Microsoft hopes to win over Zoom fans with free 24-hour Teams web calls

Keep in touch with friends and family every waking hour.

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The Perrini family uses a mobile phone and laptop to make a video call to celebrate Easter Monday with their family members during a lockdown, in the small southern historical town of Cisternino, Italy, April 13, 2020. Picture taken April 13, 2020. Perrini family have dealt with Italy's strict lockdown measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with two young daughters studying at home, and owning three restaurants and a bar that can't fully open until June 1. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Microsoft might have a simple way to get you using Teams instead of Zoom for those virtual Thanksgiving dinners: make sure you can stay in the conversation all day. As The Verge reports, Microsoft Teams now offers free 24-hour video calls for desktop and web users. Only the host needs a Microsoft account, and up to 300 people can join in. You can leave your chat running from morning to night if you want friends and relatives to drop by whenever it’s convenient.

You can see as many as 49 participants on screen at once, and Microsoft is hoping Together Mode will make you feel a little less isolated.

This isn’t Microsoft’s first shot at adapting a video chat app to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Skype got a login-free meeting feature in the early days of the outbreak. The Teams expansion is considerably more ambitious, however, and might be vital when a surge in the virus has quashed most hopes for in-person holiday get-togethers.

Not that Microsoft necessarily had much choice. Zoom is temporarily dropping its 40-minute on free video calls for Thanksgiving. If Teams didn’t have a free and effectively unlimited option, Microsoft could easily lose users determined to stay in touch at a particularly challenging moment.

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