WhatsApp’s newest feature brings a different vibe to the world’s most popular messaging app, and likely not for the better. It's called Channels, and it's specifically for more-than-necessary broadcasts rather than conversations.
Meta, the company that owns WhatsApp, calls it “a private way to follow what matters” and uses local sports updates as an example of how you might use it. Sound familiar?
Basically, Channels are a Twitter feed. The WhatsApp team has probably taken notice of all the Twitter refugees searching for a new place to share their essential updates, and considers Channels as a quick-fix replacement. This makes sense in a way, as it’s a familiar setup on an app a lot of people use on a daily basis.
Channels act as a creator tool and its a place to “send texts, photos, videos stickers and polls” according to a WhatsApp blog post. The company has plans to build payment and monetization services into the feature. You’ll be able to find channels by searching for them in WhatsApp – as you would on Twitter – or browsing a newly-created directory and seeing updates from the channels you follow in the ‘Status’ section of the app.
The team explains in the blog post that privacy is key to the experience, which is why channel admin information won’t be shared and the app will only store 30 days' worth of channel history. Channel admins can even block screenshots and the sharing of messages or content, keeping what is in the channel private and contained.
The channels won’t be end-to-end encrypted (where only the users communicating can read the messages). Instead, they’re treated more like your messages with businesses on WhatsApp, though Meta does say it’s thinking about ways to encrypt some channels over time. This would be a key selling point of Channels if WhatsApp is looking to tempt brands, government agencies and others looking to move over to the app.
If it's not broken...
The update actually makes sense when you think about it, bringing important information to people like air quality updates, train issues and weather alerts seems a lot more natural on WhatsApp than mashed together with other things like on Twitter. You’d have to scroll through a lot of unnecessary fodder on Twitter before finding an important announcement.
However, there is a joy in using WhatsApp that comes with knowing it’s arguably the most simple and straightforward social media app out there. In the last few months WhatsApp has been dishing out new features that bring it closer to other apps you may have on your phone, like adding usernames to its Android app and introducing polls. In Brazil, you can actually use WhatsApp to shop and pay for things, and in general, it seems like Meta is bloating the messaging app with Facebook-lite features.
Channels won’t come to WhatsApp for a while though, and like most WhatsApp features, it will start small and build up in the coming months. For now, the company is planning to launch Channels with “leading global organizations and select organizations in Colombia and Singapore”, and will roll out elsewhere in the coming months.
WhatsApp has always been a messaging app before anything else, and billions of people use it every day to keep in touch with friends and family, but as it grows and looks to compete and become this all-in-one super app, we hope it does not lose sight of why it’s so popular.
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Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison.
Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place.
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