch and Discord’s paid plans are more consumer oriented, rather than for organisations. Twitch offers subscription plans for users to subscribe to their favourite streamers, while Discord’s Nitro plans grant users access to animated emojis, personal profiles and HD video.
Considering the diversity of platforms discussed here, what’s most important when it comes to deciding on which to use is what you’re using it for. We’ve considered a few occasions down below.
Best for social meetings: Google Meet
When catching up with your friends and family, a time limit on your conversation is probably the last thing you’d want on your mind. Google Meet’s 24 hour limit should be more than enough for you to have a great (online) time! Comparatively, Zoom’s 40 minute limit might restrict that, unless you’re sure your meeting wouldn’t take that long. With Google Meet’s integration with other Google Workspace apps, it’s also a lot easier to schedule ahead of time with a reminder closer to the date of the meeting.
Best for WFH: Zoom (For now)
Zoom is a dedicated video conferencing tool, and its focus on this purpose ultimately lends more advantages to it rather than Google Meet in certain aspects. In terms of its pricing plans, Zoom offers more add-ons — like an up to 1,000 participant large meeting add-on — for users to better customise plans to their own needs, where Google Meet’s cap stays at 250. Zoom’s maximum time limit for paid plans is also 6 hours longer than Google Meet. Zoom’s Zoom Room also goes beyond video-conferencing, with a software-based room system that adds audio and video devices to turn any room into a video conference room. However, to Google Meet’s credit, it’s been catching up to Zoom over the past few months, with more features available previously exclusive to Zoom, such as polls and breakout rooms.
Best for live streaming: it depends
For professional live-streaming with a public audience, Zoom would be your go-to. It’s a feature only available to paid users that enables live streaming to third party services, including Facebook and Youtube. In comparison, only guests in your organisation can view the livestream in Google Meet, and need to have domain accounts to access them. For gaming, the winner is clear: Twitch remains the biggest gaming live-streaming service for good reason, as a household name especially for console and PC gaming.
Best for communities: Discord
Though Discord is more popular within the gaming community, it could really give Slack a run for its money if it wanted to. This feature-rich platform, with text messaging, video calls, and audio calls available, has tons of untapped potential for communication even with organisations — some companies and institutions are experimenting with it for professional use. With the ability for audio calls to run in the background, it’s great for co-working. Experimentation aside, Discord is still a fantastic platform for gaming and other niche communities alike to share their interests.
Which is best?
It’s evident that every platform does its job in it’s own right - and your choice depends on what the job you want done is. One thing’s clear though: if you haven’t gotten used to telecommuting by now, you better start quick!