Popular messaging app WhatsApp has launched a new feature called “Channels” that will allow users to follow and receive updates from select creators and organizations.

The feature will enable entities like non-governmental organizations (NGOs), medical research institutions, and fact-checking bodies to send text messages, photos, videos, stickers, and polls to their followers, the company said in a Thursday blog post.

Users can join Channels through an invite link. However, these Channels are one-way conversations, so users won’t be able to reply to these messages.

“We’re aspiring to build the most private broadcast service available. This starts by protecting the personal information of both admins and followers,” WhatsApp said in the blog post, adding:

“As a channel admin, your phone number and profile photo won’t be shown to followers. Likewise, following a channel won’t reveal your phone number to the admin or other followers. Who you decide to follow is your choice and it’s private.”

Image Source: WhatsApp

WhatsApp Channels to Roll Out to Users in Colombia and Singapore

The Channels feature will be initially rolled out to users in Colombia and Singapore, with WhatsApp eventually planning to extend the availability of the feature to a broader set of countries

The early adopters of the feature will include the International Rescue Committee, the World Health Organisation, FC Barcelona, Manchester City, the Singapore Heart Foundation, and fact-checker Colombia Check.

Meta is aiming to earn money from the feature down the road, with one possible revenue stream coming in the form of a payment service for businesses operating Channels.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led company is also considering removing end-to-end encryption to facilitate larger audiences and exploring the possibility of promoting Channels in a directory.

Mark Zuckerberg, commenting on the move, said, “Today we’re announcing WhatsApp Channels — a private way to follow people and organizations that matter to you, right within WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp Aims to Become Go-To Option for Organizations

As with the Communities feature launched by WhatsApp last year, Channels is an attempt by the platform to become a go-to option for organizations and authorities to issue alerts and updates to users.

The Channels feature rollout follows a similar update to Instagram, also owned by Meta Platforms (META), which has launched a similar option for creators.

Last month, the company released a major upgrade, adding a message editing function to provide users with an easy way to fix typos or errors in their messages.

Aside from the editing functionality, WhatsApp has also launched some other privacy features to give its 2 billion users more conversational avenues.

For instance, the company has introduced a privacy feature called Chat Lock which helps make intimate conversations “even more private” by locking them and also hiding their notifications.