The Web Conferencing Boom: COVID-19’s Effect on the Video Call Market

Without web conferencing, many industries would be completely paralyzed during the pandemic, including education and international business. However, due to widespread computer access and high-speed internet connections, businesses and educational institutions can continue being productive through these challenging times.
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By Max Kalmykov
Vice President, Media & Entertainment
The Web Conferencing Boom: COVID-19’s Effect on the Video Call Market

If you weren’t familiar with web conferencing platforms before the pandemic, I bet you know all about them now.

The ongoing COVID-19 situation has many more people working from home than ever before, leading companies to use web conferencing as their primary means of communication between employees. And with much of the world on lockdown with social distancing measures in place, even spending time with family and friends is now largely restricted to video calls. From children’s birthday parties to high stakes business meetings, web conferencing and video call platforms are now commonplace for virtually everyone.

Web conferencing was on the rise even before the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Valuates report, web conferencing has an estimated worth of $12.5 billion and is expected to hit $19 billion by 2025. And we are fortunate to have this software in place!

The Zoom Boom

Out of all the web conferencing platforms that exist, Zoom is the clear winner during the pandemic. Zoom has been the number one free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18, with daily downloads increasing an astonishing 30x year-over-year.

It is certainly no surprise that the usage of web conferencing platforms has increased dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, but why has Zoom raced so far ahead of its well-established competitors, such as Microsoft and Cisco?

Overall, Zoom’s staggering success is due to the ease of getting started on the platform. Users can send a meeting link to anyone. When the recipients go to that link in their web browser, their Zoom client is automatically opened, and they are connected to the meeting. The easy-to-use meeting creation and intuitive functionality have made Zoom an extremely popular platform during the pandemic. Furthermore, one of Zoom’s design features—customizable backgrounds—has captured the attention of many people who enjoy seeing themselves in front of funny pictures or beautiful landscapes as a way to personalize their web conferencing experience. Another key to Zoom’s success is the platform’s ability to stream high-quality video reliably without many instances of freezing or crashing during meetings.

However, while Zoom’s ease-of-use is admirable, it does not come without a cost.

Security Flaws

«We do not want to grow too fast,» said Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, in a 2017 interview. «Our philosophy is we really focus on making our existing customers happy. We do not aggressively pursue the new prospect.»

Well, Zoom may not have planned to grow quickly, but plans do not always work out as expected. And while the company’s meteoric rise is extremely impressive, the rapid growth did not happen without its shortcomings.

Zoom’s daily meeting participants grew from 10 million in December to a staggering 200 million in March and continued to rise to 300 million in April. The proliferation of the company’s platform resulted in the extension of Zoom’s privacy risks to massive numbers of users, leading to widespread concerns and several lawsuits.

Concerns about Zoom’s security vulnerabilities predated the pandemic, but these issues are now heightened due to the growing number of users on the platform. Some security researchers have described Zoom as «a privacy disaster» and «fundamentally corrupt» based on allegations of the company’s mishandling of user data. «Zoom-bombing,» as it is widely known, is a serious problem, as hackers successfully infiltrate video meetings to disrupt and sometimes threaten participants.

Additionally, there are allegations that recordings of some Zoom calls have been accessible on the web, while uninvited people have apparently found ways to join calls at times, which certainly poses major security and privacy concerns.

According to the report by the Washington Post, thousands of Zoom recordings can be found on the web due to the platform’s practice of naming all of its recordings in an identical manner. The report claims that over 15,000 Zoom recordings were discovered via a search engine that is capable of accessing cloud storage space, uncovering recordings of therapy sessions, business meetings, elementary school classes, and much more. Although Zoom claims to be working diligently to remove its vulnerabilities, concerns about the company’s security practices remain.

Ingredients of a Successful Web Conferencing Platform

People now rely on web conferencing far more than ever before, which leads them to greater clarity about the features that are most important in a platform.

Overall, I believe that the primary ingredients for achieving widespread success with a web conferencing platform are as follows:

  • Easy to access: as proven by Zoom, it is highly advantageous to provide a platform that can be used without the need to sign-up, combined with offering a version that can be accessed via a web browser without requiring an app download.
  • Intuitive and simple UI: people of all ages and levels of computer knowledge should figure out how to use the platform relatively easily.
  • A standout free version: as an example, Cisco provides most of the features required for widespread success, but its expense limits the platform’s reach.
  • Comprehensive security measures: such measures are required to avoid problems such as «Zoom-bombing» and to ensure the trust of users and the confidentiality of private information.

Although online meetings used to be the main reason people used web conferencing platforms, the coronavirus pandemic has changed this fact dramatically, bringing a multitude of new applications to light:

  • Event industry: The event industry is relying heavily on streaming and web conferencing to avoid canceling everything during this challenging time. Conventions can continue with speakers and guests connecting through web conferencing platforms, allowing the industry to remain productive during the pandemic.
  • Education: Formal education could not continue during the pandemic without web conferencing. Fortunately, web conferencing technology allows students to continue learning during the lockdown while staying connected to their teachers and classmates online.
  • Media outlets: By utilizing many innovative and creative ideas, media outlets are managing to keep things afloat through the use of these platforms, allowing late-night talk shows, news programs, and other entertainment and information shows to continue producing content while respecting social distancing regulations.

Automation processes in web conferencing platforms are extremely valuable to many, and particularly to small event organizers who can save money on camera crews by using automated recording features. While the quality is far inferior to content derived from professional camera operators, automation allows those with low budgets to bring their ideas to fruition without breaking the bank. Furthermore, conference coordinators can benefit from solutions like Omnipress, which assist users through the automation of organizational processes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for us all. Thankfully, web conferencing platforms are rising to the occasion to provide the essential tools that allow our business and social endeavors to continue while we wait for the coronavirus outbreak to settle down. Through it all, I believe that we have learned a lot about the value of web conferencing in many aspects of our daily lives. Although there is nothing that replaces in-person contact, there are many things that can be accomplished easily and quickly via web conferencing, so I expect that the usage of these platforms will continue proliferating even once COVID-19 becomes a distant memory.

What are your thoughts about COVID-19’s effect on the video call market? Please share your opinions with us.

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