What comes after Zoom?



VIdeo conferencing in the 1990s

We had video calls in science fiction, and we had video conferencing in the 1990s, just as the web was taking off, as a very expensive and impractical tool for big companies. It was proposed as a use case for 3G, which didn’t happen at all, and with the growth of consumer broadband we got all sorts of tools that could do it, but it never really became a mass-market consumer behaviour. Now, suddenly, we’re all locked down, and we’re all on video calls all the time, doing team stand-ups, play dates and family birthday parties, and suddenly Zoom is a big deal. At some point many of those meetings will turn back into coffees, we hope, but video will remain.

Will it still be Zoom, though? As a breakthrough product, I think it’s useful to compare Zoom with two previous products - Dropbox and Skype. 

Part of the founding legend of Dropbox is that Drew Houston told people what he wanted to do, and everyone said ‘there are hundreds of these already’ and he replied ‘yes, but which one do you use?’ That’s what Zoom did - video calls are nothing new, but Zoom solved a lot of the small pieces of friction that made it fiddly to get into a call.  

The other comparison, though, is Skype. Just as for video, VOIP had been around for a long time, but Skype solved a lot of pieces of friction, in both engineering and user experience, and by (Read more...)