Zoom Is a Nightmare. So Why Is Everyone Still Using It?
And will we keep using it when all of this is over?
Since the coronavirus started spreading, our little computer and phone cameras have become windows from our isolation, looking into other people’s lives, catching glimpses of pets, children, and spouses in the background of video calls. I find these moments deeply humanizing; reminders that we’re not perfect work machines, just people trying to do the best we can. Our hair is messy, our faces poorly framed and lit. Sometimes we leave the mic on when we go to the bathroom.
Through this tiny lens we see the ambient background of life: people working in kitchens, bedrooms or spare rooms, the hoarded detritus of life piled behind them. A colleague, I learned from a video call, uses an ironing board as a desk. Another works from the sofa. One collects stuffed hedgehogs. You’ve probably had similar insights about your colleagues. Quite possibly you’ve learned many of these things through Zoom.
Until a few weeks ago, Zoom was barely known outside of the world of enterprise IT. But now it is everywhere. Schools and hospitals have it, before being taken into intensive care the U.K. prime minister spoke to the cabinet through it, even my mum’s ukulele group uses it. Zoom has added more customers in the last month than it did in the previous year.
In many ways this is surprising. The videoconferencing market is saturated with big names. Yet somehow, over the last few weeks, Zoom has become synonymous with videoconferencing.
“What is this black magic?”
When I ask people why they use Zoom, I repeatedly hear the same thing: It’s easy to get started. Even Zoom’s competitors say this. Jim Mercer worked at GoToMeeting when he first tried it. “One click, we were in, and there were 25 feeds of participants at the same time,” he said. “We were like, ‘What is this voodoo?’” His words are echoed across the industry. Security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh became…