WhatsApp might be the world’s most popular messaging app, but it’s not just about keeping in touch with friends and family any more.
Its latest feature, known as WhatsApp Channels, allows you to follow and receive updates from a variety of creators and businesses. Early adopters include the World Health Organization and football clubs Manchester City and Barcelona, but anyone will be able to create a channel eventually.
Rather than needing a phone number, you’ll be able to search and find new channels by name, just like you would on social media. But unlike those apps, WhatsApp Channels is purely for broadcasting updates – there’s no way to react or respond directly.
All channels you follow will be displayed in a new ‘Updates’ section of the app, directly below the existing Status feature. However, the latter will remain exclusive to friends and family, with channel updates taking the form of regular messages lasting for up to 30 days.
A short official trailer gives you an idea of what to expect:
Parent company Meta describes it as “a private way to follow what matters”. Following a channel will keep your phone number hidden from the admin or other followers, while the profile photo and name of admins won’t be shared with followers.
Admins will be able to decide whether their channel is searchable, or prevent some people from following it. Unlike regular messages, channel updates won’t be end-to-end encrypted by default. But WhatsApp hasn’t ruled out adding this option in the future.
WhatsApp is already relied on by many businesses around the world, with a dedicated WhatsApp Business app launching in 2018. Adding the ability to broadcast messages to regular users feels like a logical next step.
Fellow Meta-owned app Instagram announced a similar feature known as ‘Broadcast Channels’ earlier this year. But it’s much more interactive, also allowing for reactions and poll participation.
WhatsApp Channels will initially be available in Colombia and Singapore, before coming to other countries “over the coming months”. However, it’s not yet clear exactly when the feature will roll out to Europe and North America.
As the resident expert on Windows, Senior Staff Writer Anyron’s main focus is PCs and laptops. Much of the rest of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, with a particular focus on Android devices.