Zoom offers access to world amid Covid-19

Before last March, “Zoom” was once just a nostalgic American live-action children’s show on PBS. But the name is now used in everyone’s daily life in reference to the video communications platform that we have relied on during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Used for remote work meetings, K-12 classes, college courses and social gatherings, the video conference company has nearly kept all social interaction and in-person activities alive through a virtual scope. 

Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom has earned a fortune of over $17 billion, raising his own net worth by almost 400 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. Prior to finding Zoom, Yuan was the vice president of engineering at Cisco Webex –– one of Zoom’s competitors. 

The video conference service was first launched in 2013 with only about six million users within its first year. By the end of April 2020, Zoom’s user rate increased to about 300 million daily participants. Its second quarter reports of the 2021 fiscal year show that its total revenue amassed to over $663.5 million –– a 355 percent year-over-year increase. For the full fiscal year of 2021, Zoom anticipates a total revenue amount between $2.37 billion and $2.39 billion. 

“Organizations are shifting from addressing their immediate business continuity needs to supporting a future of working anywhere, learning anywhere, and connecting anywhere on Zoom’s video first platform” Yuan said in an announcement related to the quarterly report. 

Universities like DePaul have adopted Zoom as their main source for virtual learning. As of Sept. of 2020, more than 100,000 schools in 25 different countries are using Zoom as their main virtual learning service. In an advertisement from 2019 shared by Zoom for Higher Ed, it was reported that 96 percent of the top U.S. universities were Zoom customers. 

Bob McCormick, DePaul’s vice president for information services shared with The DePaulia in an email statement that DePaul has owned an enterprise Zoom license prior to the pandemic since the middle of 2019. 

“Zoom was chosen for its usability and affordability,” McCormick said. “We purchased Zoom through our Internet2 membership and it was more affordable than Cisco Webex and Adobe Connect. When we purchased the Zoom license, it covered student usage.” 

McCormick also shared that the costs for this Zoom license are not at all passed forward to students.

Since the pandemic, we have purchased some extra Zoom licenses for about 100 of our classrooms, and to allow us to conduct some larger Webinars, but the main enterprise license remains the same. We went from about 2,000 meetings in Jan. 2020 to over 60,000 in Oct. 2020. However, we paid the same amount because we owned the enterprise license,” McCormick said. 

While Zoom has seemed to work for many during the pandemic as an alternative to safe virtual learning, many have wondered why Skype, another video conferencing service popularly used in the early 2000s, wasn’t our fail safe during the pandemic. 

Skype is a telecommunications application that was first launched in 2003 – it had a 10 year lead over Zoom. It’s owned by Microsoft Corporation and yes –– it’s still somewhat used today. 

Despite The DePaulia reaching out to Microsoft’s Public Relations team, the company was unable to provide an interview or offer any information in regards to Skype’s usage metrics during the time of publication. A spokesperson instead referred The DePaulia to a Microsoft 365 blog related to the growth in usage of Microsoft Teams –– another proprietary business communication platform developed by Microsoft. 

Zoom also failed to respond to The DePaulia’s request for an interview. 

The question still remains, why are people using Zoom over Skype during the pandemic?

Yujong Hwang is a professor at DePaul who specializes in electronic commerce and human-computer interactions. “Microsoft acquired Skype with 100 million users and eight million paying customers in 2011,” Hwang said. “Microsoft tried to improve Skype with more integration of Windows phone and mobile apps by cloud-based servers. Skype users were not satisfied with this change, and Microsoft shifted its focus from Skype to launch Microsoft Teams in 2016. Disappointed Skype users moved to Zoom with its free 40-minute conference call service for up to 100 attendees.” 

Another issue with Skype is that the platform has often had issues with bugs and incompatibility with certain devices. Detailed in a story from The Verge, many issues involved with Skype related to the service becoming unreliable, instead of fixing bugs and issues, Microsoft spent time redesigning the program. Common issues reported pertained to the call quality being less than sufficient, difficulty connecting to webcams and microphones, and a spamming of notifications 

The simple answer is that Zoom was a much easier interface to use for everyone. 

“Zoom has been most useful communication platform since Covid-19 came to our life urgently and most people found that video conferencing is so useful for almost all kinds of activities in life,” Hwang said. “There was no other choice than adopting it, thus it became necessity rather than a choice. On the other hand, Zoom is easy to learn and implemented through the web cost-free and lightly.” 

Prior to the pandemic, there was already a competitive environment amongst video telecommunications platforms.

But  as Microsoft focuses it’s time to improve and advertise Teams, the company is slowly moving away from Skype. 

In 2019, Microsoft Corporation announced it will retire Skype for Business Online in July of 2021 in order to focus and bring more attention to Microsoft Teams. “Over the last two years, we’ve worked closely with customers to refine Teams, and we now feel we’re at the point that we can confidently recommend it as an upgrade to all Skype for Business Online customers,” the announcement read.  

Other services such as Google Meet and Adobe Connect have entered the video conferencing sphere, but it will be Zoom that will hone the virtual world the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced to us. It will always be Zoom.