San Francisco For Facebook it’s a little disgrace: the corona pandemic is forcing millions of people worldwide to stay in their homes. Contact with friends is only possible virtually. But the app of the hour is zoomUntil recently, a relatively obscure video conferencing service intended for business customers. Since the global outbreak, Zoom’s user base has grown from an average of 10 million to 300 million. At times, the app was No. 1 in the app stores. There are zoom school lessons, zoom weddings, zoom funerals.
Of course, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp are also used significantly more than before. Facebook sells ten times as many “portal” video telephones and can hardly keep up with production, says Mark Zuckerberg in a video message transmitted on Facebook on Friday afternoon.
But Zuckerberg wants to direct Zoom’s customer rush to its platforms and benefit from Zoom’s mistakes and omissions. He promises easy-to-use video conferencing with friends and family without all of the privacy and privacy issues that Zoom had and is now tackling – piquantly with the help of Alex Stamos, Facebook’s ex-cybersecurity director, who left the company in a clinch.
Facebook thus joins a group of tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft or Cisco who want to end zoom’s sudden rise and take its place. Thanks to its ease of use, Zoom has become a kind of social network in the weeks of global curfews – without the company really wanting to.
The fact that you initially only needed a meeting link to join was both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because it enabled growth and users are now also improving the app – for example by creating and exchanging optical backgrounds for video calls such as palm beaches. Curse because they made it possible for video raids to be attacked by strangers, known as “zoom bombing”.
Algorithms against zoom bombers
Zuckerberg seems to have set his developers on developing an improved “zoom” copy: users of the messenger app should be able to open “rooms” – virtual rooms for up to 50 users, which at the same time enable spontaneous encounters with friends, but “any Uncle ”, as Zuckerberg says, or other Facebook“ friends ”outside.
Facebook’s artificial intelligence and knowledge of the friendships and social ties of its users should help, and open spaces should only be offered to friends who have close ties to the organizer. The organizer can control the visibility of the rooms, guests who are not logged in to Facebook must enter a name to prevent “zoom bombing”.
Facebook wants to surpass the popular backgrounds, which are static at Zoom, with 360-degree backgrounds. Whoever turns in the “room” changes the panorama behind. Augmented reality elements, such as when a user has a birthday or light that changes with the mood, should make the surroundings more interesting than zooms digital photo wallpapers.
As of next week, video chats with eight instead of four participants at the same time should be possible on WhatsApp. WhatsApp’s 2018 end-to-end encryption, which guarantees special privacy, is to be maintained, which is becoming increasingly difficult technically with a growing number of participants.
Zoom once promised end-to-end encryption of its calls, but failed to do so. WhatsApp is the only end-to-end encrypted video phone service that is distributed around the world and available on both major smartphone operating systems, says Zuckerberg. A swipe against Apple’s “Facetime” and Google’s “Hangouts”, which couldn’t prevent Zoom’s rise. “Whom security is important and who wants end-to-end encryption will probably use WhatsApp,” says the 35-year-old.
Copying successful competitors has always been one of the strategies of the Facebook founder. After the competitor Snap invented the “Stories” format, which users can use to send their entire circle of friends a status update, gradually copied the idea, Instagram and WhatsApp and Facebook and slowed down Snap growth. Other copies brought less: The “Tiktok” copy “Lasso” has been a lonely app zombie practically without users since development.
But “Rooms” has several advantages that could help the feature to make a breakthrough: Facebook is building it on its existing app with 1.3 billion users, WhatsApp has even more users. While Zoom offers a freemium product that only allows free calls for up to 40 minutes, Facebook is free for end users anyway.
Even the best developers in the world cannot resolve the inherent contradiction between simple use and simple abuse. But while Zoom has to make a distinction between who is a desired guest and who is a potential “zoom bomber”, Facebook knows more than any other company about the social relationships of its users. Zoom now prescribes passwords for zoom meetings, which in turn makes it difficult to use.
And finally, Facebook’s opponent in this case does not even seem to be sure whether it wants to give up its new users without a fight. Zoom’s chief information officer Harry Moseley recently told Handelsblatt that it has not yet been determined whether the corona pandemic will again primarily be used as a service for companies or to develop additional features for private users.
“Our DNA is a product for companies,” said Moseley. By the end of June, Zoom does not want to develop any new features, but rather fix its security problems. Lots of time for Facebook to become the new zoom.
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