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WhatsApp introduces Channels, a private way to send and receive broadcasts
- WhatsApp Channels will let you broadcast messages to your followers without exchanging phone numbers.
- The service is also building a searchable directory for users to find channels for their favorite topics and local subjects.
- Channels are rolling out in Colombia and Singapore, with a wider global rollout planned for the coming months.
WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular instant messaging apps, but it is surprisingly slow to add new features. But the app has looked around and figured right now is the best time to add channels as a feature. Competing apps like Telegram have had channels for years, and even Instagram recently added Broadcast Channels. WhatsApp is now finally jumping on that train.
Channels on WhatsApp are a private way to broadcast messages, letting channel admins send messages one way. Admins can broadcast text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls into one chat, which users can subscribe to. Channels will exist in a new tab called Updates, where it will share space with status updates from your contact list.
Previously, anyone could use broadcast lists to send mass messages which appear in every individual chat. You can only receive a broadcast message from someone whose number you have saved in your contact book and synced to WhatsApp. So becoming a part of a broadcast list required both parties to know each other.
As a channel admin, your phone number and profile photo won’t be shown to followers. On the other side, following a channel won’t reveal your phone number to the admin or other followers. This is a welcome move, as WhatsApp primarily uses phone numbers instead of usernames or other forms of identity verification for features like groups and broadcast lists.
Channel updates are stored on WhatsApp’s servers for up to 30 days, and in the future, channel admins can choose to have their updates disappear from followers’ devices even quicker. Admins will have the option to block screenshots and forwards from their channel.
WhatsApp is making channels useful from the get-go by building a searchable directory for users to find and follow topics. You can also join a channel from invite links sent in chats, emails, or ones posted online. Admins can decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory.
Meta does note that WhatsApp channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default. The company will explore the possibility of end-to-end encryption for channels in the future for select use cases. It will also explore payments and monetization opportunities for channels.
Channels are rolling out in Colombia and Singapore, to begin with, with a broader rollout planned in the coming months. When fully rolled out, anyone in the world can create a channel, as the feature isn’t restricted to just organizations and notable people.