WhatsApp introduces a brand new feature, Channels, offering a streamlined, dependable, and private method for users to stay updated with their interests, all within the familiar confines of WhatsApp.
The Channels feature will appear in a novel tab dubbed ‘Updates‘, that will house the Status feature and any channels that users opt to follow, distinct from the conventional chat interface.
Channels serve as a one-directional broadcasting tool enabling admins to distribute text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. To aid users in choosing which channels to follow, WhatsApp is creating a searchable directory. This hub allows users to connect with their interests, ranging from hobbies, sports teams, to updates from local officials, and more. Users can also find channels through invite links shared in chats, emails, or online posts.
At the core of Channels is the aspiration to create the most private broadcast service available, prioritizing the protection of personal information for both admins and followers. As an admin of a channel, users’ phone numbers and profile photos remain hidden from followers. Similarly, choosing to follow a channel won’t disclose the follower’s phone number to the admin or other followers, ensuring the privacy of user choices.
In alignment with WhatsApp’s privacy-oriented messaging framework, the company believes that Channel updates need not be permanent. As such, channel history will be retained on WhatsApp’s servers for a maximum of 30 days, with future plans to expedite the removal of updates from followers’ devices. Admins will also have the control to block screenshots and forwarding from their channels.
Furthermore, admins are empowered to decide on the discoverability of their channel in the directory and who can follow it. Given that the objective of Channels is to cater to a broad audience, these channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default. However, WhatsApp acknowledges that certain scenarios, like non-profit or health organizations, might benefit from end-to-end encrypted channels, and they are considering this as a future option.
As a stepping stone, WhatsApp will collaborate with prominent global voices and select organizations in Colombia and Singapore, where Channels will first be launched. This initiative aims to refine and adapt the user experience. In the forthcoming months, Channels will extend to more countries, enabling any user to create their own channel.