WhatsApp’s new Channels feature bridging the gap between messaging and social media

Jun 8, 2023, 11:35 AM UTC
3 mins read

WhatsApp today introduce its latest feature called Channels. This innovative addition brings a unique twist to the traditional messaging experience by introducing one-to-many broadcasts, reminiscent of a Twitter feed without the clutter of metrics and reply guys. With Channels, WhatsApp aims to cater to the needs of governments, transit agencies, brands, and other entities seeking an alternative platform to share important updates, distinct from the noise of Twitter.

So, what exactly is a channel? Think of it as a dedicated space within WhatsApp where users can receive localized news, sports updates, and other relevant information. Beyond being a mere broadcasting tool, Channels also function as a creator tool, allowing those with an established audience to share text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. WhatsApp even plans to incorporate payment and monetization services into channels, opening up new avenues for content creators to generate revenue. To discover channels, users can search for them directly within WhatsApp or explore the recently introduced directory, conveniently accessing the most recent updates in the Status section of the app.

Privacy remains a paramount concern for WhatsApp, and the company has taken steps to ensure a secure experience within channels. Admins’ information is kept private, and the app only retains 30 days of a channel’s history. Furthermore, admins have the ability to block screenshots and forwards, maintaining the exclusivity of channel content. However, it’s important to note that channels are not end-to-end encrypted, operating similarly to conversations with businesses, which are also not entirely private. WhatsApp acknowledges this and expresses intentions to explore options for encrypting certain channels in the future.

Incorporating Channels into WhatsApp is a natural progression for the platform. Telegram has long offered a similar feature, also known as Channels, designed for one-to-many broadcasts. Instagram, too, boasts a comparable feature called Broadcast Channels. WhatsApp recognizes the innate suitability of housing such information within a messaging app, as updates like air-quality reports and train statuses feel more relevant and seamlessly integrated in this context, rather than being lost amidst the vast sea of content on Twitter.

Stepping back and observing WhatsApp’s recent developments, it becomes evident that the app is evolving into much more than a simple messaging platform. In recent months, the company has introduced the capability to use a single account across multiple devices, explored the realms of private newsletters and a new usernames system, integrated polls and shopping features, revamped the Status system, enhanced group chats, and pursued various other Facebook-like initiatives. Channels are just the latest endeavor in WhatsApp’s quest to bring social media elements into the realm of messaging.

As with most WhatsApp features, Channels will have a gradual rollout. Initially, the company plans to launch channels with leading global organizations, as well as select organizations in Colombia and Singapore. The feature will only be available in these two countries at first, with subsequent expansion to additional regions and a wider availability for channel creation in the coming months.

While WhatsApp remains primarily a messaging app, serving billions of users for personal communication, its aspirations extend beyond these confines. With ambitions to grow, diversify revenue streams, and become the all-encompassing super app, WhatsApp continues to explore avenues to transform messaging into a comprehensive social media experience.

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