Technology: Zoom zooms from underdog to favourite

SUBSCRIBE on Youtube:

Technology makes the world a small village and puts your environment and activities at your fingertips. That makes technological development one of the most important phenomena in the 21 century, and the gateway to financial success for those technological wizards (companies and individuals) behind technological upheavals, which have changed our lives. One of those latest technological innovations is Zoom. Zoom communications technology has moved from a scrappy start-up to one of the best web-conferencing products globally, beating the likes of Cisco WebEx, ClickMeeting, Join.me, and Vidyo, among many others. According to the company’s management, having been in the crowded market for less than ten years, the technology had amassed more than 200 million users by April 2020. That is a hugely significant achievement. 

The web conferencing software company is one of the few enterprises that have recorded progress in 2020, a year devasted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The company gained more active users, thanks to strict lockdown restrictions to combat the spread of the deadly disease. The spike in the novel virus cases saw people, schools, and companies relying on zoom meetings, telepresence, and webinar. Since February 2020, many educational institutions worldwide have been using the zoom to teach learners following physical learning suspension by some governments. Well, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, they say. While many are facing the blunt face of COVID-19, companies like Zoom are ironical, making millions of dollars, courtesy of the deadly virus. 

History

California’s based-company was founded by the former Cisco WebEx engineer Eric Yuan in 2011. Its benefits are telecommuting, distance education, social relations, and teleconferencing. The idea to develop such a device did not emerge, then, although it had been in Yuan’s mind since the 1980s when he studied applied mathematics and computer science at the Shandong University of Science and Technology in China. What made Yuan put his dream into practice? He had a girlfriend, studying at a college in the Asian country, but far away from where he was. With communication difficulties, the idea of inventing a handheld device that would allow people to see and talk with each other from anywhere in the world came in. Necessity is the mother of invention. Soon, necessity gave birth to Zoom technology.

“And quite often, I was thinking; in the future, if you can have something like a small device where you can press one button, you can see someone, you can talk with someone. I think that’d be great. It’s more like a daydream. So I never thought about video conferencing, but later on, when I saw the FaceTime when I built Zoom, I feel like, ‘Wow. That’s just great.’ If we have this, many years ago, that’d be awesome,” Eric Yuan explained. 

Eric Yuan quit Cisco WebEx after his pleas to have the company upgrade its products for the satisfaction of its customers fell on deaf years. But he did not just leave the company. He also successfully convinced about 40 engineers from his former team to quit Cisco and join him to build a new web-conferencing product. Soon he had the team to work with but no funds. Mr Yuan reached out to Dan Scheinman, Cisco’s head of corporate development, who had also quit. Scheinman contributed $250,000, and Yuan also used his investments to hire engineers from his native China. The work began, and the first zoom version was unveiled on August 22, 2012, by the Zoom team. The version was available as a web app and for iOS and could run well on weak or unstable wireless connections weak or inconsistent wireless connections. It allowed only up to 15 attendees, and only meeting hosts were authorized to have zoom accounts. 

Five months later, in January 2013, version 1.0, which ran seamlessly on all platforms, including iOS and Android devices, was released. The image quality was high, and the screen sharing functionality was effortless. It could only allow 40 participants.

Major updates

Since then, the app has gone through several changes to make it better. In August 2014, the company released Zoom Presence, which relies on Conference Room Connector, a system that allows users to combine zoom meetings with meeting rooms from other conferencing products. With Zoom Presence, users can schedule, launch, or join discussions directly from any device. Zoom also unveiled its Video Webinar Platform, but the webinar experience was low as video and audio quality was poor. There was an input delay when sharing screens with attendees by the hosts.

The introduction of Breakout Rooms came in December 2015. The hosts could now create small groups of about 2 or 3 individuals within a larger meeting. The feature is crucial for companies working on large projects involving many workers and learning institutions. Next was the introducing virtual backgrounds that enable hosts to present in front of a green screen using a chroma essential video production technique to build the illusion of hosting a meeting from another location.

In January 2017, Zoom unveiled its 4.0 version, which featured several improvements. With Zoom’s Developer Portal and MobileRTC, a developer could quickly fix zoom video into proprietary mobile and web apps, voice commands to Zoom’s iOS, and the Zoom Rooms Controller. Enhancement meeting controls were also added to the Zoom Rooms Controller as well as Android devices by Zoom.

The company also released many features in the latest 2017, such as on-mute notification, allowing one to know when to speak, and timestamps for recordings. There were also improved virtual background features to look more visible in low-light conditions; hosts could now restrict invitations to specific domains and the user’s freedom to choose whether to include thumbnail videos during screen-share portions of recordings.

In 2018, several features were further added, such as a public Q&A feature, joining audio meetings quickly for users, enhancing audio quality, and adjusting sharing options, allowing users to control how much of their screen can be shared. There was also side-by-side recording playback and archiving, screenshot annotation, and a new “Away” status indicator to zoom chat.

All these successful features motivated the company to launch its Zoom Phone in October 2018. Zoom Phone is defined as a cloud-based phone system that complements the zoom platform designed to replace private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems. The feature enables zoom to offer enterprise firms end-to-end telephony services without new hardware, disruption in the phone services, and migration of existing phone numbers. 

Profits

Unlike many companies that have been making losses during this pandemic due to the economic downturn, Zoom’s sales increased by 169 per cent from February to the end of April this year, equivalent to $328.2 million. In June, the company announced that it expects sales as high as $1.8bn (£1.4bn) when the year ends. Zoom’s revenues for 2018, 2019, and 2020 are $121.5 million, $330.5 million, and $622.7 million, respectively. 

Looking at the rate at which Zoom has zoomed itself in the domain of many users globally, it is not entirely wrong to wonder what can stop the seemingly unstoppable technological giant from remaining a global player in many years to come.