Dear WhatsApp, I Have One Small Request

WhatsApp Statuses

Dear WhatsApp or Facebook (the parent)


Largely I am happy with the new changes that keep coming up especially when it comes to groups and the experience in groups. I particularly liked the introduction of a feature that allows group admins to silence noise makers. Thank you.

I also liked that you did not just favour the group admins but you also reminded them who is the boss and made it impossible for them to add back individuals who have voluntarily exited a group. This was quite good.


I know the biggest request you get from people is to open up and have an API that will allow us to build bots and services on WhatsApp. I am one of those that are really looking forward to a WhatsApp API. You see, in Zimbabwe and I guess in a lot of countries in Africa, WhatsApp is essentially the internet.

Being so, it is very important for creators to be able to build or integrate WhatsApp in whatever solutions they are working on. Unfortunately, creators in Africa know that opening of an API is more feasible in the short term than the possibility of a truly neutral internet experience that consumers can afford without it being bundled up. An open internet is the ideal but we know it will not be reality soon.

I was disappointed when WhatsApp Business came along because I thought finally businesses could access an API but alas, the ‘only’ change was that I could add a fixed telephone number to WhatsApp.

Anyway today I am not writing to ask for an API. I was almost getting side tracked by the bigger issue. Goliaths have a way of making everything about themselves.

Today I am asking that you allow users to choose whether they want voice notes from specific chats to automatically download. I know you say the experience is better if all voice notes are automatically downloaded as the screenshot below shows:

WhatsApp screenshot showing message that says voice notes will always be auto downloaded for a good user experiece

BUT is choice not a better user experience? Maybe I am the only one who doesn’t want to have voice notes auto downloaded in all chats every time but even if I am, surely you can allow the choice but the default setting will be auto download enabled: win-win. It sounds arrogant to tell users what’s good for them period. Reminds me of the someone who said, “You can have a car of whatever colour you like as long as it’s black.”

My biggest reason for this request is that I am in groups that have unscrupulous people who send the most offending voice notes or the most vulgar for no reason but that they are able to. I love everything else about the groups except that one nuisance. Now, my choice is to either suck it up or to exit. Can’t you just allow me to mute these people?

I have been embarrassed before when someone unknowingly plays with my phone and plays an audio that is vulgar and offending. In such situations I couldn’t give any explanation because the audio is on my phone and any explanation would just look even more disgusting and pitiful.

The second reason is that even though the internet experience in Africa is bundled up and WhatsApp is the most common bundle, the bundle itself is still capped when it comes to bandwidth. I don’t want my data wasted on voice notes that I immediately delete without even playing or worse if I haven’t seen them the notes remaining on my phone as a potential embarrassment.

I trust that you will consider my small request. At least it’s not as grand and big as the regular API request.

Sincerely Yours

African Creator on the internet and WhatsApp user

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WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows mobile phone users to exchange messages without having to pay for Short Message Services costs. WhatsApp Messenger application is compatible with different mobile phone models such as iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. The... Read More About WhatsApp

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