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As the world reopens, can Zoom maintain its hold on face-to-face meetings?

December 7, 2021, 7:00 PM UTC
Photo of woman on Zoom on a laptop
Zoom became a household name in the pandemic's early days, jumping from 10 million to 350 million daily users in a year.
Alistair Berg—DigitalVision/Getty Images

When the COVID-19 pandemic pushed much of the world to hunker down at home, Zoom meetings quickly became the go-to for how people stayed in touch. From Zoom baby showers to Zoom birthdays to Zoom weddings (as well as, yes, Zoom funerals), the video conferencing tool created a safer alternative to in-person events.

In December 2019, before COVID-19 became a pandemic, Zoom had about 10 million daily users. A year later? Zoom reported 350 million daily meeting participants.

“Zoom as a service, and as a word, now has just a consistent place in the zeitgeist,” said Beth Kowitt, co-host of Fortune‘s Reinvent, a podcast about fighting to thrive in a world turned upside-down. “This became so critical to trying to maintain any sense of normality that we had” before COVID-19.

But why Zoom? “In the early days of the Internet, one of the original pioneers, Robert Pittman, said ease of use equals use. That has proved to be true time and again, nowhere more so than with Zoom,” said Reinvent co-host Geoff Colvin.

“It’s free. You don’t have to sign up for Office365. You don’t have to sign up for Gmail. You can just use Zoom any time, anywhere. [Zoom] really took a lot of the friction out of it,” added Michael Shanler, VP analyst at Gartner and a guest on this week’s episode.

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased and people have resumed in-person events, what role will Zoom play in our lives? And will enterprise-focused online meeting giants like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Google take back some of the space that Zoom claimed?

Zoom executives think the company has become embedded in how people live and work. “We’ve basically created kind of a habit, and the idea of not needing to really meet someone face-to-face every time, it has resonated,” said Oded Gal, Zoom’s chief product officer.

Gal joins Shanler, Boston Consulting Group’s managing director and senior partner Deborah Lovich, and Gartner’s senior research director for digital workplace application Mike Fasciani on the latest episode of the Reinvent podcast. Along with co-hosts Kowitt and Colvin, they discuss Zoom and its competitors, how AR and A.I. will transform online meetings, and the future of work. Listen to the full episode below.

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