PSA: Yes you can join a Zoom meeting in the browser

Work in the time of coronavirus is driving huge growth in videoconferencing, as scores of office workers go remote and log on to meetings from home.

Zoom — which offers a range of slick features like auto-transcription and virtual backgrounds — has been a key beneficiary of this viral boom.

Back in February research analysts Bernstein estimated the company had pulled in more active users in two months of 2020 than in the whole of 2019, citing data from Apptopia which builds models fed by an SDK that tracks downloads across a large network of third party apps — suggesting Zoom had added 2.22M monthly active users by the end of February vs onboarding 1.99M in the whole of 2019.

In total they estimated Zoom had 12.92M MAUs, up 21% since the end of 2019.

Thing is, you don’t actually have to download Zoom’s app to use the videoconferencing tool — it can work in a browser.

Beat Zoom’s dark pattern — join from your browser

The option for joining a Zoom meeting in a browser is just really well hidden unless the meeting host has tweaked default settings.

Like literally hidden until after you’ve clicked to join a meeting — when the option to join via a browser appears in tiny text underneath a more prominent link to “download & run Zoom”.

Either it’s really terrible UX or a dark pattern intended to drive app downloads.

Hiding the option to join a Zoom call in a browser is suboptimal to say the least, given many home workers will be using corporate laptops that lock down app downloads to shrink security risks. (And COVID-19 has plenty of cyber risk attached to it.)

It’s also simply disproportionate to require downloading an app to join a call. Zoom should be shouting about the added benefits of using its app — which does support more features — rather than trying to trick users into thinking they have no choice but to download it if they want to make a meeting.

Zoom’s approach looks irresponsible, per some critics, as it can result in frustrated participants choosing to dial in to a meeting instead — thereby missing out on the ability to see multimedia content such as slides. And when the world is dealing with a global health crisis that’s really not great.

Circumventing Zoom’s dark pattern means keeping your eyes peeled for a tiny text link to “join from your browser” — and clicking the hell out of it.

Those who are hosting Zoom meetings can improve a disingenuous situation by diving into settings and toggling them so that the “join from your browser” link is automatically displayed — instead of requiring participants attempt to download Zoom first before it will appear.

Play a game of find and click the tiny padlock

To make this change you need to go to your Zoom account settings, navigate to the ‘Meeting’ tab, then ‘In Meeting (Advanced)’ — where you should find a toggle to ‘Show a “join from your browser” link’.

“Verify that the setting is enabled. If the setting is disabled, click the Status toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change,” is how Zoom explains the process in a help text on its website.

But there’s more! Doing all that does not actually lock the change in place for all users.

To the right hand side of the toggle is a tiny, faint grey padlock — squint and you’ll miss it — which you have to click on if you want to make this setting mandatory for all users, and then click “Lock” to confirm the change.

So two more clicks.

It’s also possible to show the browser link for all meetings hosted by members of a specific group — which can be done via ‘Group Management’, and then clicking on the name of the group, followed by the ‘Settings’ tab (then repeating the above steps).

And for your own Zoom meetings — by signing into your account, clicking on the ‘My Meetings Settings’ (if you’re an admin) or ‘My Meetings’ (if not), then navigating to the ‘Show a “Join from your browser” Link’ option on the ‘Meeting’ tab, under ‘In Meeting (Advanced)’, as before.

Should the option to show a browser link appear entirely greyed out it’s been locked at the account or group level, per Zoom’s help doc  — so you’ll either need to change it at the account level first or contact your adminstrator to request the change.

If you’re able to find it Zoom’s website has a page of information about its web client — where it recommends using Google Chrome to get maximum functionality.

But you can also join from Firefox, Safari, Edge or Internet Explorer. Who needs an app?