Zoom to mandate client updates every ninety days, starting Nov 1

Oh great. Now you get to be that person logging on to vid confs a couple of minutes late

Video conferencing outfit Zoom has revealed it will require users to update their client apps at least every ninety days and introduce a "minimum client version" requirement.

A support document published late last week explains that Zoom's plan is "in line with industry practices and designed to help ensure that Zoom users receive the latest Zoom features, as well as any privacy and security enhancements we make to the platform."

The minimum client requirement means older versions of the Zoom client just won't work – users will be forced to upgrade or use Zoom's web client.

How do you know which is the minimum version? This is where things get confusing, because Zoom offers three different versions of its client:

Fast Track – a release that installs automatically for users that enable auto-update and offers Zoom's latest tweaks. Once a Fast Track client is signed off, a percentage of random users receive it each day until all opted-in users have it installed, with the rollout typically accelerating over the course of the week. Fast Track releases typically arrive monthly. The current Fast Track version for Windows is 5.12.2 which emerged on October 10.

Slow Track – releases that arrive every one to two months. Telemetry from Fast Track users is employed to determine when Zoom issues a Slow Track release. The current Slow Track version for Windows is also 5.12.2, but it only became available to users who choose that option as of October 27.

Prompted Versions – Zoom occasionally checks the version a user is running and prompts them to upgrade to the latest version available (if AutoUpdate is disabled), or the Slow or Fast version set by Zoom (if AutoUpdate is enabled). The current Prompted version is 5.11.0 (6569), released on June 20.

Zoom's current minimum version is 5.3.0 (52670.0921) that was released in June 2020.

All users of desktop clients version 5.12.2 or lower will get a prompt to update on November 1st.

Zoom hasn't explained how it will pick a minimum version, but will reserve the right to nominate a new one more frequently than each 90 days. Nor has the company mentioned changes to its version naming regime. That's a notable omission given that browsers – which operate on similar release cadences – jump by a full number for each regular release and make it a lot easier to understand if you are up to date.

At least none of the versions will install until you restart your Zoom client, which in your correspondent’s experience is usually 38 seconds before I'm due on a Zoom call – the perfect time for a client upgrade.

Not.

Zoom appears to understand that requiring more updates, more often, may irritate folks who administer fleets of PCs and like to keep track of what's running on them.

"IT admins that manage their desktop clients through MSI or GPO deployment and choose to disable the AutoUpdate policy, not only remove the Check for Updates option in the desktop client, but also prevent any prompted update notifications," the support document states.

But such orgs will still need to comply with the minimum client requirements, or their users will be cut off from Zoom.

A tragedy, we know. ®

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