What you need to know
- WhatsApp Channels are a one-way broadcasting service meant to allow people and organizations to send updates to followers.
- The new feature will hide the phone number of followers from Channel admins, who in turn will have their profile photo and contact numbers concealed from followers.
- Channel updates won't be end-to-end encrypted by default, but WhatsApp is considering adding that security feature in the future.
- Channels will be rolling out in Singapore and Colombia at launch, with plans to launch it globally in the coming months.
WhatsApp is adding a new one-way communication method for organizations and individuals to dish out updates in one fell swoop to followers, similar to Telegram's Channels feature.
Unsurprisingly, WhatsApp's latest service is also called Channels, which allow admins to broadcast things like text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls in a single location in the app. However, unlike Telegram Channels, WhatsApp's latest feature is a one-way broadcast service, with no option for followers to bombard an update with responses in a comment box, which is otherwise a staple feature in many of our favorite messaging apps such as Telegram and Slack.
Previously, users were limited to creating a broadcast list if they wanted to send messages to a group of people. This becomes visible in the Chats tab, and you can only add people from your contact list.
Channels, on the other hand, are designed to reach a larger audience; as a result, unlike broadcast lists, Channel updates are not end-to-end encrypted by default. However, there are plans to implement this security feature in the future, WhatsApp said in a blog post.
Anyone can subscribe to a Channel, and WhatsApp is building a searchable directory of topics to follow, such as your hobbies, inspirational topics, favorite sports teams, or local government updates. You can also subscribe to a Channel through invite links.
However, the Meta-owned platform is working on a way for admins to control who can follow their Channels and remove them from the directory. When you follow a Channel, it appears in a new tab called Updates, which is located in the same navigation bar as chats, calls, and Communities. The Channels you subscribe to will appear beneath the carousel of status updates from your contacts.
To protect user privacy, WhatsApp will hide your phone number from the admin. Similarly, an admin's phone number or profile photo will not be visible to anyone who follows their Channel.
Updates won't stay for good, though. WhatsApp says it will remove these broadcasts from users' devices and its servers after 30 days. In the future, admins will be able to reduce the amount of time updates remain in Channels, as well as disable screenshot and forwarding options.
The latest feature is initially arriving in Colombia and Singapore, with more countries set to receive it in the coming months. WhatsApp will also allow anyone to create a Channel in the future.
In the long run, the service wants admins to monetize their Channels and use its payment service. WhatsApp is also considering allowing admins to promote their Channels in the directory, presumably for a fee. We've reached out to Meta about this and will update this article as soon as we hear back.
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Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.