Updated: May 5, 2020
In March 2017, Google introduced a new online meeting experience called Hangouts Meet. On April 7, 2020, the app was rebranded to “Google Meet.”
This online meeting capability used to be a major differentiator between consumer Gmail and business Google Workspace.
A Google Meet meeting could only be initiated by someone who was part of an organization using Google Workspace and for which the Meet capability has been enabled for the Google Workspace organization. However, the ability to be a Google Meet host will soon be available to anyone with a Google account—including a free Gmail account.
Anyone can easily join a Meet meeting from their desktop or mobile device. No local software is required.
Compared to classic Hangouts, Google simplified the process for setting up an online meeting and inviting others. With Google Workspace Basic, up to 100 participants can join a meeting. Google Workspace Business allows for 150 participants. Google Workspace Enterprise can have up to 250 participants  and can stream meetings to up to 100,000 in-domain users. 
To understand how Meet works, it’s helpful to compare it to a familiar online meeting application—GoToMeeting.
At a high level:
- Google Meet is camera first and screen sharing second
- GoToMeeting is screen sharing first and camera second
As with GoToMeeting, a Meet presenter can show either a single application or an entire screen to participants.
GoToMeeting Pro edition allows for recording online meetings. Google Workspace Enterprise edition provides a similar capability.
Google Meet vs GoToMeeting: Pros
With Meet, no client software is required. This means that participants do not need to download a plugin. It also means that Meet works on Chromebooks.
Meet has been integrated with Gmail and Google Calendar. An online meeting can be scheduled as part of creating a calendar event. Calendar invitation recipients who use Google Workspace or Gmail can join the meeting by clicking a link in their copy of a calendar event.
There are a number of other options for starting and joining a Meet meeting.
There is third party conferencing available within Google Calendar. One of the supported third party apps is GoToMeeting.
There’s no additional cost for Meet beyond the $6 per user per month Google Workspace Basic price or the $12 per user per month Google Workspace Business price.
GoToMeeting’s most popular plan, Pro, is $29 per user per month. GoToMeeting Pro allows for up to 150 participants.
With Meet, any participant can start presenting their screen without permission from the current presenter. This is a pro in terms of convenience, but a con in terms of control.
In April 2018, Google announced that Google Workspace Basic and Google Workspace Business customers would now be able to create Meet meetings with dial-in phone numbers.
International dial-in numbers are currently only available for Google Workspace Enterprise users.
The Meet Speakermic, which can be purchased separately, will soon allow for voice commands.
Google Meet vs GoToMeeting: Cons
In Meet, the default camera mode for participants is on. With GoToMeeting, the default camera mode is off. For setting up a meeting with participants outside of one’s organization, a “camera off” default is preferable.
With Meet, every participant must be individually admitted to the meeting. With GoToMeeting, participants can pop into a meeting at will.
Unlike with GoToMeeting Pro, there is no way to live annotate a screen. A presenter cannot give another participant keyboard and mouse control on the presenter’s screen.
For organizations that use Google Workspace, the price of Meet is hard to beat—as with other Google Workspace “bonus apps”, Meet is free for as many users as there are within a Google Workspace organization.
Meet makes it easy to initiate and join meetings. Meetings can be initiated and joined in a variety of ways.
For now, Google Meet is better suited to an internal audience or a familiar audience — mainly due to the “camera on” default and the ability for any participant to start presenting their screen at any time.
GoToMeeting is better suited to a less familiar audience, such as a group of people to whom a salesperson is making a presentation. GoToMeeting is also helpful for technical support, should a tech need remote keyboard and mouse control of someone’s screen.
For many companies, a blend of Meet (all users) and a traditional online meeting application such as GoToMeeting (select users) may make the most sense.