Cloud communications and collaboration provider RingCentral unveiled its latest video tools on Thursday, announcing RingCentral Video as part of its suite of offerings, which include messaging, video, and phone solutions. The company said it has seen a spike in interest since most countries went on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Globally, its web traffic is up nearly 80% week over week and there has been a 40% week-over-week increase in team messaging posts, RingCentral said. Internal stats have shown a 60% week-over-week increase in the number of meeting participants and quantity of meetings as well.

“The world is experiencing the largest work from home demand ever. At RingCentral, we’ve always been focused on addressing the needs of the modern, mobile, and distributed workforce by delivering trusted, reliable, global, and easy to buy, manage and use solutions,” said Vlad Shmunis, RingCentral’s founder and CEO, in a press release.

“Today, we’re taking the next step in delivering a world-class and seamlessly integrated Messaging, Video, and Phone experience to further enhance employee productivity as they work from anywhere.”

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One of the key features that differentiates RingCentral Video from other similar tools is that it offers a browser-based experience, allowing users to avoid weighty and at-times confusing downloads.

Anyone can join, host, or schedule a meeting right from the browser and with RingCentral Video, the company has integrated messaging, video and phone capabilities, including business voice, SMS, and fax to allow for conversations to continue across all modes of communication without losing context.

RingCentral Video is also integrated with workplace productivity tools like Google’s G-Suite and Gmail as well as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Theta Lake, and Zoho. According to José Pastor, senior vice president of product management at RingCentral, the company is working on integrating it with other workplace tools.

The company said it teamed up with Google on RingCentral Video to make sure it had a quality in-browser video experience and went through a number of beta tests with a variety of customers and partners like the Detroit Pistons, Goosehead Insurance, Pro Football Hall of Fame, and World Vision.

“RingCentral optimizing Google Chrome’s WebRTC to power RingCentral Video showcases the mutual value our companies have to bring hassle free communications to our customers,” said Gregg Fiddes, head of enterprise ecosystems at Google, in a press release.

“We are excited to collaborate with RingCentral on their needs and see RingCentral choose Chrome as their inaugural launch platform for RingCentral Video, providing the greatest security and speed for their users.”

In an interview, Pastor said it was key for people, especially in a home environment, to be able to communicate however they want, wherever they want, even if it just means the difference between the dining room table and the kitchen or on a mobile, laptop or through a browser.

The company wanted to make the browser a “first class citizen” and Pastor noted that the browser gives people a lot of advantages in terms of avoiding large downloads, encryption, and other security features.

“As the world evolves to more and more thin clients, most companies that provide meetings treat the browser as a second class citizen or only if they can’t get the install to work. We’re the other way around. We believe that the browser should be a first class experience, with regard to video, with regard to the gallery, with regard to screen sharing, so that you have as good an experience regardless of the end point that you’re on,” he said.

RingCentral Video

“I’m a browser die hard, so one of our favorite things about RingCentral Video is the gallery. Most of my meetings run from four people to 12. So one of my favorite things is that I can see everybody. It’s better for attentiveness when we’re discussing and it’s far far more personal because I believe that the depth of the conversation is much richer when we can see each other than when we can’t.”

RingCentral does provide installable desktop apps for Mac and Windows as well as apps for mobile devices, but officials sought to prioritize the browser-based experience so that it was an equal option to the others.

In addition to the new offering, the company is working with schools, healthcare facilities, NGOs, governments, and more recently, media outlets, to provide its whole stack of tools free during the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been a range of use cases since the company started, including school teachers in Texas using RingCentral Video to record classes and share lessons as well as small towns in Canada using the platform to help set up hotlines so the older residents can order food and communicate with loved ones. The company has also helped some of its customers in the restaurant business manage the deluge of orders as more people call in for food deliveries.

Pastor said the company hopes to make things a little bit easier for those struggling to deal with the pandemic and add a bit of normalcy where they can through the new video feature.

“Since we don’t have water coolers anymore, we have to find some other way to chat right?” he said. “I think we can all agree that a nod or a smile means a lot. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, video is worth maybe a million.”

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