Zoom announced it is introducing end-to-end encryption as a free add-on feature to its video conferencing platform next week.
In end-to-end encryption, only the communicating users can access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt a conversation. This should prevent eavesdropping from telecom providers and the providers of the service.
The announcement came during its annual Zoomtopia user conference, which it is holding virtually on October 14 and 15.
Zoom, which released a number of new products and initiatives in an attempt to maintain its revenue growth over the last six months, also said it would further integrate its product with Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Among the San Francisco-based company's new offerings was a trial version of an OnZoom marketplace, where users can promote and sell virtual events including classes and concerts.
It also said it plans to make itself a platform for apps, which it will call "Zapps."
Zapping the competition
Becoming a platform would cement Zoom's role in a select constellation of software companies, including Microsoft and Oracle, which have successfully put themselves at the center of businesses' digital work.
Its 370,200 corporate customers with ten or more employees is four times where it was a year ago.
Initially, Zoom had said the feature would only be for paying customers, but decided to make it free for all users after an open letter attracted more than 19,000 signatures.
Users of Zoom's free service wanting to use end-to-end encryption will need to participate in a one-time verification process, to reduce mass creation of abusive accounts, the company said. End-to-end encrypted conversations will have a dark padlock on top of a green shield icon, in the screen's upper left corner.
Users using Zoom's standard GCM (Galois/Counter Mode) encryption will instead see a checkmark there.
The platform has become a byword of the more online work and social habits since April. This week, an Irish radio broadcaster said she was in a Zoom videoconference where "at one point, someone said, we won't mention the elephant in the Zoom."
Accordingly, at the end of August, it raised its revenue projection for the calendar year ending next January to at least $2.37 billion, an increase of 281% over the preceding year.
Zoom's sudden popularity exposed many security failings, though the platform has quickly fixed most. Others are less easy to address through the platform.
Jahana Hayes, a Connecticut member of Congress who is black, had a virtual town meeting on Zoom October 12 which was disrupted by a series of users shouting racial epithets. She wrote about the incident on Medium and Twitter.
New York City barred schools from using Zoom for remote learning in April, instead encouraging schools to switch to Microsoft Teams.
Perhaps optimistically, Zoom also announced features to help organizations during the return to the office, based on improvements to hybrid workforce collaboration.
These include a virtual receptionist and Zoom rooms scheduling, which by the end of the year will also indicate when a room is full according to the social distancing protocols currently in place.
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