The global lockdown has made for a huge jump in video calls, especially the zoom.
The company had 10 million users at the end of 2019.
Now they have 300 million users But that’s also brought its fair share of problems.
So, now what?
Well to talk to me about the Zoom boom is Zoom’s Chief Product officer.
Thank you for joining me today.
Hi, thanks for having me.
So with everyone being in lockdown, you have seen a massive spike in the number of users.
I want to know what’s it like to see that kind of growth at the company.
Yeah, this is really something that has happened in the past three weeks or several weeks.
And with the product use cases have changed as you can imagine, and we are kind of working very hard to make sure we adjust and address that change.
And what kinda trends are you seeing?
Are you seeing longer calls?
Are you seeing more social calls?
I’m interested to hear about what the trends are.
Now that zoom isn’t just for business users.
So So we have built the product for business users in the sense that people that used us, mostly for business meetings, and now the biggest change is that we have people use it across the board for business usage, but also for personal use, for events, for family.
And that’s kind of across the board on different types of situations around know, if you think about it, family events like weddings and even birthdays, and in to some extent, situations that not are not as happy like funerals.
So we see that across the board in terms of those consumer based use cases.
And so [UNKNOWN] people kind of staying on the product longer, I think personally, myself, I’ve been using Zoom to catch up with friends in Australia and some of cohorts have gone for an hour, two hours.
I mean, that seems longer than the average business meeting.
Yeah, I think what I can share from the statistics endpoint is that.
Our meetings on weekends have increased to 2,000%.
So that’s kind of a big change from our standpoint.
Well, that obviously speaks to a massive shift in how people are using the service and what kinds of people are using the service.
Did you anticipate I suppose when these lockdowns first started when we started to see this happening around the world, did you all get together and think, okay, we’re gonna see a massive boom in the number of users and how our product is used.
Or has this even outstripped what you could have possibly anticipated.
Yeah, this it happened very fast and we we didn’t anticipate it so we kind of initially reacted to it, but I feel that now we’re kind of more proactive about it and making sure that we address the situation.
And more closely on all those use cases to really make sure they run smoothly.
And so, if you kind of look back to when say we talked about that figure.
10 million users at the end of last year as things started to ramp up in in January and February.
What was the mood at the company?
was it was it feeling frantic or was it just we have to we have to do this to meet the growth.
Are you also doing longer hours in those early months of the year?
Yeah, we have this Mission in the company to deliver happiness and we really care deeply about our customers and about the community.
So basically was in line with that and we felt we have a mission now in that situation He’s getting for many people severe and people are kind of staying at home and really want to help them connect with each other.
And so that was basically the same mission we had before, but more kind of accelerated in the sense that we had to support more use cases around the same issue.
Certainly and you spoke a little bit about trends earlier, you know, you’ve seen a 2,000% increase on weekends, are you seeing particular parts of the world are using the service more or that you’ve had unexpected growth in maybe places you didn’t expect it?
No, we’re actually seeing it across the places in the world and you can imagine that Where people are more quarantined you see it more.
But that’s kind of shifting and changing very dynamically every day.
Certainly, so what have been some of the, I guess, key ways you’ve had to pivot potentially Really being a business focused company.
That’s what I think of when I think zoom or I certainly did last year, and now it’s something that everyone is using socially.
And so the use cases there are very different and also, you’ve obviously got schools in the mix there with remote teaching.
How does the company work differently now that it’s having to address those different needs Yes.
So, from the security and privacy standpoint, we had all of those settings already available.
But the way we operated was with businesses that have an admin that kind of owned said account.
We would kind of train that admin and that admin would push all those settings based on the organization needs to the different employees in that company that was using zoom.
Now With people that are mostly individuals, mostly consumers, we can’t just rely on that.
And that’s why we have done some work to one change the defaults overall so that it fits kind of an overall type of usage, but also expose some of those features front and center in the UI itself.
That’s where we add, additional icon for security where people can just with one click access those features and make sure they’re meeting you safe.
And I’m glad you brought up security because obviously when a company is growing so massively, we saw the figures in March It was 200 million users And now we have the announcement of 300 million users, that’s 100 million new users in the space of less than a month.
So that’s obviously brought a lot of security concerns.
And that’s been a lot of the publicity that companies had in, in the past few weeks.
What have been some of the key things that you’ve learnt about your approach to security and some of the key things you’ve taken away from.
From this kind of negative reaction and this, this realization that there were potentially some teething problems there.
Yeah, I think, you know, based on our kind of business approach where we had relied on the IT to take care of that, so one aspect of it is, you know, we can’t do that anymore, we have to really kind of educate our users directly rather than rely on.
And admitted to that, and to kind of also, in terms of our approach and our mission to build frictionless video communication.
We really need to add to that, you know, the security and frictionless in addition to kind of providing that capability of video communication has to have those capabilities in place.
So one of the things we saw a week or two back was this proposal fro UCO of a 90 day plan to reallocate resources within the company toward fixing security and privacy issues.
What was some of the major focuses?
And I guess we could pull out some of the stories that consumers might have heard of, they might have heard of zoom bombing, when someone joins a call, without you wanting them there.
You might have heard of, you know, some of the data breaches.
There were a number of issues.
What were the key focuses that you really knew that you had to address?
So, one is of course, the configuration of the meeting itself.
So what I mentioned in terms of fixing the setting and changing the defaults and exposing the features that we already had.
The other is What we’ve recently announced.
And that’s the ability to have he higher level of inscription.
And that’s something that we are releasing right now.
And it’s, our solution really, the top state of the art inscription that makes users kind of feel more kind of Trust in a solution in that point.
So that’s the second one.
And in general, putting more of a kind of focus on that and making sure the whole team, across the board at Zoom is focusing on that aspect of security and privacy.
So I want to talk about encryption.
That was one of the big stories we heard that the company had previously said that it was using end to end encryption for communications.
But then we had a blog post a few weeks ago saying, well actually this is how we define Encryption, maybe we were using end to end as a phrase differently in terms of how people might commonly use it.
I’m interested to know this new encryption upgrade that you brought with the 5.0 security upgrade.
What’s new about this encryption and Can consumers know that their messages are encrypted end to end, or is it a variation of that still?
So just to make sure people understand for a service like us end to end encryption is not something that is a standard.
You know, Google, Microsoft and the other services don’t provide a end to end encryption for a kind of video conferencing service that supports a large group of people.
And especially for businesses just kinda to set the stage.
This is kinda for this type of service.
It’s not the standard and we are basically on par with the rest of the other services.
What we’ve done in terms of our encryption is we are now choosing a higher level.
Have a standard protocol for encryption.
We used what is called ECP.
And now we’re moving to GCM that is considered the top standard for encryption.
And do you think that you mentioned the landscape of other businesses and when you sit within what your competitors are doing, do you think in terms of how regular consumers use tech, they hear constantly from the big tech brands that they know Google and Apple.
You mentioned there That they’ve come to have an expectation of a certain level of security, of encryption, and that even if it’s not the standard across the business space, that maybe consumers might have a different expectation when they come to your product.
Right now, this shouldn’t be any concern around.
The type of encryption that we provide for consumers.
This is something that is standard and there shouldn’t be any concern.
So obviously you’ve had this massive.
With growth and there’s, these issues that have come along with it.
If you could look back where you are now, to the company where say at the start of the year when this pandemic was still we didn’t really know what was ahead of us.
Would there be any advice that you would give yourself or that you’d give the company.
Standing where you are, talking to them a couple of months ago?
I think in general, I just would like to say that from a company standpoint, we are still the same company.
And if you can see our mission, even before this situation was really caring deeply about our users.
And that is still going on, And that’s what helps us deal with the situation and really drive our product and drive the company and drive the service to continue in support, even in this new type of use cases that people are using us today.
We often hear this phrase in in tech companies the move fast and break things, you know that you have to You have to move swiftly and there might be some errors along the way.
But ultimately you’re going to achieve a great result.
There’s that concept over here.
And then you’ve also got the concept I guess of, you know, learning from your mistakes and having a bit of humility and putting your hand up and saying we got that wrong.
Where do you think that balance needs to be struck?
Do you think you’ve struck that balance and
What advice would you give to the broader tech community about kind of owning up to your problems?
Yeah, I think you’re right.
We do want to own we do own the problem.
And we, you know, we Eric has mentioned that he’s taking full responsibility I think for us it’s less about changing things fast and break things and going back and fixing.
It’s more about we deal with consumers and and end-users rather than just businesses.
Because businesses when they use our service would have that control and would be able to For example, decide which clients they release to their internal employees.
We have a system that allows them to say, only this version can be rolled out internally to our employees.
And that’s how we allow those customers to control the change management of our product.
What we’ve learned is you know, it’s not applicable in this kind of situation.
I think it’s it’s interesting a lot of a lot of families and a lot of people catching up with friends over zoom.
They don’t exactly have a system admin in their house to Fix all these problems for them.
So now that now that we’re here and that you’ve got all these updates and you’ve sort of made some changes and move quite swiftly by your account to kind of make corrections for the average person who’s using zoom for their calls and maybe wasn’t aware of all the features devices Features or kind of had a bit of a set and forget process, what are some of the things that they should be switching on now and some of the security features that they should be utilizing now that these updates have had happened?
Let me mention a few.
So first of all, The virtual background is one that is on one side.
It’s kind of a fun feature but also has security implications in the sense that if you have a room that has other people in it or if you really want to make sure that you don’t expose any private information that is behind you.
You can always use the virtual background and you can actually make it a fun experience.
If you want to choose different backgrounds you can switch from one to another and you can kind of show yourself for example, being on the beach and sharing your screen.
And you can have different sceneries That you can share.
So those are the things that really, on one side, make it fun experience but also provide some privacy for our users.
The other feature I would recommend is the waiting room feature that really allows people to control who they admit into the meeting.
So instead of coming in directly into the meeting, when having that leak out, you can basically send them to a type of a lobby and you’re notified that that person is waiting for you in the lobby.
You can see the name and kind of vet them out before you bring them into your meeting.
And the third one in general is just kinda have passwords.
That’s kind of a common practice.
And we kind of want to encourage people to use passwords to lock their meetings so that people don’t accidentally join their meetings.
And you mentioned virtual backgrounds there.
what’s what’s been your favorite either the one that you use or the best one that you’ve, seen other people using Well, I’ve seen a lot of people really putting images of locations they’ve been in the past with the the mindset that, yeah, one day, this whole thing will go away and they’ll be able to go back to those places they’ve been in the past.
So that’s an interesting phenomena.
Sure, I mean, I personally before we had this call, I made sure that there was nothing super messy in the background definitely living in my house for weeks and weeks.
The message started scraping.
So that’s that’s the benefit of eventual background for me.
Are there any other tips and tricks that people should be thinking about to get the best out of their zoom calls?
I’m thinking about a lot of people at home now might not have the greatest Internet connections.
We’re all at home you know, and our at home infrastructure might not be the best so are there any kind of final tips to just make the experience better seeing as we’re using it so much more?
Yes, sure, so one aspect is lighting.
So it’s really important, for example not to sit behind a window that brings like, behind you have the window in front of you, or sitting in a room where the window is on the side.
That’s kind of one aspect of it.
We also recommend if you have kind of an older computer Buy a external camera.
And so you can use an external camera that provides better handling of the image, lights, and usually does even have a microphone that you can use on that camera.
That’s one more.
And then I would say in general, if.
You have the capability to move around the house and find the spot where the Wi Fi is working well rather than the spot where it doesn’t, I would make sure and you can do a speed test.
If you Google speed test you will get there and you can find and make sure the speed test is right for you head of joining your meeting.
And do you think that now that we’ve sort of learned so much after being in lockdown and you seeing your users grow, do you think that all the ways we’ve used this kind of remote technology or teleconferencing, or Zoom in particular, but also I guess other technology uses.
Do you think we’re gonna to take these things with us as we get out of the pandemic and out of lockdown?
Do you think the way we use zoom now is going to stick around with us into the future, when we don’t have to be inside our houses all the time?
I think things will not be Exactly the same, because today it’s extreme and people are forced to stay at home.
But in many situations, people will just prefer to stay at home and work from home.
For example, if someone is commuting two hours a day to get to the office, maybe they’ll think, you know, it doesn’t make sense.
Organizations will be more open to that person staying at home and working from home.
So in that situation, maybe they will come two days a week to the office and the rest of the day they will stay at home and work from their home office.
That kind of is one use cases that I feel will happen and then kind of in general
Remote learning, right?
In many cases today, people were not having or getting the right access to education because they couldn’t get physically to that location.
So, in the future, organizations, like universities and schools will not be more open and more prepared for students learning from home While I certainly know that I’ve appreciated it, having just moved to this country, everyone suddenly jumping on video calling is very handy because it helps me stay in touch with my friends and family back home.
So thank you so much for joining us.
It makes a lot of sense for us to be doing this kind of this web call when we’re all stuck at home and it’s great to hear some tips and what you guys are working on to make this experience better for everyone.
So thanks again for joining us today.
Thank you for having me.