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Zoom is a video-conferencing platform for one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many, face-to-face communication. As with Skype, the video is live – in real time, not recorded. It is like a telephone call, but with the ability both to hear and to see, and be heard and be seen by, all the other people involved in the call.
A Zoom user requires a computer screen, a webcam and a microphone. Most laptop computers, tablet computers and smartphones are adequately equipped, but a desktop computer might require the addition of a webcam and microphone. However, unlike Skype, the Zoom experience is somewhat dependent on the computer device being used.
Zoom can be used for one-to-one calls, just like with Skype. For this use, the microphones are left on all the time. However, Zoom offers the demanding user much more than Skype, the result of which is that Zoom is more complex than Skype to navigate.
Zoom can be used for one-to-many calls: for example, delivering a lecture or leading a yoga session. This is excellent for online tuition. The ‘many’ can see the presenter, and the presenter can see each of the participants. The ‘many’ have the opportunity to make observations and to ask questions. However, most of the time the microphone of everyone other than the presenter is switched off so that the presenter can proceed without impromptu interruptions.
Zoom can be used for many-to-many calls: for example a Meeting for Business, or a Meeting for Worship.
Many-to-many calls/meetings require forward planning and organisation, as well as self-discipline while the meeting is taking place. Quaker worship and Quaker business methods are well-suited to the self-discipline required.
Every Zoom meeting requires a ‘host’, who is the person responsible for setting up the meeting, scheduling and gathering together ‘participants’, starting the meeting and ending the meeting.
To use Zoom for the first time, a person must register and then download a computer application. After that, as a ‘participant’, as with both parties in a Skype call, very little else is required. One is invited to attend the meeting to be held at a specified time on a specified day, clicks a web-link shortly before the meeting is due to start, and then waits for the meeting to begin.
To use Zoom as a ‘host’, on the other hand, a subscription is required. There are several levels of subscription ranging from free-of-charge to expensive. The more expensive the subscription, the more services are available for use. The paid-for subscriptions offer powerful meeting and conferencing facilities. Of significance is that the the free-of-charge subscription limits one-to-many and many-to-many calls/meetings to 40 minutes. Whilst some Quaker Meetings for Worship may be as short as half an hour in length, most are not, and most Quaker Meetings for Business are longer than 40 minutes. In other words, a Quaker ‘host’ is almost certainly going to require a paid-for subscription.
Whilst a recording of a Zoom call/meeting can be saved locally (say, on a desktop computer) with a free-of-charge subscription, one of Zoom’s premium services is to save a recording of a call/meeting online (in ‘the cloud’), which is rather more practical – for example, turning some parts of a presentation into a YouTube video.