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> They don't really seem to have done anything particularly novel

This just shows a lack understanding. They did something extremely novel: actually make the software work the way humans need it to. HN trivializing anything it doesn't understand gets tiring.

Eric Yuan was the founding engineer of WebEx where he stayed for 14 years, even after the acquisition by Cisco.

He left Cisco to finish what he started at WebEx because he knew Cisco wasn't doing what needed to be done and it was clear that every other piece of video conferencing software out there was terrible too.

Talk to people who've evaluated the software in the market today and anyone who's tried all of the conferencing solutions will tell you that Zoom is head and shoulder above the rest, including Google Hangouts.

Here's a choice quote from an interview he gave:

"I got to this point in life by never giving up on my inspiration — which has always been to build a video communications solution that people will love. This has been a long-time passion of mine. I was born in mainland China. I first envisioned Zoom while I was a college student in China in the late ‘80s, and would take over 10-hour (each way) train rides to visit my girlfriend (now my wife). My desire for an easier way to see her face-to-face without the arduous travel became the impetus for my long path from student to entrepreneur. In 1997 I immigrated to San Jose, CA and secured a position as one of the founding engineers at a small start-up called Webex. I stayed with Webex for the next 14 years, and proudly grew the team I managed from 10 engineers to more than 800 worldwide, and contributed to revenue growth from $0 to more than $800M. In speaking with Webex customers, I realized that the solution suffered from some deep flaws due to its older architecture, particularly a lack of usability, reliability, and video quality. Simply put, it was hard to use and it didn’t work. I knew that Cisco needed to rebuild Webex from the ground up – from the back-end architecture to the user interface to the sales model. I told Cisco leadership, but they didn’t listen. I struck out on my own in 2011, and, fortunately, dozens of Webex’s most talented and visionary engineers soon joined me. Together we spent the next two years building Zoom 1.0, a unified video and web conferencing software that ran seamlessly across mobile, desktop devices, and conference room systems. Since then we’ve developed the product into the best video communications software in the world and built a global team of over 1,100 passionate people."

Full interview here: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/tips-from-the-top-one-on-on...




I didn't mean to understate the value of "just" executing better. That's exactly why I think Zoom is interesting. In tech I think people often overestimate the value of a novel idea and underestimate the value of consistently good execution. I don't think Zoom has succeeded through feature innovation but by implementing features better than the competition and making something that "just works". That doesn't mean I think their achievement is somehow less impressive or that they don't have a great product. Quite the opposite in fact.


I understood your meaning. Although I'm not sure what their tech looks like. It could very well be that they have invented many novel ways to maintain the level of quality that they do. If it was just UI that was better, I would say ya, nothing novel. But they also seem to serve up better and cleared streams than other software I have tried.


Fair! I mis-interpreted the spirit of your original comment.


I'm interesting in the claim regarding Zoom being head-and-shoulders above Google's product. Hangouts is certainly well past it's EOL but the Google Meet product (focused on the enterprise product) works very well and seamlessly integrates into the gsuite set of applications while also providing a great in-room experience.

I haven't personally used Zoom rooms (have connected to some via a laptop though). I have deployed and used Google Meet's in-room experience for a number of years... I suspect the combination of in-room and mobile workers is the key selling point around these products. Zoom have managed to tap that market very successfully while Google still struggle with selling their solution (despite it being very effective) - they seem to fail at making people aware it even exists.

Anyone deployed both? What has the experience been? Pain points of deploying / operating sizeable fleets of either product?


Hangouts suffers from the same thing that plagues every google product except for search: complicated interfaces made by warring teams of designers battling each other for a promotion. Nothing is ever fixed or improved, new UI flows are stapled in when someone needs to prove themselves to move up the corporate ladder. Vestiges of old flows remain to trip up unsuspecting users.


Always get anmoyed to see the crappy stock background image being so distracting, while using most of the screen real estate.

Same thing for the ambient mode on chromecast, doesnt even support suspend, so you either have to stare at a blindingly bright screen at night, or manually turn it off when your done with the tv.


I run on Linux currently and Macbooks previously. I've run into problems almost every time I tried a meeting in Google hangouts (which to be fair has not been often).

Zoom just works across Windows, Mac, and Linux. Problems with meetings are very rare. My previous employer VMware moved from Webex and GotoMeeting to Zoom. It added up to 5 minutes of productive times to calls for engineering teams due the fact that things actually worked and people weren't futzing around with audio, etc.


Try a Zoom call and a Meet for 5 minutes back-to-back. The difference in latency and quality is night and day.

I haven't used Zoom rooms but have used the Hangouts / Meet boxes a lot, and it's easy to see how the Zoom experience would translate.


Why invest in a product that might be “well past it’s EOL” in six months and which has a support model of: go read this FAQ?


So he was founding engineer of WebEx, build the team, build the product, but the product was not good enough because "of its older architecture, particularly a lack of usability, reliability, and video quality" !?! Wasn't that his responsibility as VP of WebEx ?


The hint is in his complaints: he probably lobbied Cisco for budget to have a Big Rewrite and they said no. So he upped sticks and did it elsewhere.

Are you proud of your code from 20 years ago? He probably wasn’t either.


Once Cisco bought, it sounds like a lot of control was removed from his hands? New company (Cisco) didn't want to invest in what they thought was a mature product that serviced the market well enough?


How many enterprise web tech products from 1997 do you think survive today with a healthy architecture and usable design?

Plus that whole "I told Cisco leadership, but they didn't listen" surely was not the first time it ever happened.


I'm sorry you were downvoted for an interesting remark. It resonates with me that sometimes you are stuck within a structure that was created by you and need to completely change environment to be able to achieve new goals. Quite interesting point here.


> Eric Yuan was the founding engineer of WebEx

The article and wikipedia don't say he was a founder of Webex; just a early and lead engineer.


Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that he was a founder with founder-level equity.

I see "founder" and "founding engineer" as distinct from each other.

"Founding engineer" in my mind just means key early engineer who played a part in building v0 of the product.




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