WhatsApp’s latest feature, Channels, brings a new dimension to the popular messaging app, offering local updates, creator following, monetization opportunities, and broadcasts. This addition represents one of the most Facebook-like endeavors undertaken by WhatsApp thus far.
Channels revolutionizes the traditional messaging experience by introducing one-to-many broadcasts instead of conversational exchanges. Described by its parent company Meta as “a private way to follow what matters,” Channels allows users to receive local news, sports updates, and more.
In essence, a channel on WhatsApp resembles a Twitter feed, but without metrics and reply interactions. Recognizing the demand for alternative platforms for sharing crucial updates from governments, brands, and transit agencies, WhatsApp presents Channels as a viable replacement.
Moreover, Channels serves as a tool for content creators, enabling them to share text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls with their audiences. WhatsApp intends to incorporate payment and monetization services into Channels as well. Users can discover channels by searching within WhatsApp or exploring a newly created directory, and the latest updates from channels will appear in the app’s Status section.
Privacy remains a priority for WhatsApp, as channel admin information remains undisclosed, and the app retains only 30 days’ worth of a channel’s history. Admins also have the option to block screenshots and forwards, ensuring content remains within the channel. However, unlike end-to-end encrypted messages, Channels are treated similarly to conversations with businesses, which are not entirely private. WhatsApp does express intentions to explore encryption options for channels in the future.
Incorporating Channels into WhatsApp is a logical move, considering that Telegram has had a similar feature for broadcasting called Channels for quite some time. Instagram also offers a comparable functionality known as broadcast channels. In the context of WhatsApp, integrating such information aligns better with the nature of a messaging app, providing a more seamless experience for receiving updates on air quality or train statuses than within the noise of Twitter.
Taking a broader perspective, WhatsApp is gradually evolving beyond a mere messaging app. In recent months, the platform has introduced multi-device support, worked on private newsletter tools and a new username system, added polls, shopping capabilities, and other Facebook-like features, revamped the Status system, enhanced group chats, and more. Channels represent the latest effort by WhatsApp to merge social media with messaging.
As with most WhatsApp features, Channels is initially launching on a small scale. The feature will debut with prominent global organizations and selected entities in Colombia and Singapore, with availability limited to these two countries initially. WhatsApp plans to expand Channels to more countries and make channel creation accessible to a broader user base in the coming months.
While WhatsApp remains primarily a messaging app, serving billions of users who rely on it for communication with friends and family, the platform aims to grow, generate more revenue, and evolve into the comprehensive super app it aspires to be. As a result, WhatsApp is actively exploring avenues to transcend its messaging roots and encompass more functionalities.