Twelve weeks ago a flood of Zoom chimes would have been an odd occurrence in my home. But now for my family, and millions of others, the sound is a welcome note that signals the arrival of friends, family, and colleagues into our home. What was originally conceived of as a workplace tool has rapidly evolved into a key facilitator of our personal relationships and a tool for education—my children’s activities have moved to Zoom with ballet, martial arts classes, and piano lessons all now made possible via video conferencing.
Zoom has been a participant into some of the most important and intimate moments in my life over the past three months. Including:
- A surprise birthday party with friends down the street and across the country
- Two family reunions composed of three generations spanning globe, with guests from the USA, Latin America, and Europe
- Bi-weekly gatherings with a special extended family of friends living across the USA and in Europe where we shared honest feelings about quarantine, isolation, and offer support
- Dance parties my wife and I attended with close friends and complete strangers
- A bingo party with my neighbors
- Performing as the partner for my four-year-old daughter’s first ballet recital
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not just jumping on the Zoom bandwagon without an eye to the larger video collaboration space. Over the past 20 years, I have used all the major video collaboration software offerings, open source alternatives, and in fact, I once (10+ years ago) built a video calling prototype for TVs presented at an Intel Developer Forum conference. That is to say, I have a critical eye for what works and what has not worked over the years.
What I love about Zoom is that it doesn’t get in your way. It does more by doing less. Zoom is a silent facilitator (except for those delightful chimes), focussing on performance so that the experience is your own to make. It’s simple design has made it possible for children to join their pre-school classes and adults to dance the night away if they so choose.
Does this mean Zoom is the perfect product? Of course not. There is always room for improvement. Products are in a constant state of evolution as they do their best to respond to their user’s needs and desires. What I hope to see for Zoom in the future is that it stays true to its focus on a clean, simple design and good performance, as well as committed to its new focus on security and privacy. Instead of going down the path of feature bloat, Zoom has an opportunity to be a video communication platform that we use to create tailored experiences with application layers that sit on top of the “core” Zoom experience.
For the elementary school teacher and children taking classes, this means a classroom application layer that addresses the needs of teachers and their students. For the family reunion, this means an app layer that makes it easier to moderate lots of people talking at once. For the birthday experience, this means placing the birthday boy or girl in the center of the video grid and displaying the rest of the people in the same relative order for all viewers. For the party goers, this means a night club experience that makes it easy for people on the “dance floor” break out room to all be on mute enjoying the same music, while a “bar” breakout room is geared towards open conversation. And for….well you get the idea…the list goes on and on.
Zoom was at the right place at the right time to make sure that not only working from home could be done smoothly, but that the world’s social interactions didn’t have to stop as we entered global lockdown.