A few months ago, most people had never been on a video conference. Now, it's how we do pretty much everything. Specifically, most of us do all of it on Zoom, which many people had never heard of unless they happened to work for a company with a distributed workforce. Team meetings? Zoom. Kindergarten graduation? Zoom. Celebrating grandma's birthday? Zoom.
It's why I wrote a few months ago that Zoom had, almost overnight, become the most important software in the business world. It's how companies that suddenly had to figure out how to manage completely remote workforces stay connected with both their team and their customers.
Zoom was already a popular option mostly because it was far easier to use than other videoconferencing software, and because it included helpful features like screen sharing, group chat, and even the ability to share remote desktop access. It wasn't the only software option, but it was easily the most versatile and accessible for most users and people quickly took notice.
So, too, did Zoom's largest competitors, which have now declared an all-out war on the nine-year-old company. Especially Google.
Last week Google introduced two features aimed directly at stealing away customers from Zoom. The first was active noise cancellation that actually works. The second, which is far more practical solves a much bigger annoyance with Zoom.
I spend a lot of time on Zoom. That's been true for a while as I've worked remotely for years. I've seen and participated in a lot of company and team presentations over that time. The biggest problem when sharing your screen to present is that you can't see your other participants. And, likewise, they can't either. That means that one of the biggest benefits of video meetings for remote teams (face-to-face connection) is suddenly gone.
Now, Google's presentation layout solves that problem. That feature allows you to see what is being shared while keeping the other participants of the meeting on your screen. Unlike Zoom, which usually only shows a few participants' video, Google Meet shows 16 video screens.
This actually matters, especially as face-to-face connection is something remote teams have to work harder to maintain. Even as businesses start to reopen, large numbers of workers say they'd like the option to continue to work remotely on a full-time basis. Keeping those employees connected and engaged requires an intentional effort, and this is a step in that direction.
So much so, that I suspect it won't be long before Zoom adds something similar. The company has been so focused on shoring up its security and privacy features that it hasn't had a lot of time to add anything else. That's likely to change as competitors--especially Google--continue to dial up the pressure. Until then, Google Meet also has the added benefit of being free for everyone with a Gmail or G Suite account.