Meta-owned WhatsApp has introduced a new feature that will focus on broadcasts rather than conversations.
Called Channels, the new feature is a one-way broadcast tool for administrators to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls.
To help users select channels to follow, the company is building a searchable directory where users can find things such as hobbies, sports teams and updates from local officials.
They can access a channel from invitation links sent in chats, e-mail or posted online.
The California-based company said it will be a “a simple, reliable and private way to receive important updates from people and organisations, right within WhatsApp”.
Meta is building Channels in a new tab called Updates – where users will find channels to select to follow. It will be separate from their chats with family, friends and communities.
“We are aspiring to build the most private broadcast service available. This starts by protecting the personal information of both admins and followers,” WhatsApp said in a blog.
“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,” it added
Will WhatsApp store channel history?
WhatsApp said it will store channel history on its servers for up to 30 days. It said that it will add ways to make updates disappear even faster from the follower’s devices.
Availability and who will control Channels?
Meta said it is working with “global voices and select organisations” in Colombia and Singapore, where Channels will first be made available. It will be introduced in more countries over the coming months.
Administrators will decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not.
“We also believe there is an opportunity to support admins with a way for them to build a business around their channel using our expanding payment services as well as the ability to promote certain channels in the directory to help increase awareness,” the company said.
WhatsApp aims to make app more user-friendly
WhatsApp has introduced a range of small tweaks recently to make the app easier to use.
New features include “secret chats” and fixes for the way that polls and message forwarding works.
The app has been criticised for reportedly turning on people’s microphones while the app was not in use.
But WhatsApp chalked that up to a bug in the software of Google’s Android operating system, insisting that it does not listen to users.