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Power

Zoom finds a balance between privacy and policy

The company said it will enable end-to-end encryption for everyone on the service, and says it can do it without sacrificing its "ability to prevent and fight abuse on the platform."

Zoom in use

The challenges for Zoom now are similar to those Facebook faces as it tries to pivot to privacy: Privacy is a good thing, except when it protects bad guys.

Photo: Courtesy of Zoom

Say this for Zoom: The company's certainly quick on its feet. After creating a backlash for the umpteenth time this pandemic by saying its end-to-end encryption feature would be for paying customers only, then making it worse by saying that decision was made so Zoom could better cooperate with law enforcement, then tripling down by removing a Chinese dissident from the service at the request of the Chinese government, Zoom … changed its mind in a big way.

On day 77 of Zoom's 90-day plan to rethink everything about its security plans, the company said it will enable end-to-end encryption for everyone on the service, and released designs for its encryption on GitHub. And, CEO Eric Yuan said, Zoom can do it without sacrificing its "ability to prevent and fight abuse on the platform."

  • Yuan said that Zoom talked to civil rights groups, government organizations, child-safety advocates, encryption experts and more since its initial announcement a few weeks ago. Clearly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, those groups told Zoom that more encryption is better.
  • Starting in July, when you schedule a meeting, you'll be able to choose to have end-to-end encryption. (There'll be a new button in the interface.) But there are limitations: Encrypted calls can't include regular phone callers, for instance.
  • For business accounts, administrators will be able to toggle encryption either for a specific user or the whole organization.

The challenges for Zoom here are similar to those Facebook faces as it tries to pivot to privacy: Privacy is a good thing, except when it protects bad guys. Zoom may not have the same sort of public-moderation issues, but full encryption would make it harder to keep out Zoombombers or figure out who's creating accounts en masse.

  • Most of Zoom's changes in recent weeks have been about giving admins and users more control over who comes into a meeting and what they can do once they're in there. But the company still feels it needs ways to keep some tabs on the platform and its users.
  • In this case, Zoom users on free and basic plans will be asked to verify some information about themselves — like a phone number — in order to turn on the feature. Zoom is still trying to make sure it can weed out problematic users, so it's trading "info about your chats" for "info about our users."

Zoom's still tweaking the encryption system and soliciting feedback on GitHub. "Until things are out the door, there's really no reason to cut off feedback," said Max Krohn, Zoom's head of security engineering. I've seen a few people complain about Zoom collecting more information about users, but in general the reaction to this news seems to be that Zoom came around and did the right thing. Even if it took a few wrong turns along the way.

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Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

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.

The New Enterprise

How Zoom pulled off the scaling event of a lifetime

Self-managed data centers with excess capacity, an application built to adapt to bandwidth and key cloud alliances all helped Zoom weather the work-from-home storm.

Zoom was able to handle that surge in demand this year with minimal service disruption, thanks to a global hybrid cloud network of self-managed data centers and cloud resources.

Image: Zoom/Protocol

All modern enterprise tech companies plan for scale. Few have been tested to the degree that Zoom was at the outset of the worst pandemic in modern history.

In December 2019, 10 million people a day participated in a meeting on Zoom. By March 2020, that number had grown to 200 million as governments imposed lockdowns around the world in hopes of containing the spread of COVID-19. And during the 90 days between Feb. 1st and April 30, Zoom experienced a 224% increase in the number of customers with 10 or more employees using its product compared to the previous 90-day period.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

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