Ever since Zoom became the most important business app in the world--almost overnight--it has had a great big target on its back. The company has faced intense pressure from competitors and users. Users have complained about the lack of security and privacy features, which has led to the entirely new phenomenon of "Zoom bombing."
Zoom's competitors, on the other hand, have raced to capitalize on those missteps by upping their own games. Google, for example, has been making moves to steal away Zoom users. Last week, Google rebranded its videoconferencing tool as Google Meet, and now it's making the service free for up to 100 participants, at least through the end of September.
To understand why this matters, it helps to remember exactly why Zoom became such a big deal. The company wasn't the first videoconferencing tool. It was, however, the first company to make it almost effortless to set up, host, and join a videoconference without signing up for plans or downloading complicated software. Anyone could join a Zoom meeting just by clicking a link.
Some of that ease has become a problem now that as many as 300 million people use Zoom every day. The simple process for joining a meeting meant the software was taking liberties with the installation process. It also meant that the company wasn't doing enough to protect user information or giving users enough control over security features to keep out unwanted guests.
That's always a tradeoff, and while it resulted in massive growth for Zoom, it has also forced the company to make dramatic changes. It has also opened the door for the competition. That's especially true for tech giants like Microsoft and Google, which already have productivity suites that cater to business users.
Despite the fact that most people had no idea Google had a videoconferencing tool until a few weeks ago, there's no question that the company has an enormous user base. In fact, not only are there hundreds of thousands of business G Suite users, there are more than 1.5 billion people with Gmail accounts, all of which can now use Google Meet for free.
That's a lot of people.
Sure, Google already has a video chat tool for non-business users. Maybe you've heard of Google Hangouts Video Chat (though I suspect most of us haven't). Aside from having a terrible name, Google now says that service will not transition to Google Meet, which will at least bring some sense of rationalization to Google's array of communication tools.
Google has had the enviable position of being able to watch the criticism leveled at Zoom, and make preemptive moves to add security-focused features. For example, Google Meet will require users to be logged in to a Google account. In addition, if a user isn't included in a calendar invite for a meeting, they will be added to a waiting room where a host can decide to allow them.
Google has also added some of Zoom's more popular features, like allowing a grid view to see more of a meeting's participants at one time, instead of just seeing the camera feed for whoever is speaking.
That doesn't mean that Zoom is necessarily going anywhere soon. The company is riding a surge of increased use right now that isn't likely to subside anytime soon. Additionally, as I wrote about last week, the company has certainly made progress in its efforts to protect meetings.
Still, I think it's clear that Google is putting Zoom on notice. By the way, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Competition helps motivate us to provide a better experience and a better service. It also validates that the thing you're doing is valuable enough that the big guys are willing to invest in the same space.
Zoom has a clear head start, which is good for the company. The competition, however, should be good for all of us.