Zoom didn't need universal remote work to surpass its competitors, though it helped.
"We became the center of the universe … keeping great global companies running, governments running, hundred-thousand schools," said Zoom Global CIO Harry Moseley.
Pre-coronavirus, Zoom was known among U.S. tech companies but not so much abroad, he said. Even "my dog knows what Zoom is."
Daily meeting participants reached 200 million by March and 300 million in April, up from 10 million recorded in December. In January, Zoom hosted 100 billion meeting minutes only to reach 2 trillion in April.
"Most companies would see that sort of growth over a two-year period," said Moseley. "I've been doing this stuff for 43 years, I've seen a lot of great technology. You can't add scale to the numbers that we've scaled to in that short period of time … unless there's something dramatically different around here architecturally."
The platform Zoom operates on differs from its competitors in a key way — it's cloud native and was video-first from day one. Like other newcomers to the collaboration space, Zoom's digital nativity and agility makes it more flexible than solutions originating from enterprise legacy players.
During the onset of the pandemic stateside, Zoom performed a typically 90-day process (from the time the request is ordered and enabled) for increased network capacity within 72 hours, said Moseley. Zoom's partners "had their crews, eight hour shifts, working around the clock … you don't have partners like that unless you do something special."
While Zoom's nine-year tenure is much shorter than competitors — Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and LogMeIn — the company has displaced incumbents' hold on the market for years. "There's no one ahead of them anymore," said Mike Fasciani, senior research director at Gartner. Even without the boost from forced isolation, Zoom's market dominance "was happening anyway."
Zoom is the only app featured on Okta's "fastest growing apps" list for four years in a row. In its debut on the list, 2016, Zoom cinched the top spot. The video conferencing company also ranked first in "number of customers, a top app by active unique users, and a fastest-growing app, all at once," according to Okta. It's a "world record first" on both accounts.
The pandemic added fuel to Zoom's fire in and outside of the enterprise. Consumers flocked to the platform, and it had an indirect influence on executives, according to Carrie Basham Marshall, principal and CEO of Talk Social to Me. Employees adopted Zoom even if their organization already used Microsoft Teams.
After using Zoom in their personal lives, executives told Fasciani, "What are we doing messing around with Webex anymore?"
Consumers gave Zoom a boost too. But their adoption contributed to unforeseen security hurdles, including "Zoom-bombing" and revelations of unfulfilled end-to-end encryption (E2EE) policies, despite the company's security whitepaper saying otherwise. While Zoom's use of transport layer security (TLS) is a component common within its competitors' platforms, CEO Eric Yuan stepped outfront fast.
"We resolved them in a very short order. Within 24 hours of notification, these things were mitigated and resolved, we put them to bed," said Moseley.
In November, Zoom settled with the Federal Trade Commission following allegations of "a series of deceptive and unfair practices." The company also launched a tool for notifying users of meetings at-risk and circumventing meeting "Zoom-bombs."
The company imposed a "feature freeze" and enlisted a CISO Council and Advisory Board to make security and privacy primary focuses. In June, the company hired Jason Lee, as its CISO. He took over from Deputy CISO Richard Farley.
Zoom was not defensive about its privacy practices. "They basically accepted what the problems were and got to work," said Fasciani.
Zoom made E2EE available to "all tiers of users" in October, as the company added another standard for its competitors to follow. "Any video conference vendor is going to have to match Zoom's experience while also maintaining security features for the enterprise. For older or smaller vendors, that is a tall hill to climb," said Basham Marshall.
Looking into 2021, Zoom is not stopping just because it's ahead. The company is trying its hand in new markets, enticed by the pandemic.
Zoom has more consumers using the platform than enterprises now, and in an effort to maintain that market, in October Zoom announced OnZoom, an "online event platform" for consumers or small businesses hosting events. Zoom found a way to monetize the businesses that adopted Zoom because of coronavirus, hosting live sessions and events.
From an enterprise perspective, Zoom is allowing app developers to embed Zoom into their apps. It is the "exact model" of Slack's partnership with AWS, according to Fasciani. The customizable SDK is the emerging model for platforms like Zoom. This is "the threat, longer term, to purpose-built platforms," including Zoom or Cisco WebEx, where customers have to buy separate licenses to use them.