Goodbye to Small Talk as Zoom Cuts Meeting Time for Free Users

The change is likely to irk many of Zoom's free users, who will be forced to upgrade to a paid Zoom plan or switch providers.
Aaron Drapkin

Zoom announced via email this week that it will be cutting the length of 1:1 meetings for free users to just 40 minutes, a huge decrease on the current 30 hours.

That now means that, from May, Zoom’s free plan will have a universal meeting length limit, regardless of how many participants are in the call.

The move is likely to push at least some members of the current cohort of free Zoom users into testing out alternative video conferencing options.

What Has Zoom Decided?

Currently, Zoom limits the length of all meetings with three or more participants to 40 minutes on the free version of its product.

After May 2, 2022, This meeting length cap will apply to 1:1 meetings too, which currently have a 30-hour limit – making them essentially unlimited unless you’re regularly holding meetings that last over 24 hours.

Zoom announced the change by sending an email to all its customers, rather than announcing the new limits via social media or on their site. This led to some confusion among users who were unsure if the emails were in fact genuine.

The video conferencing vendor did confirm that the email was legitimate via social media, however, but only after being quizzed by confused customers.

Who Will be Affected by the Change?

Any free Zoom users who regularly have one on one meetings that last over 40 minutes will be affected. There will be many users for whom Zoom has become a regular fixture of life in the past two years, making use of the free tier.

When trying to verify whether the email from Zoom was indeed real, one Twitter user pointed out that individuals in Facebook counselling groups were discussing the change – which illustrates the impact this change could have on freelancers and the self-employed.

“It seems there's a lot of confusion and a very short timetable for users to decide what is best. Can you postpone [the] deadline?” another user on the social media platform asked, echoing the views of many free Zoom users who will feel like this announcement is quite sudden.

The new meeting time cap is seemingly designed to nudge more free users into purchasing paid Zoom subscriptions and increase the vendor's profit margins. The news comes just days after Zoom was forced to pay $85 million to customers as part of a class-action lawsuit.

Is it Time to Switch to a Different Video Conferencing App?

It might well be. For staff who spend most of their days in 1:1 meetings and have been surviving on Zoom’s free offering, this could be a gamechanger – and not in a good way.

Google Meet is an excellent alternative – there’s a free version and the 1:1 meeting cap is 24 hours (and, for meetings of more than three people, it’s 1 hour – still longer than Zoom’s).

You can also use business communications platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams to make calls – although they won’t be quite as good as Zoom and don’t have as many features, they’re still an excellent option.

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Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.

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