Zoom is piloting showing ads to users on its free “Basic” tier, the company has announced in a blog post. Ads will appear on the browser page shown to users at the end of a call. Zoom says ads are being rolled out to free users in “certain countries,” though its blog post doesn’t detail exactly which these are. Users on the service’s Basic tier will only see ads if they join a meeting hosted by another Basic tier user.
Although ads won’t be shown during meetings themselves, it’s still a potentially big shift for the videoconferencing service. Zoom has typically imposed only minor restrictions on its free tier, which helped the service explode in popularity last year as people around the world adapted to working and socializing from home. Even its end-to-end encryption, which Zoom initially said would be limited to paid users, ended up coming to free users after all.
“This change ensures that our free Basic users are able to continue connecting with friends, family, and colleagues”
Until now, arguably the biggest restriction on Zoom’s free tier is its 40-minute limit on the length of group calls. But Zoom’s chief marketing officer Janine Pelosi writes that it needs to start showing ads to help it “support investment and continue providing free Basic users with access to our robust platform.”
“This change ensures that our free Basic users are able to continue connecting with friends, family, and colleagues with the same robust platform we have always offered,” Pelosi writes.
In the hopes of avoiding a similar privacy backlash to the one that greeted the service’s surge in popularity last year, Zoom is emphasizing that it won’t be using “meeting, webinar, or messaging content (specifically, audio, video, files, and messages)” to target ads.