So here we all are in lockdown and suddenly, everyone is talking about ZOOM, the video conferencing software. ZOOM itself has seen their market cap stretched beyond $40.3 billion, worth more than Uber and Lyft combined. This exponential growth has been driven not only by business use when working from home, but also by the explosion in home use; virtual dinner parties, quiz nights, online lessons are just some of the things that people have come up with, and it’s early days yet. People who have never video-conferenced in their lives are suddenly at it all the time. One of the companies that I do freelance work for has been using the software to communicate with us for regular updates on how the business and market is going.
So… in this perfect world, what could possibly be wrong? Well for a start, ZOOM itself has a rather less than stellar record when it comes to security, so much so that Apple itself had to issue a software patch to its’ own operating system to cover a security issue that ZOOM had exploited. There are further questions about how ZOOM uses customer data and then there’s ‘ZOOMbombing‘. Rather a lot of organisations (Google, NASA, New York City schools, the U.S. Senate and many more) have banned their staff from using ZOOM because of various security concerns.
There are good reasons not to use ZOOM apart from all of this. For a start, you can’t talk for more than 40 minutes unless one of you is a paid subscriber. Another reason is that you have to install software on your phone or tablet; on your computer you can use a web browser to get around this, but the experience is sub-optimal. But for many people, the best reason to not install ZOOM is that you don’t need it if you have an Apple device (Mac, iPhone or iPad). It’s already included for free and it’s called FaceTime. FaceTime allows up to 32 people to join a call, is easy to use, provides full security and encryption and it’s sitting right there on your phone waiting. FaceTime isn’t just for Video calls, there’s also an audio only function beloved of Tour Managers phoning their other and better halves from far away hotels with shaky hotel WiFi.
If you’re not an Apple user (why not?) and you have a Windows PC, Samsung or Android phone or tablet then the primary alternative to Zoom would be Skype. Skype is pretty good software that I’ve used many times when teaching my Pilot English Language students. I’ve steered away from it since it was sucked into the Microsoft Maw, but if you’re non-Apple then it’s a good way to go. ZOOM works, really well, but, in my view is probably best for corporates where there is an IT department to police security and protect users.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a couple of suggestions as to how to make your video calls that tiny bit better… Next time you have a virtual quiz night here’s how to shine!
Look behind you! Before you start, just check that the sink behind isn’t visibly full of dirty washing up, your underwear isn’t hanging on a line or the dog isn’t licking something unfortunate (especially if you’re video calling your mother). Look for a safe, bland and well-lit area.
Place that camera. Resting your laptop, phone or iPad on a table in front of you is fine, but it may mean that everybody is staring straight up your nostrils and being surprised by your double chin. It’s better if you can get the screen, and camera at head height looking straight at you. Try to look at the camera and not at the screen when you talk.
Appearance. Your lockdown life may not include shaving, wearing make-up, brushing your hair, getting dressed or brushing that bit of spinach from your front teeth but not everybody may be used to the real, unvarnished you. Just sayin’
Pets & Family. Unless you know the other participants really well, your dog farting or your kids screaming and fighting may not be the look for you. It’s worth warning other people in the house if you’re doing a video call that matters. I came across this sign on the web, and it might be the thing for you?