Zoom: the $29bn video-call app you’d never heard of until coronavirus

The digital conferencing tool has taken off thanks to physical distancing across the globe. Just watch out for the 40-minute limit and pornography trolls

Mother and daughter using laptop to video chat (posed by models)
‘Now we’re all under lockdown, we get to witness the big video-calling apps fight each other to the death for dominance.’ (Posed by models.) Photograph: Jessica Peterson/Getty Images/Tetra Images RF

Name: Zoom.

Age: Nine.

Appearance: That thing that reminds you what your parents look like.

Oh, you’re a Zoom guy? Why, what’s your video-call tool of choice? WhatsApp? Facebook Messenger? Houseparty? Skype? Google Hangouts? FaceTime?

You’re making me feel dizzy. Well, that’s to be expected. Now we’re all under lockdown, we get to witness all the big video-calling apps fight each other to the death for dominance. By the time the coronavirus outbreak is over, at least one of these services will end up as the video-conferencing version of Betamax.

Please say it’ll be Facebook Messenger. Unlikely. As things stand, Facebook Messenger is the only app that has a filter that turns your head into a foot. People need that sort of thing these days.

Then will it be Zoom? Again, probably not. Physical distancing has been a blessing for Zoom. Nobody had heard of it a fortnight ago; all of a sudden, it’s worth $29bn (almost double its valuation when it went public in April 2019).

Why? Because it’s crossplatform and free for unlimited one-to-one calls.

Wait, so I have to pay for group calls? Yes. With groups of up to 100, you get 40 minutes free. After that, it’s £11.99 a month to run a call.

That sucks. No it doesn’t. It’s brilliant.

Why? Have you done any video-conferencing yet? It’s terrible. It’s full of people talking over each other, or muttering, or standing in noisy rooms that drown out all conversation. Also, no one seems to know how to satisfactorily end a video call. They go on and on and on. I think 40 minutes is plenty.

But the pricing is the only downside? Well, that and the pornography.

Pardon? Ah, let me introduce you to Zoombombing, where trolls join a video chat and, instead of showing their face, broadcast pornography to everyone else in the group.

That’s horrible. Yes – but, simultaneously, much less boring than a 9am work meeting.

So Zoom is here to stay. At least until the stay-at-home rules are lifted and everyone can just go to the pub again. Frankly, that can’t come quickly enough.

Because you miss interaction? No, because I hate interaction! The past few days have been a nightmare! Everyone keeps checking in on me! I’ve spoken to more people in the past 48 hours than in the two months before that combined! Why does everyone have to see each other all the time? What’s wrong with a text?

Wow, you’re a monster. Yes! I’m a busy monster. Leave me alone!

Do say: “In my day, we didn’t have apps such as Zoom to keep us permanently connected in times of isolation.”

Don’t say: “I preferred my day.”