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Zoom becomes the talk of the town as millions of workers go remote amid COVID-19 outbreak

Videoconferencing platforms are seeing a huge growth as millions of employees start working remotely amid coronavirus outbreak. Here’s why Zoom, a simple video conferencing platform, has gone viral.

Zoom essentially delivers a combination of video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.
Zoom essentially delivers a combination of video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. (Google Play Store)

Even as millions of users start working from home amid coronavirus outbreak, remote working apps and platforms are gaining huge traction. Zoom, a remote conferencing service, has suddenly become the talk of the town, especially in the West where it's more popular.

Zoom essentially delivers a combination of video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. It competes with other professional conferencing platforms such as Google Hangouts and Microsoft's Skype. The platform was launched by Eric Yuan in 2011. Yuan earlier worked with Cisco Systems and its collaboration unit WebEx as lead engineer.

Zoom's sudden rise

With companies moving almost every communication to virtual, it's not surprising these teleconferencing apps are seeing a meteoric rise in growth. In the case of Zoom, the platform is gaining its popularity for its ease-of-use as well as features that align with the IT policies for most of the company.

For instance, Zoom is available on Android as well as PCs. The conferencing calls can have up to 100 participants for meetings under 40 minutes. This for the free users while paid subscribers can have more flexibility. It also offers some more interesting features such as auto-transcription and virtual backgrounds which have helped increase the popularity.

"The usability and the reliability of Zoom is what has led to this incredible adoption, combined with, honestly, the generosity of Eric and his willingness to open it up especially to the schools," Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg told CNBC.

Zoom's user base has seen a sharp rise in the last few weeks. According to Apptopia, the platform saw about 600,000 new downloads last Sunday. This was the highest ever download in a single day for the company. According to AppAnnie, Zoom raced to the top of rankings in the free apps categories in several markets.

The platform (the US version) is said to have gained more monthly active users in the first quarter of this year than the total number in total 2019. On Play Store, Zoom has gone past 10 million downloads.

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Zoomboming

What Zoom didn't see coming was a surge in the use of teleconferencing calls for non-professional purposes. 

According to a New York Times report, trolls are trying to exploit Zoom by pushing graphic content into conferences.

Dubbed as "Zoombomb", trolls are leveraging a default setting which enables anyone in the meeting to share their screen without permission from the host.

A recent example of Zoombombing is when trolls attacked a Zoom call hosted by The Verge reporter Casey Newton and investor Hunter Walk.

 

"Attempts to block the attack were thwarted as the perpetrator simply re-entered the call under a new name and screenshared more gross-out clips. The hosts ended the call rather than subject viewers to the assault until they could stop it," said a Techcrunch report.

Zoom said that it was aware about these "zoombombings" and appealed to users to change the settings when hosting teleconferencing on the platform.

"We have been deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack. For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to change their settings so that only they can share their screen. For those hosting private meetings, password protections are on by default and we recommend that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining," said the company.