October 17 (Forbes) – Zoom has had a tough few months as competitors such as Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have tried to steal its crown in the video conferencing space. But now, Zoom is fighting back with a bunch of game-changing features—one of which is rare in large scale video conferencing.
The first and possibly the biggest new feature is the availability of end-to-end encryption in Zoom. This will be available as a technical preview from next week, allowing free and paying users to host up to 200 people on an end-to-end encrypted video call.
End-to-end encryption means no one has the keys to access your Zoom call—including Zoom itself and law enforcement. It’s available on services including WhatsApp, Signal and FaceTime, but other video conferencing services Teams and Google Meet do not have this level of security (they are encrypted, but not end-to-end).
Zoom’s end-to-end encryption offering is optional, and it can be enabled at the account, group, and user level. Depending on how the account admin sets up the feature, it can be toggled on and off by the host on a by-meeting basis depending on the sensitivity of the discussion.
Other new Zoom features announced
During its Zoomtopia virtual conference on October 14, Zoom also announced some other new features that it hopes will increase its user base and beat its competitors. OnZoom is a platform for Zoom users to create and host free, paid, and fundraising events. Available starting today as a public beta for U.S. users, additional functionality includes gifting tickets and an attendee dashboard to keep tabs on favorite events and brands.
Zoom has also added a tool called Zapps that connects other apps directly in Zoom. This will rival Microsoft’s Teams and its Advanced Communications offering which is tightly integrated with Microsoft’s other services.
Another new feature, Immersive Scenes lets the host set a custom background theme for their meetings or create layouts where participant videos are embedded within a scene that everyone shares, such as a classroom or courtroom, similar to Teams’ “Together Mode.”
Building on this, Zoom Rooms smart gallery leverages AI to present in-room participants as individuals in gallery view to better enable face-to-face communication between in-office and remote participants.
Zoom also announced that support for DTEN ME, Facebook via the Zoom on Portal app, and Zoom Rooms appliances are generally available. Amazon Echo Show, DTEN onTV, Google Assistant-enabled Smart Displays including Nest Hub Max, and Yealink A20 will be supported by the end of year.
Zoom’s game-changing feature
Other features include voice command options and simplified pairing of personal devices to control Zoom Rooms meeting experience and a suite of whiteboarding enhancements to enable collaboration across mobile, desktop, and rooms.
The availability of end-to-end encryption is certainly a big deal. Zoom promised users it would provide this feature after criticism of its security as millions flocked to the platform during the early stages of Covid-19.
Zoom has always been the most functional of platforms for straight video chats, meetings and events, but rivals including Microsoft’s Teams were catching up with features designed to offer an immersive and integrated meeting experience.
Access to end-to-end encryption via Zoom will please a lot of people. It’s something Teams doesn’t have, and it gives Zoom another game-changer to add to its feature portfolio.