Meta's WhatsApp broadens its horizons, transforming from a simple messaging platform to a more comprehensive social media space with new public channels feature
WhatsApp, Meta's globally recognized messaging app, is on the cusp of a significant overhaul with the addition of a feature that remarkably emulates Twitter's functionality — the ability to follow accounts beyond personal contacts.
This innovative 'channels' feature will reside in a new section dubbed "updates," distinct from the existing private chats. It promises to provide a newsfeed-like experience akin to other social platforms, thereby extending the app's scope beyond individual and group messaging.
Rather than restricting interactions to known contacts, the revamped WhatsApp will enable users to discover and follow diverse profiles ranging from sports teams to government officials, and accounts dedicated to various hobbies and interests. Channel owners can also promote their platforms by inviting potential followers via direct links.
Among the initial subscribers to this novel feature are Premier League victors Manchester City and the esteemed World Health Organization. Meta, the parent company, has projected that eventually, any user will be able to create their own channel.
Channel posts can encompass a broad spectrum of content, including text, photos, videos, and polls. These updates will populate the new section alongside traditional status updates, providing a more dynamic and rich user experience.
However, these channels, though appearing similar to conventional WhatsApp chats, will exclude the capacity for followers to message back, preserving the integrity of the original platform as a 'private broadcast service.'
In a move to ensure privacy, both followers and page owners will have their phone numbers and profile photos concealed. Channels also have the liberty to opt out of being discoverable via search, bolstering their autonomy.
One important deviation from WhatsApp's customary practices is the lack of end-to-end encryption for channels. Meta justifies this omission citing the need for channels to cater to a broader audience, rendering the stringent privacy protocol less relevant. However, the company has hinted at potentially extending this security feature to some channels in future, particularly those serving limited audiences such as non-profits and health organizations.
Despite the striking resemblance to early-days Facebook
and Twitter, Meta has assured that private messaging remains WhatsApp's foremost priority. This innovative shift is expected to initially roll out in Colombia and Singapore before being extended to other countries including the UK in the upcoming months.
By blending private messaging with the Twitter-like ability to follow public channels, WhatsApp is not only preserving its original essence but also evolving to cater to the changing demands of the digital world.