Businesses and families scrambling to adjust to self-isolation and remote working have turned to video conferencing to substitute for face-to-face contact.
And although there are plenty of video conferencing apps to choose from, the one rising to the top appears to be Zoom.
Founded in 2011 and headquartered in San Jose, Zoom has been catapulted into the spotlight as the video conferencing app of choice in both Europe and the US. It’s sitting as the top download in Apple’s App Store and while the rest of the economy plummets, its valuation has risen to $29 billion.
Zoom is being used by businesses for meetings, by families to keep in touch and by teenagers who want to hang out with their friends. They call themselves ‘Zoomers’ and, for many, it’s replacing the likes of Facebook and Twitter which are practically dinosaurs in the social media world.
Zoom has a free tier that lets up to 100 people to join a video meeting together for up to 40 minutes. Paying for a premium tier lifts that cap and Zoom also provides 256-bit encryption on any transmission which means users can be confident that chats – and any documents shared within it – stay safe.
Another important factor with Zoom is that it works on all platforms. It doesn’t matter whether you have an Android phone or an iPhone or if you use a Mac or a Windows laptop, you can get Zoom on any of them.
‘This is a very critical moment,’ Eric Yuan, Zoom’s founder and chief executive said on an analyst call earlier this month. ‘Overnight almost everybody read and understood they needed a tool like this.’
‘We finally figured out what the Z stands for in Gen Z’
Zoom parties have already sprung up and college students say they now go to ‘Zoom University’ as teachers move their classes virtual.
Part of the appeal is that Zoom is simple, easy to use and free. It’s got a streamlined user interface and a few little features thrown in to make things interesting. You can, for example, change your background to something other than the room you’re in if you don’t want anyone seeing how messy your house is.
Similarly, there’s a hidden ‘beauty filter’ that gives your face a slightly softer appearance.
Zoom describes the effect as ‘a softening effect to skin to minimize the visibility of imperfections.’
The company explains: ‘The Touch Up My Appearance option retouches your video display with a soft focus. This can help smooth out the skin tone on your face, to present a more polished looking appearance when you display your video to others.’
Perfect when we’re weeks in to social isolation and nobody bothers to brush their hair or change out of PJs for the morning meeting. Or you just want to look a little better when you join friends for a virtual meetup.
‘The usability and the reliability of Zoom is what has led to this incredible adoption, combined with, honestly, the generosity of Eric and his willingness to open it up especially to the schools,’ Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg told CNBC at the weekend.
Although alternative apps like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Skype have all seen huge boosts – it’s Zoom that’s emerging as our new favourite social network as we fight to contain the virus.