Meta Looks To Private Broadcasting With WhatsApp Channels

Meta Platforms is making a notable change to WhatsApp, with a development that offers a very different kind of messaging for the world’s most popular chat app.

WhatsApp owner Meta on Thursday announced the new feature called ‘WhatsApp Channels’, which it said is a “simple, reliable, and private way to receive important updates from people and organisations, right within WhatsApp.”

Essentially WhatsApp Channels allows users to follow certain ‘channels’ that can then ‘broadcast’ content to them (think of it like a Twitter feed). The feature is separate from the usual WhatsApp chats with family, friends, and communities.

WhatsApp Channels

“Channels are a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls,” said Meta. “To help you select channels to follow, we’re building a searchable directory where you can find your hobbies, sports teams, updates from local officials, and more. You can also get to a channel from invite links sent in chats, email, or posted online.”

Meta said WhatsApp Channels are “aspiring to build the most private broadcast service available.”

This is achieved by protecting the personal information of both admins and followers. For the channel admin their phone number and profile photo won’t be shown to followers.

Likewise, following a channel won’t reveal a user’s phone number to the admin or other followers.

Channel updates will only be available on WhatsApp servers for up to 30 days.

Admins can also decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not.

“Given the aim of Channels is to reach a wide audience, channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default,” said WhatsApp. “We do think there are some cases where end-to-end encrypted channels to a limited audience might make sense, such as a non profit or health organisation, and we’re exploring this as a future option as well.”

A video demonstration can be found here.

Modest start

Users in Colombia and Singapore will be the first to receive access to Channels.

Over the coming months, Meta will expand the availability of the tool for users in more countries, it said.

Global launch partners for the feature will include the World Health Organisation, FC Barcelona and Manchester City.

The addition of WhatsApp Channels mirrors a similar feature that is found on Telegram, also called Channels and which is also meant for one-to-many broadcasts.

WhatsApp’s sister application Instagram also has a similar feature, called broadcast channels.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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