Meta announced Thursday that it is launching a new broadcasting tool for WhatsApp, called Channels.
With the launch of the new feature, the tech giant said it’s aiming to build “the most private broadcast service available.” Channels, a one-way broadcast tool, will allow users to send messages and media to a specific channel instead of the standard messaging system between users that the app is usually used for.
“Naturally, the core of how people use WhatsApp will continue to be private messaging among friends, family, and communities, and that will always be our first priority,” the announcement read. “Building channels is a big step our users have asked us to take for years. We think the time is finally right to introduce a simple, reliable, and private broadcast tool and we hope you enjoy using it in the months and years to come.”
The Channels will have a home in a new tab called Updates, separate from the other messaging tabs, where users can choose channels to follow, complete with a searchable directory. Admins also have the power to choose whether or not their channel is discoverable. Channel admins can decide who can follow their channel and send text, photos, videos, stickers and polls to those followers, who can’t reply to the messages. The messages will be stored for 30 days before they’re automatically deleted.
WhatsApp is also working to ensure the safety of users’ and admins’ personal information, with neither their phone number nor profile picture being shown in the channel (unless they opt to do so). However, unlike other WhatsApp messaging, Channels will not use end-to-end encryption, which Meta says is in line with the larger goal of the new feature to “reach a wide audience.” Nonetheless, the company is exploring adding encryption in some cases with Channels in the future.
The new feature is currently being piloted in Colombia and Singapore, with the goal to bring it to more countries in the coming months as the tool is developed further. Meta also added that it’s exploring the possibility for admins to create a business around their channel with WhatsApp’s “expanding payment services.”
WhatsApp previously unveiled a new feature last year called Communities, aimed at organizing and compiling group chats into one larger collective. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently told CNBC that he sees WhatsApp as becoming the company’s “next chapter” as it scales monetization.
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