Zoom has the lead, but the video-chat race has just begun

World

Zoom has the lead, but the video-chat race has just begun

With an unexpected rise in calling services, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are left to play catch-up

James Titcomb

The entrance to Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters is marked by a 3m sign featuring the social network’s thumbs-up icon. But as employees drive out of the car park at the end of their shifts, they are greeted by something else.

Facebook’s offices used to belong to Sun Microsystems, a pre-eminent tech company until it became bloated and complacent. It fell into decline, before selling to one-time rival Oracle in 2009. When Facebook moved into its old headquarters two years later, Mark Zuckerberg ordered that the Sun logo, cracked and fading, remained on the back of Facebook’s sign, a daily reminder of the dangers of sitting on one’s laurels.

Zuckerberg runs his company with a healthy dose of paranoia. The company was almost permanently scarred by its failure to anticipate the rise of smartphones and, as a result, it obsessively searches for the next big tech trend. Facebook has paid teenagers to install software that tracks the apps they use, spent billions of dollars buying potential rivals or, if they refuse to sell, cloning their features, and invested billions in new areas, such as virtual and augmented reality. But despite its best efforts to become futureproof, Facebook failed to spot the rise of one rival...

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