But viewed through the right lens, it's actually a very good thing for Zoom -- and the whole episode includes a reassuring lesson for smart business leaders in any industry.
The background is that Google, which owns a Zoom competitor called Meet, emailed all Google employees recently telling them Google would no longer allow them to use Zoom on their company-owned laptops.
The reason: "security vulnerabilities."
A Google spokesperson, Jose Castanda, explained the announcement to Buzzfeed News:
"We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network. Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers, as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees.
Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a Web browser or via mobile.
For most companies, the idea of a behemoth like Google announcing that a version of their main product is banned because of security vulnerabilities would be a disaster.
But there are unique circumstances here that arguably make this a good thing for Zoom, to the point that Zoom should almost be thanking Google for doing it.
Here's the rationale:
- Zoom's main customers are businesses. It normally hosts about 10 million free and paid users on any given day.
- Over the past month or so, with millions of people quarantined at home, Zoom's free user base has exploded. At one point last month, Zoom was hosting 200 million daily users, according to a company blog post, most of them for free.
- As user growth soared, two other things happened: Zoom became a household name, and some security issues that had been less critical when most Zoom users were businesses with IT departments and security protocols, became big problems for free, consumer-level users.
Since then, Zoom has shifted 100 percent of its engineering resources to fixing security vulnerabilities for free customers. Meanwhile, its CEO, Eric Yuan, made the media rounds apologizing for it all.
I wrote recently about Yuan's reaction. Besides apologizing, it basically boils down to an eight words: "Hopefully we can go back to business customers."
The net effect of Google's action is it should help Zoom get back to that "business customers" goal.
The reputation a company might normally get from a Google warning like this is already baked into most people's perception of Zoom. It's also unlikely that many Google employees would become paid Zoom subscribers on their Google laptops, given their company's policy of favoring its own videoconference apps.
So, besides the wounded pride that might come from Google's announcement, I think the next time Yuan does a media tour, he might well wind up thanking Google.
(It doesn't seem Yuan has any hard feelings about the matter, since, as my colleague Jason Aten reported, Yuan live-streamed an apology on Google-owned YouTube this week.)
That's the reassuring lesson in these trying times. Change is scary, and many business owners are experiencing significant disruption.
But if you can, it's a reminder to try to step back and separate your emotional reactions from the objective reality around your business.
It's not always easy, of course, but try to view every disruption through the prism of how it might help you identify and serve core customers--while stripping away distractions.
You might just look back on this period as a painful but ultimately effective chance for growth.