Zoomtopia 2020 - Zoom becomes a platform, for apps and for paid meetings

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright October 14, 2020
At the opening of its annual Zoomtopia event, Zoom unveils OnZoom for hosting paid online events and becomes an app platform with the launch of Zapps

Zoom Zapps UI screenshot
(via Zoom)

Two eye-catching announcements mark the opening of Zoomtopia, Zoom's annual user conference, which of course is being held virtually this year. Destined to build on Zoom's appeal to personal trainers, performers and educators among others, OnZoom gives businesses and individuals the ability to host and promote paid video sessions and events on Zoom. Targeting SaaS vendors and developers, Zapps is a new way to integrate third-party applications directly into the Zoom meeting experience.

Zoom is also rolling out its end-to-end encryption (E2EE) offering in technical preview, available to both free and paid Zoom users an option that can be enabled either for individual meetings or at a user, group or account level. The lack of E2EE was one of the security issues that plagued Zoom earlier this year after usage boomed during lockdown. Other announcements include various enhancements to its video and voice calling, a new customizable developer SDK and news about its Zoom Cares philanthropic and sustainability program.

OnZoom, which will be available initially in the US only, provides a formal structure for all of the informal sessions, lessons and performances that have already been taking place on Zoom since the onset of lockdown earlier this year. Unlike traditional webinar platforms, it also includes a payment mechanism, initially via PayPal but with other payment processors likely to follow, as well as a donations option for use by fundraisers.

Businesses, entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations can use the OnZoom platform to schedule, promote and host either one-time events and drop-in sessions or a series, for up to 100 or 1,000 attendees, depending on their Zoom license level. There will also be a directory of public events where Zoom users can search for events and buy tickets either for themselves or as gifts for family and friends. The platform launches with a cross-section of partners, ranging from leading weight loss and wellness brand WW to individual performers and trainers.

Zoom CMO Janine Pelosi says the release of OnZoom became a priority in response to seeing how entrepreneurs had turned to Zoom to continue trading through the COVID-19 lockdown:

This is giving them a channel to really continue their business or start a new business, finding revenue for these small businesses. Bringing people back to work is definitely something that I'm excited about for OnZoom.

Zapps targets developers and business users

While OnZoom is a big move that will underpin Zoom's popular appeal, Zapps is the announcement of most significance for enterprise and business users of Zoom. Launching with over 35 partners ranging across digital teamwork and workflow, online learning, sales, virtual whiteboarding, polling and machine transcription, Zapps are third-party applications that users can access within a Zoom meeting, and which also connect into the workflow around scheduling, invitations and follow-up.

With multiple Zapps available within the Zoom environment, the intention is to streamline the workflow around video meetings, especially sharing content, recording notes and action points, and following up afterwards. Once a user has added an approved Zapp to their Zoom instance — even if they add it in-meeting — they can open it and allow other participants to engage with it during the call, even if they don't have it available on their own account.

Zapps are separate from, but often overlap with, the over 800 applications that are already available as integrations or via connectors in the Zoom app store marketplace. It will be up to organizations and individual users to choose whether their workflow is best served by plugging Zoom into another application, or by plugging that application into Zoom as a Zapp. The first Zapps will be available worldwide by the end of the year, after which the platform will be opened up more widely to developers to submit Zapps for testing, approval, hosting, and publishing. Enterprise developers will also be able to build their own custom Zapps to help bring internal workflows and enterprise systems into their Zoom meetings.

Zoom believes its platform will appeal to developers as a channel for viral distribution of apps, says Ross Mayfield, Product Lead, Integrations:

I believe that Zapps are going to transform SaaS. It's a new model of collaborative app distribution, adoption and engagement. And we're going to see the rise of Zoom startups and apps for collaborative social experiences we've just begun to imagine ...

The ability to share gives you word-of-mouth distribution and the ability to send — sending a specific deep link into an app, both in the meeting and then outside the meeting, which is routed through Zoom chat — that gives direct viral distribution of the apps on the platform.

One of the most important vertical markets for Zoom is education, he adds, citing online learning apps such as Kahoot, Kaltura and Coursera as key launch partners for Zapps. Pelosi picks up that theme, reflecting that this has been a "transformational year" for Zoom in surfacing significant new opportunities for it to make a difference across several different industries:

If we think about where we focus — Ross talked about education. This is key. We've opened up the product in over 25 countries, over 100,000 different schools and domains, really enabling millions of kids around the globe to be educated.

If you think about telehealth use cases, these are things that while they existed in the past, never at this scale.

Zoom [is] adjusting and pivoting to these new use cases, whether it be prosumer, or these really important industries that we are helping to enable.

My take

Some may have thought Zoomtopia would be a case of Zoom playing catch-up to the new video meetings technologies that larger rivals including Microsoft, Google and Webex have introduced in recent months. Although Zoom has introduced some enhancements there, its big announcements focus on innovations of its own that are intended to add to the platform's virality.

OnZoom seizes a massive opportunity that webinar vendors for some inexplicable reason have left unaddressed for more than a decade — offering a simple platform that allows customers to monetize their online webinars, meetings and performances. This year has revealed the huge potential market here and in rolling out a platform, Zoom is offering a commercial lifeline to many businesses and entrepreneurs who faced a huge setback with the introduction of social distancing. The only shame is that it is restricted currently to the US market, as this capability is sorely needed elsewhere in the world too. In those regions where it rolls out, it can only help cement Zoom's popularity and reach.

That in turn provides a massive boost to Zapps. At first glance, it may seem unnecessary to bring third-party applications into Zoom when hundreds of applications already do the reverse, bringing Zoom into their own environment. But of course being a plug-in to someone else's app is a precarious existence given how easy it is to plug in an alternative at any time. Becoming a platform that is home to a large ecosystem of third-party and custom applications is the recipe for long-term stickiness and Zoom's current popularity gives it the market presence that is one of the keys to success for an app platform strategy. Bringing in someone of the caliber of Ross Mayfield to manage it is a pretty smart move too.

From our perspective, Zapps gives Zoom the opportunity to become an anchor for an organization's collaborative canvas of digital teamwork tools, rather than one of the bit players around the edges. Seamless integration and workflow is one of the most important foundations of becoming more productive in digital teamwork and this is a powerful strategic move that will help cement Zoom's position as a major player.

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