While the global economy suffers under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, a few companies have surged. Zoom, a leader in the teleconferencing space, has reported record-usage over the past few weeks, as millions try to remain connected to loved ones from the comforts of their homes.
Although Zoom has been making headlines recently, the company’s success is nearly a decade in the making. Eric Yuan founded the California-based company in 2011 after leaving Cisco. He was a founding engineer for WebEx, one of Zoom’s main rivals today.
The company went public in April 2019, shooting out of the gates with a $16 billion valuation. Today, Zoom’s value is over $40 billion and close to Uber’s valuation. However, Zoom is actually profitable, giving it an unusual standing amongst flashy tech giants that have gone public in recent years.
A New ‘Social Media’ Powerhouse
Zoom is currently beating out some of the most popular video conferencing and social media platforms from a usage standpoint. The software is getting more downloads than Snapchat and has booted Google Hangouts and Skype from their long-time positions atop the leaderboard.
According to Sensor Tower, Zoom added “close to 20 million new mobile users” last week. On Monday, the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times, which was up from 2.04 million the day before. Two months ago, Zoom saw download results in the 50,000 range.
Before the coronavirus hit, Zoom was primarily used in the corporate setting. Now, it is being used to connect upwards of 100 people at a time over video for classroom education, religious services, virtual happy hours, and reunions. Users can apply virtual backgrounds to lighten the mood and change how others see them. “Dialing in” from the beach or the Golden Gate Bridge is as simple as selecting from a dropdown menu.
Currently, Zoom is offering unlimited meetings and minutes for one-to-one calls through its free, Basic package. Larger groups can connect for up to 40 minutes before needing to upgrade to the Pro or Business packages.
The Future of Communication
Last year, Zoom CEO Yuan pitched video as “the future of communications” in a letter he sent to shareholders. The coronavirus seems to have accelerated that vision, which comes with upsides and downsides. Zoom doesn’t appear to be exempt from some of the concerns and issues that have challenged other software platforms as of late.
The company is facing concerns related to data privacy and online harassment. A recent report from Motherboard also suggests that Zoom is sharing data with Facebook, which will undoubtedly bring a wave of backlash. At first glance, it appears the data sharing between the two is relatively innocent, but there will certainly be follow-ups.
Additionally, “Zoombombing” has risen rapidly, thanks to the simplicity of Zoom’s screen-sharing feature. Users are hacking public calls by taking over video controls and projecting graphic or sensitive content. Chipotle recently had to end a Zoom call as one of the attendees began broadcasting pornography to hundreds of other attendees.
Apart from such concerns, Zoom’s generosity in allowing schools to use its technology for free during quarantine will undoubtedly go a long way in people’s minds. In this way, Zoom is doing one very important thing during this pandemic: it’s shortening the effect of all that “social distancing” going on right now.
Keeping people connected is vital, and Zoom is certainly helping to fill those gaps.