BY Wesley Diphoko 5 MINUTE READ

Zoom is as synonymous with video chat as Kleenex is to tissue paper. With 300 million daily meeting participants (a stat last measured in 2020), Zoom exploded during the pandemic due to its accessible design, with an interface that worked as well for C-suiters planning all-hands meetings to grandma attending a virtual wedding. Since then, it has retained a significant foothold of the social mindshare, while trying to increase its footprint in the service’s original bread and butter, the enterprise market, where it has 200,400 enterprise customers.

But while Zoom constantly introduces more features, the core experience of meetings has remained largely the same since 2020. That changes today as Zoom shares its biggest overhaul since most of us started using it. The news comes along with Zoom’s announcement of a new platform called Zoom Workplace, which will use AI to create a workspace competitive with Slack or Teams.

The project was led by Jeff Smith, head of product for Zoom Meetings, who walked me through some of the newest features—which address everything from the anxiety of sharing your screen, to the stuffiness inherent to online meetings, to the actual ability to get work done. (Spoiler: Zoom is coming for platforms like Office 365 by promising collaborative documents right inside the new Zoom interface.)

“Trying to create a single unified UI that meets the needs of a 3rd grade teacher and a software professional? These are challenging things for one interface that does all of the things and well,” says Smith.

Here are some of the most notable new features from Zoom’s coming redesign.


There’s nothing worse than coughing on a Zoom call, and suddenly your CEO’s face is replaced with your own.

A big reason why these situations happen is that Zoom only has two drastic view modes, “a flat gallery where everyone is equal and no one is priority, or . . . active speaker mode where one person is huge,” says Smith. “There’s a lot of room in the middle for real meetings!”

Now, Zoom is getting a multi-speaker view (a feature technically stolen from its Zoom Rooms product). It doesn’t quite solve for the stray cough, but it does select two people to sit up top in a dynamic conversation, with a view of everyone in your meeting tiled in smaller windows below. It plays off a more natural flow of conversation, where even in large meetings, a couple people might be working through an idea together.

“I can still glance at people in the meeting to see their reaction, but I’m having a conversation with you,” explains Smith.


It might not always feel like it at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday when you’re stuck in a meeting, but Zoom’s corporate values are “care” and “happiness.” And these are feelings that the team wanted to bake into the actual interface of the product.

Zoom is doing that by adding color to the otherwise grayscale product. You can now choose between a few different gradient backdrops, including flavors of red, blue, and green. (Frankly, more variety with some less corporately bold colors would be welcome.) “As enterprise software, it’s easy to get super conservative and nestle into the pack,” says Smith, who explains this small splash of color is actually quite bold for a company operating in this space.

Beyond simple color skinning, Zoom is also introducing a meetings view that adds a bit of color to everyone’s windows. Paired with backdrops, which could range from color gradients to scenic wallpapers like forests, the effect is more striking than it may seem. Rather than the group feeling disparate, it adds a visual cohesion that makes the meeting room feel more like a unique gathering space. It’s metaverse light.

“It adds personality to the meting,” says Smith of this update. “There’s a lot of types of meetings. Some are formal, others have a completely different feel to them, but the interface has always been uniform. How can we bring tools to the table so people can tailor the meeting experience to the type of meeting they’re having?”

Additionally, the company redrew its bottom bar of icons to “express more personality, more softness, and value of care.” Most overtly, the react icon is now a heart that’s tilted playfully to the side. Personally, I’m not sure the visual aesthetic is quite conveying a unified tone across the board, and these icons could still use some work. But, clearly, Zoom is attempting to loosen the tie a bit.


You’re not the only person who gets nervous sharing their screen on Zoom, and that insight informed one of the biggest updates to Zoom: a new screen that lets you set up your screen share before it goes to everyone, complete with the option to choose to share only certain apps or windows rather than your whole entire screen.

“It’s one of the things in our user research we hear over and over,” says Smith. “My desktop is my personal space . . . So that’s a core responsibility of Zoom as a platform to help people not make mistakes in sharing information they don’t intend to share.”

The new updates means you could selectively share PowerPoint slides and an Excel spreadsheet, but not your email sitting underneath it all.

Alongside this update, Zoom will also allow multiple attendees to screenshare at the same time, removing significant bottlenecks for people who want to share media in a dynamic meeting.

“One question I have in meetings once a day is, ‘Can you stop sharing so I can share?’” says Smith. “That’s going to be a thing of the past. Now it’s like, ‘everyone just put it up!’”


Pushing a step past screen sharing, Zoom users will also be able to share files like Google or Office 365 docs inside meetings. These documents can be edited, collaboratively, in real time.

“In the past few years, we talked about ‘hybrid [work]’ or whatever, but the truth is we’re much more distributed than we used to be and we need to get our work done wherever people are sitting,” says Smith. “And that means we need to get our work done in a meeting when we’re talking to someone.”

These documents will float on top of the interface, just like web browser tabs. In fact, Zoom basically built a web browser into its meetings software, and it’s using web APIs offered by companies like Microsoft to allow you to load your files into the shared Zoom chat space for remote, collaborative work.

In this sense, Zoom is promising the anti-walled garden approach, offering a breadth and variety of file types from competitors inside their software. And that comes down to empowering the polyamorous way people actually work, versus the more brand loyal way companies wish we did.

“Even dedicated Microsoft users are going to have a Google Doc over here, and then meeting on Zoom,” says Smith. “Part of our design philosophy is choice, where the platform can enable customers with different configurations to all be successful.”

The above updates will roll out over the coming months.

“I think it’s going to be cool to see how people use them,” says Smith. “Any time you take steps in these directions you get both sides, people who love it and people who don’t like what you’re doing. The negative feedback will be just as instructive.”