Love it or hate it, Zoom has been a crucial way for families and friends to stay in touch since the pandemic began.
Now, the video conferencing platform plans to temporarily remove its 40 minute time limit on free user accounts for upcoming holidays, including Christmas and Hanukkah.
The announcement comes after the UK government warned against large festive celebrations in the coming weeks, asking the public to keep their Christmas celebrations "short" and "local."
Previously, anyone with a free Zoom account would find meetings cut off abruptly at the 40 minute mark. It is hoped that the removal of this cut off will encourage people to socialise virtually over the coming weeks, rather than participate in riskier in-person meetings.
'A token of appreciation'
Zoom is removing this limit for the end of Hanukkah (17 to 19 December), Christmas (23 to 26 December) and New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the end of Kwanzaa (30 December to 2 January).
A Zoom spokesperson said, “As a token of appreciation to our users during an extraordinary time, we’re removing the 40 minute limit on free Zoom accounts for all meetings globally for several upcoming special occasions.
“Whether coming together on the final day of Hanukkah, celebrating Christmas, ringing in the new year or marking the last days of Kwanzaa, those connecting with friends and family won’t get cut short.”
The announcement was welcomed by UK health experts, who have expressed concerns over the relaxation of rules in the coming weeks.
Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews, told The Guardian that he hoped Zoom's example would be followed by other companies, as well as the government.
"[The government] could ask various sectors (especially those that have done well in the pandemic) to help out in a whole series of ways – say give the latest games to young people asked to self-isolate," he said.
"The problem then – and I speak as the father of a 16 year old – would be ever to get them out of their rooms rather than trying to keep them in. Or, say, free connection over Christmas so everyone can keep in touch as much as they like without data limits."