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People

Zoom has a plan to dominate the virtual events industry

When COVID hit, everyone raced to figure out how to turn all their events virtual. Now Zoom wants to win that industry, too.

OnZoom discovery page

With OnZoom, Zoom wants to make a one-stop shop for virtual events.

Photo: Zoom

Conferences, workout classes, graduations, cooking lessons. In 2020, they've all had one thing in common: They happen over video chat. Mostly over Zoom. The virtual event business has become a crucial one for many who used to rely on in-person interactions, and many believe it's not going to go away even when the pandemic does. Companies and creators are discovering the reach they can have with virtual events, and are leaning further into them.

Zoom, as it continues to embrace being more than a space for business meetings, is launching its bid to own this new market. It announced OnZoom, its new virtual event platform, on Wednesday at its Zoomtopia conference. (Held, of course, over Zoom.) The platform's launching in public beta for U.S. users immediately, with a broader launch coming next year.

OnZoom attempts to consolidate what has become a teeming, sometimes complicated market for virtual events. Companies like Airbnb and IRL want to be the directory of those events; RSVPify and Eventbrite and Stream want to sell tickets. Apps like Shindig and Hopin are trying to create virtual events that don't just feel like really big virtual meetings. A whole generation of "Zoom for X" startups — Zoom for presentations, or Zoom for school, or Zoom for a party — is cropping up, too, each trying to carve out their own slice of the video-call experience.

If one company were to try and own the whole experience, Zoom's the most likely candidate. Wei Li, Zoom's head of platform and AI, said the company built OnZoom as a solution to this sprawling new industry. Right now, she said, event hosts are "forced to manage many different apps and tools to market their events, schedule their events, engage with their customers, collect payment, and conduct business analytics. And event attendees have to deal with even more apps and platforms."

OnZoom, on the other hand, handles everything in one place. Its website offers a sortable, searchable list of upcoming events; it integrates with PayPal to collect money (Li said more payment providers are coming, but she declined to specify which), and gives hosts all kinds of information about their attendees and ticket sales. It's even taking on some of the content-moderation work, Li said, using AI moderators. "We're committed to providing users with a welcoming, respectful place to share their voice." All that, and hosts' classes and events still happen on Zoom just as they always have.

During the public beta, Li said Zoom won't take a cut of ticket sales. (It'll even cover transaction fees for events meant to benefit nonprofits.) In the long run, though, it presents an interesting strategic decision: Will Zoom take a small cut, or none at all, and use the platform to continue to shore up Zoom's market share? Or does it see OnZoom as its next big revenue stream, and plans to use its current dominance to rake in the cash?

Either way, it's clear that Zoom sees its chance to become something more than "the best place to video chat." It spent the early days of the pandemic just trying to keep the service running, and then a three-month sprint trying to fix a litany of security issues. But now it's back on offense. The company also launched Zapps, a new tool developers can use to embed their apps — notes in Dropbox, whiteboards from Miro, that sort of thing — right into their Zoom calls. Ross Mayfield, Zoom's product lead for integrations, described it as "bringing an app store actually into the meeting experience."

There's a risk here for Zoom in overextending itself. Zoom fatigue is a real and growing phenomenon, and while virtual events will continue to thrive, it remains to be seen what they'll look like when there are other options again. Meanwhile, with Teams and Meet and a dozen other video apps growing fast, too, developers may not be keen to build specifically for Zoom. But Zoom's the biggest name in the game and is attempting to seize its moment.

For years, Zoom's plan was to put Zoom into everything, developing integrations that always made it simple to start a Zoom call. Now that Zoom has become an indelible constant in the lives of millions of remote workers, it's inverting the plan. You're already in Zoom all day, it says; why not do more while you're in there?

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Protocol | Enterprise

For VMware, replacing the CEO will be hard. Working with Dell will be harder.

Two early contenders for the role of CEO are operating chiefs Sanjay Poonen and Raghu Raghuram.

Pat Gelsinger is leaving VMware after eight years.

Photo: VMware

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger's jump to Intel comes at a particularly precarious time for the company as it navigates a potential spinoff of the business from majority owner Dell.

Chief Financial Officer Zane Rowe is taking over the reins of the virtualization software provider temporarily as the board looks for a permanent replacement, according to a company statement on Wednesday. Two early contenders for the role are operating chiefs Sanjay Poonen and Raghu Raghuram, according to Morningstar analyst Mark Cash.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Enterprise

RingCentral is battling Zoom and Teams. Here's how it hopes to win.

Despite being an underdog, the videoconferencing company is banking on key partnerships as a route to success around the globe.

"Don't count us out," RingCentral CEO Vlad Shmunis told Protocol. "Rome lost many battles, but never a war."

Image: Chris Montgomery

The Roman Empire had many enemies in its over 1,000-year history, but ultimately prevailed against most. That's why RingCentral CEO Vlad Shmunis is so apt to use it as a comparison.

The company is in the midst of a fierce competition for dominance in the rapidly growing cloud-based communications industry against Zoom, Microsoft and others. But despite its position as a relative underdog, Shmunis is confident the company will emerge victorious in the end.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Power

How Zoom won 2020 — and how 2020 changed Zoom forever

Zoom never imagined being the company the pandemic forced it to become. Now it has to grapple with what's next.

Zoom got so big in 2020 that even competitors like Facebook have embraced it.

Photo: Facebook

Zoom never wanted any of this. Coming into 2020, the company was in great shape: It was growing quickly, making money and becoming an essential tool for tech-forward businesses everywhere. It's not that nobody at Zoom had ever imagined being a home for happy hours, book clubs, yoga classes, elementary schools and doctor visits. It's just that Zoom had decided, fairly definitively, it never really wanted to be any of those things.

At the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic upended the world and the rest of the year, Zoom Chief Product Officer Oded Gal told me that Zoom had no plans to become a consumer application. "We are still a business application," he said, "and we don't see ourselves moving away from that." There were some prosumers using Zoom outside of the 9-to-5, he said, and he certainly understood that there were compelling uses for consumer videochat. But he and Zoom were happy to leave those uses to FaceTime and Skype. "We don't want to be a consumer product," he said.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Protocol | Enterprise

How Salesforce, despite big setbacks, had a banner 2020

Amid the chaos of major layoffs and top executive departures, Salesforce announced a key acquisition and managed to report blockbuster earnings.

Marc Benioff is the CEO of Salesforce.

Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images

On Aug. 27, Salesforce announced it would lay off around 1,000 employees.

The news came as a shock to many. At the beginning of the pandemic, CEO Marc Benioff committed to making no "significant" layoffs for 90 days. (The 1,000 job losses occurred 155 days after that pledge was made.) But any blowback to the announcement appears to have been brushed aside by some of the company's top leaders.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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