WhatsApp introduced today a new Channels feature, providing a private way for users to follow updates from organizations and groups. The new tool aims to balance the need for confidentiality and the possibility of engaging in large-scale communications via the popular messaging app.
Channels will allow admins to broadcast text, photos, videos, and polls to followers. To help people discover relevant channels, WhatsApp is building a searchable directory. Users can also access channels through invite links.
“We’re aspiring to build the most private broadcast service available” the company said in a blog post published today. Phone numbers and profile photos of both admins and followers will be kept hidden. Following a channel will not reveal a user’s number to the admin or other followers.
The company says channel updates will not be stored on servers forever. “We’ll only store channel history on our servers for up to 30 days and we’ll add ways to make updates disappear even faster from follower’s devices,” WhatsApp said. Admins can also block screenshots and forwards from their channels.
Admins will have control over who can follow their channel and whether it will appear in the directory. Channels will initially not be end-to-end encrypted by default for reach, though WhatsApp may explore the option for select groups.
Channels will first launch in Colombia and Singapore with organizations to “build, learn, and adapt the experience.” The company said it plans to expand the feature and eventually allow anyone to create a channel.
WhatsApp also mentioned plans to support admins through payment services and the ability to promote channels in the directory. The company stressed that private messaging will remain its priority despite the launch of Channels.
WhatsApp Joins Instagram with Launch of Channels
Instagram, which is owned by Meta Platforms (META) like WhatsApp, recently launched a similar Channels feature for creators. In February 2023, Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, inaugurated the use of Channels with the creation of a “Meta Channel” to share updates about new products.
Instagram Channels will be powered by Messenger and allow creators to push content like videos, audio files, and photos to subscribers. Followers can react to content but cannot send messages.
The feature was initially launched in the US only but would reportedly go worldwide soon. Creators catering to paid subscribers will be able to create private channels. Subscribers will receive notifications when new content is uploaded.
WhatsApp Engineers Have Been Busy Lately as Several Updates Have Been Rolled Out
In May, WhatsApp introduced meaningful updates to its messaging app including the possibility of using a single phone number on multiple devices without sacrificing privacy or security.
Up to four devices can be paired with one phone number. This can be done similarly as if the user was linking a WhatsApp account to a web browser. This applies to WhatsApp Business as well and will soon be available worldwide.
In addition, WhatsApp released a new feature called ChatLock that allows users to maintain private conversations that will stay off the application’s inbox and in a separate folder that can only be accessed by providing a password or confirming the user’s biometric ID.
Finally, a widely-awaited option that enables users to edit their messages up to fifteen minutes after they have sent it was also released last month and has been greeted by users with excitement as messages no longer have to be deleted if there is a typo or it is poorly written.