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Zoom is getting ads — what you need to know

A group of people in a Zoom call
(Image credit: Zoom)

Zoom may be one of the best video chat apps out there, but the free version is about to get a lot less appealing. Advertising is coming, so you better get ready for Zoom to try and sell you stuff when you hang up your calls.

Thankfully, this change is only going to affect free users. So anyone that actually pays money for Zoom is going to be spared this particular change. But either way Zoom is going to make sure it gets paid.

In a blog post announcing this change, Zoom pointed out it used to be a tool used primarily by business users. However the COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge influx of individuals using the service, and the company is going to start cashing in.

According to Zoom, the pilot advertising program will “enable [it] to support investment and continue providing free Basic users with access to our robust platform”. To us that sounds like Zoom is saying adverts will be necessary to ensure the free tier sticks around in the future. 

After all, free users are essentially costing Zoom money every time they make a call, And honestly, given how popular Zoom got during last year’s lockdowns, it’s surprising they took this long to start adding ads.

But it’s yet another downside to using Zoom as a free user. After all, any free tier meetings that have three or more people are limited to 40 minutes. Premium users don’t have that problem.

zoom advertising example

(Image credit: Zoom)

The good news is that the ads seem to be pretty limited for the time being. Premium users, i.e. those that pay for Zoom, won’t be affected at all. Meanwhile ads will only start being visible to free users in certain countries, and only on the browser window after they end a call. So your calls won’t be interrupted by pop-ups or distracting banner ads.

Zoom has also tried to make it very clear that your meetings, chats and shared files won’t be used for anything related to marketing or third-party advertising. So your private conversations will stay private. However there will be cookies involved, and there will be a banner on the Zoom website that takes you to the service’s cookie management tool.

Of course if any ads, even those as unobtrusive as the ones Zoom is piloting, are a deal breaker for you, then you may just have to cough up the cash for a premium account. They range from $15 to $20 a month

Or, alternatively, you could try another of the best video chat apps or one of the best Zoom alternatives. There are plenty to choose from, with a lot of the same features as Zoom, and some of them are free and ad-free

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.