Earlier today, reports of users having issues with the Zoom video conferencing service were unavoidable. This isn’t the first time the video chat app has experienced technical problems, nor is it the first time Zoom has done things to detract from its customers’ confidence in the platform. However, the timing of this outage is especially concerning and could have been disastrous.
Zoom holds the awkward title of perhaps being the world’s biggest pandemic success story. The video chat company has had its product on the digital market for years but it wasn’t connecting well with users outside of the enterprise demographic. Once the coronavirus pandemic began forcing people to work from home though, the app quickly became the most popular video alternative to face-to-face conversation for work or casual purposes. At the same time, this popularity drew tremendous attention and highlighted other issues with Zoom’s setup.
Today’s outage likely did little to help Zoom’s public image. The service was reportedly down, across multiple fronts, for a few hours this morning. Zoom was quick to address the issue on both its support site and its social media channels, which is certainly a positive step for the company. However, it’s still alarming how many aspects of Zoom were impacted. Complaints unearthed issues with logins, starting or joining chats after logging in, upgrading accounts to get paid services, and even problems accessing the website at all. Currently, Zoom says all the issues are resolved but the company hasn’t explained what went wrong.
Zoom is practically synonymous with phrases like “work from home” or “remote learning” right now. Its closest competitors are likely Google Meet or Microsoft Teams but there’s no question Zoom dominates the public mindshare as far as video conferencing services. So, now that schools are attempting to reopen and non-essential businesses prepare to adjust to the new realities of the ongoing pandemic, anything that has to happen remotely is likely related to Zoom. This has evolved from a convenience to a responsibility.
Unfortunately, the exact process of reopening schools is still in question. With each US state and county having control over how to handle public education, there’s a passionate debate over whether educators should be focused on optimizing remote learning options or putting those resources into a safer in-school environment. Zoom would undoubtedly play a massive part in any hybrid or remote classroom scenarios, and today is the day many schools start their Fall semester so this outage could be exactly the kind of problem driving people to risk in-person classes recklessly. Now, more than ever, video chat apps need to prove themselves capable of supporting the world’s needs and Zoom is off to about as bad a start as one could expect.