Zoom's rise to prominence has been meteoric – its fall could be equally spectacular

Lockdown measures won’t last forever, and nor will an unprecedented explosion in demand for video conferencing services

Last weekend we hosted a Zoom-based birthday party for my girlfriend, packed with a four-round quiz, six-part scavenger hunt and a few rounds of e-Pictionary. Oddly enough we were having just as much fun online as we would if we’d headed for a night out at Popworld, as was originally planned. This has become the new normal, and we’re not alone. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

Millions of us have inexplicably signed up to the business-centric video conferencing platform in recent weeks to stay in touch with friends and family. Our online gatherings now extend beyond work meetings into the realm of virtual pub trips, birthday parties, and even pre-booked dance classes. 

Even as the coronavirus crisis began escalating, nobody could have foreseen the extraordinary surge in Zoom’s popularity, especially given the former dominance of Skype. Not even Zoom’s founder and CEO, Eric Yuan, would have anticipated a thirty-fold increase in usage, with daily meeting participants ballooning from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million just last month

Zoom’s surge is bizarre in many ways, none more so than how it flew by Skype, although the surge in popularity is something of a special case. Its success is entirely predicated on a short-term growth in demand fuelled by COVID-19 lockdown measures, which will likely be lifted to a great extent by the end of the year. The firm’s privacy and security woes have proven that success isn’t always a walk in the park either, but these problems are ultimately manageable. The more worrying challenge might come a little later down the line.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

There’s every possibility, first of all, that the company has hit its peak in terms of its user base. Additionally, many of us have been taking advantage of the company’s cost-free tier, meaning the company now encounters a headache that oddly enough resembles the existential crisis plaguing the digital media industry. While online publications have had no problem attracting hundreds of millions of online readers, figuring out how to monetise this massive traffic has been difficult. Zoom, similarly, may struggle to actually convert this unprecedented demand into a viable revenue stream.

To make matters trickier, phasing in a cost-barrier beyond a 40-minute time limit, which itself can be easily bypassed by starting a new conversation with participants, may drive people away. The likes Skype or Facebook’s own newly announced services are just as capable.

The final, crucial point to consider is that people aren’t attached to Zoom as a company or platform, but to the friends and family it allows them to keep in touch with. Once lockdown measures are lifted, it’s more likely than not we’ll leave the service as quickly as we found it and arrange to meet up in-person with the folks we’re desperately missing. As enjoyable as our Zoom-based birthday bash was, I’d still choose that night out in Popworld if given the option.

Advertisement - Article continues below

For these reasons, the company’s explosion in popularity, a surge in daily participants and even its exorbitant $40.5 billion valuation – more than double its $16.1 billion market value in January – are all highly volatile. Zoom’s executives, therefore, must ensure all business and product decisions made in light of this short-term success are sufficiently future-proofed.

Related Resource

The IT Pro Podcast: Can tech survive Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is sweeping the globe, but how much will it affect the tech industry?

Listen now

There really is no predicting what might happen in a world riddled with coronavirus, but there’s every chance that once we’re all allowed outside and Zoom’s active daily user count plummets, its investors will lose confidence and cut their losses. That could leave the company in a far more precarious position than it has ever been, even before COVID-19. While Zoom represents an astounding story of business success in 2020, the same forces that fuelled its rise may also be the root of its downfall.

Featured Resources

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Remote working 2020: Advantages and challenges

Discover how to overcome remote working challenges

Download now

Keep your data available with snapshot technology

Synology’s solution to your data protection problem

Download now

After the lockdown - reinventing the way your business works

Your guide to ensuring business continuity, no matter the crisis

Download now
Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Infostretch is now an AWS advanced consulting partner
Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Infostretch is now an AWS advanced consulting partner

4 Aug 2020
Ingram Micro joins Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider program
Cloud

Ingram Micro joins Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider program

9 Jun 2020
Matt Gallatin joins Reltio as its chief financial officer
Cloud

Matt Gallatin joins Reltio as its chief financial officer

5 Jun 2020
Hackers are wreaking havoc on Google’s Cloud infrastructure
hacking

Hackers are wreaking havoc on Google’s Cloud infrastructure

1 Jun 2020

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

3 Aug 2020
How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

4 Aug 2020
UN report points to a 350% rise in phishing websites at start of 2020
phishing

UN report points to a 350% rise in phishing websites at start of 2020

7 Aug 2020