Commentary

Businesses, Schools Take To Videoconferencing As New Normal

There has been a boom in Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms as the impact of COVID-19 on the daily lives of workers, students and consumers seems to be expanding exponentially.

“The effects of school closures, business restrictions, social distancing and the overload on the medical system are only beginning to set in,” Margaret Talev writes  for Axios AM, which released the first Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index today. 

“The stark new reality in America: 10% told not to work in the past week, 10% say they're self-quarantining, and 22% say their mental health got worse in the past week,” Talev reports. “Four in five Americans are worried about the coronavirus, with twice as many Democrats as Republicans saying they're very concerned,” she adds.

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The survey of 1,092 U.S. adults taken March 13–16 is billed as “a weekly barometer of the pandemic’s effects on Americans’ health, finances, trust and quality of life.” 

“We Live in Zoom Now,” reads the headline above a New York Times story this morning. “Zoom is where we work, go to school and party these days.”

“On Sunday, nearly 600,000 people downloaded the app, its biggest day ever, according to Apptopia, which tracks mobile apps. While the stock market crashes, Zoom shares have soared this year, valuing the company at $29 billion -- more than airlines like Delta, American Airlines or United Airlines,” write Taylor Lorenz, Erin Griffith and Mike Isaac.  

“It is a high-stakes moment for Zoom, which was founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan, a former Cisco Systems executive. Its sudden cultural cachet also brings new concerns over privacy, security, content moderation, safety for young people and sensitivity to the seriousness of the pandemic. There’s also the tiny matter of keeping the service up and running,” they add.

If you’re not familiar with how to use Zoom, Refinery29’s Anabel Pasarow offers  a guide to the various pricing plans, how to use it and “what exactly your bosses can see.” 

Kathryn Vasel presents  “the rules of video conferencing at home” on CNN Business. “Video conferencing has allowed workers to continue having meetings. It also satisfies the social interaction many workers start to crave when they are working from home. But it can feel a little awkward letting people get a glimpse into our homes,” she points out.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine warns  that “the world is vulnerable to a new type of trolling as people turn to Zoom video calls to feel connected amidst quarantines. Jerks are using Zoom’s screensharing feature to blast other viewers with the most awful videos from across the internet, from violence to shocking pornography.”

Constine goes on to offer some tips on how to protect your Zoom calls from intruders.

Zoom is not the only replacement for F2F in the global village, of course.

“Cisco is also seeing heavy-duty usage of its Zoom competitor, Webex, where Zoom CEO Eric Yuan was once vice president of engineering. Webex was founded in 1995 and acquired by Cisco in 2007,” CNBC’s Jordan Novet writes.

“‘Our MAU, WAU, DAU -- right now it is all-time highs,’ Sri Srinivasan, SVP and GM of Cisco’s collaboration group, told CNBC over a Webex call on Thursday. He was using the acronyms for monthly, weekly and daily active users, a common barometer for people’s engagement with online services,” Novet adds.

Srinivasan, incidentally, “spends a majority of his work hours at his home office in the Seattle-area city of Sammamish and doesn’t have an office at Cisco’s San Jose, California, headquarters.”

There are, of course, other players in  the game, from the venerable Skype, which can now handle up to 50 people on a call, to Google Hangouts.

Molly McLaughlin and Daniel Brame rate the Top 10 videoconferencing players for PC. ClickMeeting, Cisco Webex Meetings and Zoom Meeting all earned Editor’s Choice designations.

TechRadar’s Nate Drake and Brian Turner prefer GoToMeeting, CyberLink U Meeting and Zoom Meetings, in that order, among paid services.

Rebekah Carter offers a guide to free videoconferencing and collaboration software for UCToday.

Last week, Zoom started to offer free basic accounts to all K-12 schools in the country, as Alex Konrad reported for Forbes. There is no time limit on virtual class sessions.

Still, while we’re speaking of mental health, there have been more than a few tweets from frazzled parents this week along the lines of, “I just spent 47 minutes home schooling my 9-year-old and I now believe teachers should be making seven-figure salaries.”

When I alerted my colleague, Steve Ellwanger, to what I was covering this morning, he suggested there may be an opposite reaction brewing for folks with older students.

“What’s interesting is that more than a few parents might be thinking ‘Why am I spending $50,000 to $70,000 a year to send my kids to college?’” he emailed. “Maybe the arms race that has been the rising tuition/student loan scene will finally reach its tipping point.”

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