Google Duo on the web now supports as many as 32 participants in a single group call. Powered by WebRTC API updates, the recently reported update bolsters the count by more than double the previously-instituted figure. Namely, that's the 12-user limitation Google recently implemented after initially setting the limit to a group of 8.
Mobile Google Duo users aren't included in this web-only update
The updated software here applies only to web users, as implicated by its reliance on WebRTC API updates. So those who want to access a Duo group calling experience for more than 12-users will need to do so in a browser. And that's not the only pre-requisite either since only Chrome will work. More specifically, that's Google Chrome version 83 or newer.
Users on other browsers may want to turn to Google Meet instead, now that that's available directly in the Gmail interface.
Users can check which version of Chrome they're using by navigating to Settings under the three-dot icon at the top-right-hand side of the UI. From there, scrolling down to and then clicking or tapping on "About Chrome" will reveal which version is in use. That should also present options for updating if an update is available.
The update to Chrome 83 started in mid-May. So it should be available for any and all desktop variants.
Google has not provided any indication as to whether the participant limit increase for Duo group calls will extend beyond the web. The limitation is likely due to the small screen size found on smartphones.
Other features aren't affected but this muddies Google's chat offerings
Google recently put control over all of its messaging services under the management of a single team. The purpose of that, as reported at the time, was to ensure consistency but also to eliminate redundancy. However, this most recent update to Google Duo group calling for web users doesn't seem to fall in line with that consolidation. It seems to do the opposite.
Now, Google offers two ways for users to communicate over video call — Google Duo and Google Meet. In the latter case, that's only readily available in Gmail for end-users. Google Duo skips around the limitations by allowing link-directed video calls. Like Google Meet, it isn't limited to either a mobile app or to a web-interface. But Google Meet allows up to 250 participants.
Google Duo also has an advantage in that it serves more users since it's embedded in Google Messages and Assistant. But the areas where it is most popular aren't those serviced by this update.
It may be the case that Google is attempting to garner more attention for Duo's web presence as an alternative to other computer-based video call services. But the introduction of a participant increase in Google Duo seems counter to the consolidation efforts. Especially if it limits itself to web-users only.
In fact, that limitation seems to push Duo in a backward direction, away from consistency between the apps. And without much by way of benefit to make up for that inconsistency.
That's a problem Google is going to need to deal with if it wants to fix its reputation with regard to messaging apps.