WhatsApp, owned by Meta, has introduced a new feature called Channels, which transforms the app into a more social media-like platform. With Channels, accounts can send one-way updates to their followers, encompassing text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls, similar to Twitter. Broadcasters have control over who can follow their channel, its discoverability, and other settings. Importantly, the privacy of users is protected, as following a channel does not reveal their phone numbers to the admin or other followers.
Channels can be found in a dedicated tab called Updates within the app. This tab displays both Status updates and the channels that users choose to follow, keeping them separate from personal chats with friends, family, and group chats/communities. WhatsApp plans to introduce payment services in the future, providing monetization options for content creators utilizing this feature.
Privacy is a significant aspect of Channels, as WhatsApp ensures that admin information remains undisclosed, and only 30 days of history is retained. Admins can also prevent followers from taking screenshots or forwarding messages. Although Channels lack end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp is exploring the possibility of incorporating it for non-profit organizations, health institutions, and other privacy-sensitive entities.
Channels bears resemblance to a similar feature on the competing chat app Telegram, sharing the same name. Meta previously launched Broadcast Channels on Instagram, enabling creators to send updates directly to their followers’ inboxes, a functionality that will now be available to WhatsApp users. This feature can be likened to a newsletter and might have been called Newsletter during its development phase or may be introduced as a separate feature later on.
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WhatsApp has expanded beyond its initial purpose as a basic messaging app. Meta recently introduced the ability to use a single account across multiple devices, resolving the inconvenience of changing phones. The company has also enhanced group chats, incorporating features such as polls and shopping.
Although Channels is currently available to a limited audience, including leading global organizations and select organizations in Colombia and Singapore, WhatsApp plans to gradually roll it out to more countries and users over the next few months.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about WhatsApp Channels
What is WhatsApp’s Channels feature?
WhatsApp’s Channels feature allows accounts to send one-way updates to their followers. It enables the broadcasting of text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls, similar to social media platforms like Twitter.
Can anyone follow a WhatsApp channel?
No, the broadcasting accounts have control over who can follow their channel. They can decide who is allowed to access their updates and choose whether they want the channel to be discoverable or not.
Is my phone number revealed when I follow a channel?
No, following a channel on WhatsApp does not reveal your phone number to the channel’s admin or other followers. Your privacy is protected in this regard.
Are WhatsApp Channels end-to-end encrypted?
No, WhatsApp Channels are not end-to-end encrypted. However, WhatsApp is exploring the possibility of introducing end-to-end encryption for channels associated with non-profits, health organizations, and other privacy-sensitive organizations.
How long is the history retained for channels?
WhatsApp Channels retain only 30 days of history. After that period, the history is no longer accessible.
Can channel admins prevent followers from taking screenshots or forwarding messages?
Yes, channel admins have the ability to prevent followers from taking screenshots or forwarding messages. This helps in maintaining the privacy and control over the content being shared.
When will WhatsApp Channels be available to users?
WhatsApp Channels is initially being launched with leading global organizations and select organizations in Colombia and Singapore. The feature will gradually roll out to more countries and users in the coming months.