Zoom’s popularity exploded at the beginning of the year as a main form of communication during the lockdown. Their ease of use together with convenience and fast feed has differentiated Zoom from other competitors. Millions of people in the quarantine started to use it to connect with others. This platform is mostly used by schools, and businesses, yet it is also adopted to host events such as birthday parties, religious events, cabinet meetings. Even the UK government has been utilizing Zoom as a way to hold their cabinet meetings daily.
In other words, Zoom has benefited from this situation when most people in other countries are required to stay at home. As a result, the company is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of users. The number of daily Zoom meeting participants has now exceeded 300 million, which is a huge jump compared to 10 million back in December last year. Moreover, the company’s stock also rose 67% from the beginning of February to the end of March, while the S&P 500 fell 20%. The daily downloads of the Zoom app have increased 30 times and it has been rated as the top free app for iPhone in the U.S. since 18th March. This Zoom domination hurts other communication platforms like Skype, Teams or WebEx. However, some wonder how the future of Zoom would be when the lockdown is completely over. Yet before coming to that, let us analyze a bit about Zoom’s story.
In 2011, a vice president of engineering from Cisco, Eric Yuan, acknowledged the need to improve WebEx-Cisco’s web-conferencing product, so he tried to convince his fellow executives to make some changes. Although WebEx was a costly acquisition and played a crucial part in Cisco’s business, Cisco did not follow Yuan’s advice.
Not giving up, Yuan proved himself to be a confident and brave entrepreneur when he quickly resigned Cisco and started his own company, Zoom, which later became a boom and even overcame WebEx. Thanks to the talented leader, Yuan, with his focused approach to product development and his customer centricity, the company has achieved incredible success, it went from scrappy upstart to being adopted by millions of people all over the world.
As the company was launched in 2013, it continued to grow bigger, generated more revenue, and eventually decided to go public. After filing for IPO on March 22 last year, Zoom even created more revenue when its IPO price was estimated at $36 per share, and the company was valued at $9.2 billion, which made Yuan become a new billionaire at the age of 49.
After the successful IPO, Zoom kept on growing, but they really took off at the beginning of February 2020-the time social distancing began.
The XYZ Factors of Zoom’s Victory
In the world filling with communication tools functioning similarly, Zoom has developed and created its own uniqueness, making its product become the gold standard. It has been careful in putting resources in bolstering its capabilities during the high usage time. Kelly Steckelberg, the CFO of Zoom, claimed that “we have to be cautious of how we use our infrastructure”. They always make sure that their infrastructure is never going beyond 50% of the actual capacity, which basically means that there will never be a situation where all their servers are maxed out.
Zoom is a cloud-based platform based on Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure servers. Thus, if Zoom experiences a huge spike in meetings, it can easily access more space, which has given an advantage over its competitors. This cloud-based platform provides instant global service backup, thus any feature of a video-conferencing such as video, voice, content, sharing could run smoothly without much lagging compared to other software.
Ease of use
Before Zoom, if anyone wanted to hold a meeting with several people smoothly, he or she needed to combine different video conferencing platforms. For example, they could use Skype for its video capabilities, and Join.me for screen-sharing and audio. But with Zoom, we can simply use it without the need for any other software. There is also a complete decline in both delays and downtime.
As a result, with Zoom, the users no longer worry about the dial-ins and spend half the meeting making sure that everyone is there able to hear and record. Zoom allows users to just click a link and be dropped at the conference. It can also work well on mobile, which offers the users more choices since we cannot carry our heavy-weighted laptop all the time. Moreover, Zoom has a variety of features that make it appealing. The participants in the Zoom meetings can easily share their screen, open their mic, or turn off their face sharing if necessary. Besides, the hosts can mute all the participants if they want the complete attention of the audience.
The coronavirus pandemic
With the ease of use, Zoom has been the main communication tool for people to connect with each other during the pandemic. It can be used for fitness classes, university classes, family meetings, dance parties, and even Zoom weddings.
And Zoom is also a place for creative ideas to develop. During the pandemic, it makes us realize how important the relationship is in our life. And although we are self-isolated at home, it does not mean we cannot meet and talk with others. That is the story of two college students, Ileana Valdez and Patrycja Gorska, who created a Zoom based blind dating service called OkZoomer. This is a matching service that helps match a college student with another new student or potentials. At first, OkZoomer has probably 200 people to sign up and the matching process was just done manually. Yet gradually it went viral and now OkZoomer has about 13,000 unique users.
Yet OkZoomer is just one of many clever ways that people are using Zoom for connecting. Gary Goldman and Anuva Kalawar have organized daily Zoom based events, including wellness seminars and a talent show for their organization Out in Tech. They are calling it Queers on Zoom. This digital platform available from Monday to Friday for hundreds and thousands of LGBTQ individuals from a 13-year-old student to her dad to join in the community.
In terms of schooling, it can be said that Zoom has become the go-to platform for any schools, universities to hold their online classes. Learning online can even reduce the schooling fee, and expensive costs like electricity, Wi-Fi, maintenance fees, etc. However, thanks to Zoom’s convenience, the schools face few struggles with using it as their main way to teach students. In fact, with Zoom, the teachers could see their students as close as them, which makes controlling lectures easier and more natural.
Privacy and Security Problems
When Zoom is being largely used by several individuals, organizations, then it is inevitable to avoid some problems relating to privacy since this enterprise has received extra attention compared to other platforms. Zoom has faced such a huge privacy and security backlash that even the FBI warned the users to be careful with Zoom’s default setting.
Before, Zoom used to face some privacy concerns with Apple in 2019. This made Apple silently update its macOS after a vulnerability was discovered that allowed any website to forcibly join a user to a Zoom call with their video camera activated without the user’s permission. Then Zoom released the fixed version of their app as well and worked with Apple to resolve the problem.
In addition, it is believed that the ease of use is also another factor that makes Zoom less secure. Each Zoom meeting has a randomly generated ID number between 9 and 11 digits long, which could be used by other participants to join the meeting. But the researchers have claimed that these meeting IDs are so easy to guess, and thus leads to that anyone could get into the meetings.
The mechanisms with ease of use have resulted in “Zoombombing”. In detail, the pranksters take advantage of this weakness in Zoom’s security and join the meetings, where they could show explicit or disturbing images. This could be bad for businesses, and organizations especially schools since they mainly use Zoom to conduct classes. And if these obscene, violent interruptions become more frequent, administrators might seek another platform.
With so many concerns relating to Zoom, privacy advocates also entered the scenes when they questioned an issue over an attendee tracking feature. This feature allows the meeting hosts to keep better track of their attendee’s attention, informs them if a participant does not have the app “in focus” for more than 30 seconds. However, the tool used in this feature was criticized by several privacy organizations since it can bypass the browser security and access to users’ web cameras without their knowledge. Thus, this forced Zoom to remove the feature on April 2, 2020, as a way to ensure better security and privacy for the users.
Not only do security researchers, privacy advocates raise concerns over Zooms, but also the FBI is warning the schools about the potential dangers of Zoom’s default settings for Zoombombings. The office of New York’s attorney general also sent a letter to Zoom questioning the company if Zoom has taken on a broader review of its security practices regarding to these recent concerns.
With those recent security and privacy concerns, Zoom has not answered in detail. But CEO Eric Yuan claimed that the company was putting efforts into reviewing its practices and apologized to the users for the problems that Zoom has caused. He promised to together with his team review the process and protocols for carrying out the features to make sure that the mistakes will not happen again in the future.
Despite numerous concerns towards Zoom’s privacy and security, Zoom is still growing bigger every day. It has been rated as one of the 15 most-used business tools by the Okta list in 2019. In early March, it was estimated that there was an increase in business customers by 61% compared to the last year. The number of people joining a Zoom meeting every day also exceeded 10 million. Currently, Zoom ranks the second top free app in the iOS App Store, just behind TikTok.
What Will Be the Future for Zoom?
Although Zoom is being loved by many people around the world, then some might wonder how the future of Zoom would be when the lockdown period is over. Moreover, Zoom makes most of its revenue by its video conferencing subscriptions while much of the recent spike in usage recently stems from people who sign up for free accounts. Zoom itself even declared that it was unsure about how much profit and revenue it would be able to create out of all the free users.
As mentioned, Zoom also faces intense competition with other communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, WebEx, GoToMeeting. After all, these businesses are very diverse, which means that video conferencing is not their sole focus. Thus, neither Microsoft nor Google will be nearly as aggressive because they have so many other things to worry about.
Zoom knows this fact and it has also prepared itself a plan to support the business in a longer run. Zoom does launch a few other products, one of them that is considered promising is called Zoom Phone. This is supposed to make phone calls as simple as video ones. With the new service, the company hopes to create a powerful text-chat platform, which could integrate with calendar apps, contact systems, sales trackers, education platforms, and more. Zoom’s initial purpose was to provide a video conferencing platform, yet it appears to move further, where it can become an all-encompassing communication platform for the entire workforce.
There is no guarantee if this Zoom’s new service could grow in the long run. Some experts claim that developing products on the telephony side could be a challenge since there are so many competitors and thriving in this field internationally needs the brand to be more well-known. Zoom needs to offer much more without losing the trust and love of the users.
It is true that to stand out, the apps tend to put more effort into adding as many features as possible, which could make the users overwhelmed and frustrated. One way to overcome this is to switch off all the additional features by default and let the users add and control by themselves, which would make them more interested in discovering those features and more conscious about how to use it.
And that is the story of Zoom Phone. Right now, the main way to earn profit of Zoom is still from video conferencing. It is believed that if more companies, organizations start realizing the limitations of using other platforms to communicate, and that is when the door for Zoom would be opened further.
No one knows the future of this company after the crisis. But some believe that with the positive experience that people have got with Zoom during this difficult time, more businesses, schools will continue using the app and start paying for the service. We all hope this will come true and Zoom will again disrupt the technology sector and have a longer-lasting effect on the way we interact with our friends, families, and co-workers.