Ten years ago, Silicon Valley had written off Zoom. Now it’s used by everyone from princes to piano teachers

On 6 January, a day after the World Heath Organization first reported a strange cluster of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, China, a party invitation dropped online. “Mark your calendars”, read the invite sent out by Zoom, a video-conferencing company based in California, “for Zoomtopia 2020!” Innocently enough, Zoom was announcing a real-world get-together for its most ardent clients and fans – at the time, these were mostly customers in enterprise and education, who chose to use Zoom over any number of video-chat competitors because of its easy interface and the relative smoothness of its connections.

But while it was well regarded in tech and business circles (and floated on the US stock exchange in 2019), Zoom was a marginal force in the world in January. This wasn’t Apple. This wasn’t Uber. Guests on their way to Zoomtopia would have to explain to cab drivers and hotel concierges what Zoom was. Then that strange cluster of Wuhan cases began its unstoppable global spread, and by the end of March about half the planet’s governments had locked their citizens indoors, leaving them to figure out how to work and socialise from home. Suddenly, we were all in Zoomtopia.

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