Zoom, first and foremost, is a video conferencing platform. Ask anyone on the street these days, and that’s the answer you’ll get. Look no further than the Zoom logo with its video-camera graphic for further confirmation. However, that doesn’t mean that Zoom is a one-trick pony – far from it. We’ve already related in previous posts and on our website how Zoom is going head to head with Microsoft in the UCaaS Cloud Phone market. But there’s more to Zoom than just video and phone. Rolled out in January of 2019, Zoom Chat is as comprehensive as a messaging app gets. It offers every feature you could think to want (plus a few more). But how does it stack up against rivals like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Facebook Workplace?
The Basic Chat Checklist
Sending files, message archiving, text formatting options, and @ mentions are commonplace chat features, necessary for everyday use. Equally common are threads, GIPHY integration (what would we do without cat reaction gifs?), private and public channels, pinning or starring messages, and status labels. All four platforms offer these standard functions in only slightly varying formats and executions.
The four competitors start to differ in rarer use cases. Earning points for usability, Zoom, Teams, and Slack all offer light and dark themes, while Facebook Workplace only provides a light option. For multinational companies or projects, both Teams and Workplace offer in-line translation. This is a great accessibility feature that Slack and Zoom have yet to incorporate. Catering to cross-organization partnerships (or cross-platform within your organization), Teams and Slack offer call interoperability. This allows you to launch a Teams call through Slack. Zoom Chat is working on similar features, ostensibly to compete with the two chat giants; Workplace has yet to announce any interoperability development plans
Chat Power User Features
Somewhat less common is end-to-end encryption, a security feature boasted only by Zoom and Teams. However, the actual veracity of whether the encryption is true e2e and the timing for implementation is open for debate. For the short-cutters among us, Teams and Slack offer a laundry list of slash commands for actions. For example, that clarifying /shrug for missed project deadlines (¯\_(ツ)_/at the end of your Slack message) and /dnd (setting your Teams status to do not disturb). Additionally, all four platforms support bots to automate a variety of workflows and third-party integrations. One area where offers vary significantly is file size; the maximum individual file size allowed within Teams is 15gb/file, outstripping Slack’s 1gb/file. In stark contrast, Zoom allows only 512mb/file and Workplace a mere 75mb/file. Although any typical document, pdf, or image would fit within these constraints, large files, like videos, become quite the struggle.
Ultimately, despite some differences in features, Zoom Chat passes with flying colors. Although Zoom may be a video conferencing platform first, you can’t deny that they hold their own in the chat realm.
In Search of Zoom Chat
As Zoom usage has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are often on the front page of conversations about the “new normal” of remote life – both working and socializing. Since then, Zoom’s wealth of chat features is the understudy to their much-touted video conferencing ability. Many business workgroups and individual users don’t even realize that their go-to video call app offers comprehensive collaboration functions outside of the in-meeting chat boxes.
Meanwhile, Teams, Slack, and Workplace are built centrally around messaging with almost every other feature branching off the collaboration workspace. This user design and experience has become the standard style in workstream collaboration platforms. However, Zoom takes an inverse approach to the user interface. Its home page focuses on upcoming meetings and call scheduling instead, highlighting its core video conference calling feature. This is somewhat foreign to users and ultimately, does a disservice to the usability, discoverability and accessibility of Zoom Chat. A veritable bounty of workstream collaboration features sits just one click away from the Zoom home page, gathering virtual dust while users switch back and forth from Zoom conferences to different messaging apps for their chats.
Fortunately, the workstream collaboration wonder that is Zoom Chat isn’t as overlooked as most would believe. Pre-pandemic data indicates that, among enterprise employees who do use Zoom, chat/messaging features and file sharing are the most used, at 60% and 53% of users respectively reporting regular use, compared to only 47% for video conferencing.
Zoom Chat: Ready for PrimeTime
Recently, Slack has taken a massive leap towards improving its video and videoconferencing story by partnering with Amazon and their Chime product offering. For its part, Microsoft already has a full-featured chat, conferencing, and phone platform with Teams. But what does the future hold for Zoom? Failing to establish Chat as a more central part of their offering, Zoom may rapidly find themselves falling by the wayside to Slack. As the previous most-used chat partner for Zoom, Slack is beginning to encroach on Zoom’s video conferencing stronghold. If Zoom is to succeed as a UC and Collaboration suite play, Zoom may well decide to redesign and re-strategize their overall chat function to make it a more discoverable and usable day-to-day collaboration app. While Chat may not be the star of Zoom’s show quite yet, it has undoubtedly earned a co-star role, and the career-defining lead role may be just around the corner.