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WhatsApp could step into 1999 with the most basic of privacy features

It's been a long time coming for this seemingly obvious tool.

Published onJuly 4, 2022

Gmail stock photo from Dec 2021 1
  • A rumor points to a new WhatsApp “Who can see I’m online” feature.
  • Theoretically, this could give you an easy way to let only certain people know you are available.
  • It’s crazy it’s taken this long for such a seemingly fundamental feature.

In WhatsApp as it stands today, you can easily configure it to selectively show when you were last online. You can go hog wild and let everyone know, keep the info only to your contacts, or even go nuclear and hide that information from everyone.

That’s great and all, but what about controlling who can see when you’re actively using the app? As of right now, the app doesn’t offer this pretty obvious feature. Thankfully, it looks like a WhatsApp “Who can see I’m online” feature is coming soon.

See also: How to recover WhatsApp messages

Thanks to some sleuthing from WABetaInfo, we have strong evidence to show this feature is in the works. We even have a screenshot that shows off what it might look like. The screenshot is from the iOS version of WhatsApp, but evidence supports the idea that this would come to the Android and desktop versions, too.

WhatsApp ‘Who can see I’m online’

The first part of this screenshot should look familiar. You can find it by going to Settings > Account > Privacy > Last seen. This controls who can see the last time you were online.

The second half, though, is new. You won’t find that in your version of the app. This allows you to control who can see if you’re currently available to chat. WhatsApp gives you just two choices: “Everyone” or “Same as last seen.” It doesn’t look like you’d be able to have different controls for the WhatsApp “Who can see I’m online” feature and the “Who can see my last seen” feature.

It’s crazy that it’s taken this long for WhatsApp to offer this feature. Other Meta-owned properties like Instagram and Facebook Messenger have this already. Even AOL Instant Messenger had similar controls back in the 90s and early 2000s.

However, “better late than never” is the old adage to apply here. Hopefully, we’ll see this roll out soon.