Video conferencing services have become the bread and butter of work, school, and even social life for the past year and a half. Each of the contenders has its own idiosyncrasies and preferred ways to access their services. Zoom started out as a standalone app but has enabled a version that runs inside a web browser. Google Meet, on the other hand, starts from the opposite direction and has embraced a browser-only experience on desktops. That’s changing now with a dedicated desktop app for desktops, but, as it turns out, it’s actually a Progressive Web App version of Meet instead.
Google has been heavily pushing the adoption of Progressive Web Apps or PWAs in the computing industry. More than just a wrapper around web apps, these PWAs try to offer an experience comparable to regular desktop apps, both in appearance and behavior. Unsurprisingly, Google is now presenting the Meet PWA as the best way to use the service on desktops.
Google doesn’t go into much detail about the differences between Meet on the Web and the Meet PWA. In fact, it says that it has all the features, and maybe the limitations, of the Web experience. The one key benefit is that Meet no longer has to live inside a browser tab, which means no more frantic switching between tabs. Of course, you could always detach the Meet browser tab if you wanted to.
Although Google won’t block the use of Meet for Web, it is recommending that users on Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, and Linux use the PWA instead. It does still require those to have Chrome installed and requires version 73 or later of the browser. “Installing” the Meet PWA is as simple as visiting Google Meet’s home page and clicking Chrome’s Install icon on the address bar.
This announcement is really a minor change that could benefit Google Meet’s image in the process. A PWA elevates its status as a regular desktop app while still letting Google focus on developing the Web experience that applies to both PWA and browser versions. That said, Google Meet may have also lost some users recently after the company implemented the end to free unlimited group calls last month.