Sites like Gather. The town is the new online water cooler for those who WFH.

Catch Me Online: How Virtual Offices Took Off During the Pandemic

With a large migration of companies signing online in the time of the pandemic, virtual office software has been gaining steady traction with remote teams. It’s a way for co-workers to stay connected, even when apart, and maintain a sense of office camaraderie, even when sequestered. Among a number of similar services, a rapid-growing startup called Gather caught our attention.

Founded in 2020 by Alex Chen, Kumail Jaffer, Nathan Foss, and Phillip Wang amidst the global pandemic of COVID-19, Gather is a web-conferencing site that has a focus on more natural online interactions and meetings. Through Gather, users are able to use their characters to roam custom-built or pre-built worlds and host meetings. Placing a heavy emphasis on improving online interactions and connections, the site offers a variety of features that allow users to better connect with others such as the variety of multiplayer games.

The growth of Gather’s total visits over the past 6 months.

The growth of Gather’s total visits over the past 6 months.

According to Similarweb, since its 2020 inception, Gather has netted over 2.8 million visits — two million of which in the past six months. Apart from the site’s consistent growth in popularity as more and more companies look to humanize online meetings, it also boasts an average visit duration of nine minutes, revealing the high level of interaction their website visitors have with their content and product.

A screengrab of Gather’s customizable office spaces.

A screengrab of Gather’s customizable office spaces.

What sets Gather apart from most web conferencing sites is that it mimics the real world in its ability to transition co-workers from office hours to happy hour. Since its release, Gather has never restricted itself to servicing a specific type of event or audience. Rather, its genius is found in how it was able to appropriately cater to any conferences’ needs. Such variability is achieved through the multiple portals that connect each world, allowing each world to have a specific role and atmosphere.

We also explored a number of virtual conference services, as the bi-annual technology conference we host, IVS, was moved online during the pandemic. We did a comparison of the different platforms and their features.

Other Virtual Office Platforms

A screengrab of Remo’s group video call function.

A screengrab of Remo’s group video call function.

Remo

Remo is a virtual space that is gaining a lot of organic users from Japan. Like an in-person conference, Remo offers users a number of “seats” in the space. People can move from one seat to another, and talk to people around them.

Remo’s virtual office spaces.

Remo’s virtual office spaces.

Unlike Gather town, users in Remo can only click on the seats to move and are not able to “walk” on the free space. Also, even though Remo also allows users to customize their virtual space, only the event host can change the design. Guest users are not able to change any portion of the space.

A screengrab of one of oVice’s virtual spaces.

A screengrab of one of oVice’s virtual spaces.

oVice

oVice’s service is specifically designed for co-working. They put an emphasis on distance and audio, just as it works in a real office. When someone gets closer to you, you will hear their voice.

A screengrab of one of oVice’s virtual spaces.

A screengrab of one of oVice’s virtual spaces.

Unlike Remo and Gather town, oVice does not turn on your camera automatically. The concept of it is to let co-workers connect with each other while maintaining almost a digital cubicle that allows people to focus on their own work.

A density map of countries that visit Gather most frequently

A density map of countries that visit Gather most frequently

Gather’s Rapid Growth in Taiwan

The majority of Gather’s users is based in the United States at 16.05 percent, but surprisingly, its second most popular region, making up 13.99 percent of total users, is Taiwan. In fact, Taiwan has seen an increase of 500 percent in visits in the last six months.

Also, the site’s organic visits sit at around 98 percent compared to the 2 percent that are from paid visits. This ratio demonstrates the company’s popularity despite minimal efforts at paid searches or advertisements.

Gather’s organic and paid searches.

Gather’s organic and paid searches.

Without a doubt, the company has managed to amass a tremendous number of users and will continue to gain more with the pending release of the mobile version of their site and application.

While digital platforms help the participants interact with each other, they are still relatively new. As adoption rates grow, the public is familiarizing themselves with the features. It’s an exciting time to witness the birth of a new method of interfacing and to see how the gaming function in Gather Town can help to host online conferences.

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