Quite recently, WhatsApp added communities, essentially rebranded broadcast lists for those that survived an era when those were a thing. In the latest public beta version of the app (184.108.40.206 Beta) or non-beta version (220.127.116.11), a number of stuff has been added.
Updates replace Status
The status button has now been replaced with Updates and this place is where you will find your usual status updates from your contacts and channels. Now before we dig into that, I was seriously annoyed with how WhatsApp was treating communities. They were part of the chats and I didn’t have the option to select them all at once and mark them all as read. Now they get a whole tab dedicated to them which makes a lot more sense.
Back to Updates. Channels look to be of persons of interest like celebrities, businesses, sporting institutions, and teams. So if you are on Twitter Instagram or even Facebook, the list of people and institutions you follow outside of friends and acquaintances is probably the same list you’ll be following within WhatsApp’s Channels.
You can filter them by popularity, by most recent, or even by country. Or you can just search for a particular one. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of them yet. But one interesting thing to observe there for me is fact-checking news that is claimed to be coming from sources like WHO, BBC, and the like. You can link back to the community it came from and take it from the horse’s mouth.
How to create a channel
- Open WhatsApp Web, and go to Channels by clicking the Channels icon
- Click > Create channel.
- Click Continue and continue through the onscreen prompts.
- Add a channel name to finish creating your channel. You can choose to change the name again at any time.
- Customize your channel: You can choose to customize your channel now by adding a description and icon or wait until later.
- Add a channel description: Write a few words to help potential followers understand what your channel is about.
- Add a channel icon: Add an image from your phone or the web to stand out.
- Click Create channel, and you’re done!
Seems simple enough however it is being rolled out in phases. Some may not be able to access channels at all and some may only be able to access channels but not be able to create any (my scenario is the latter). You can join the waitlist which can bump you up the queue for access to these new features.
Note: WhatsApp Channels has begun rolling out but isn’t available to everyone yet.WhatsApp faq
Join the waitlist to be notified when WhatsApp Channels is available to you.Where Channels is available, we’re rolling out new features gradually.
Some features, like being able to create a channel, might not be available to you yet.
How Channels will work
Channels are essentially spaces for businesses and influencers to share updates with their audiences. So communication is one way. The updates can be in the form of any media already supported by WhatsApp which includes text, images, videos, stickers, gifs, links, you name it.
For the owner of the channel, things get really exciting because now you can get access to metrics from your channel and posts. These include the number of views each channel post gets and the number of emoji-type reactions per post.
I am a bit disappointed that the number of shares or number of times a post was forwarded is still not an available metric especially considering that WhatsApp can already tell if a post has been forwarded many times.
Security & Privacy
One of the biggest security risks with WhatsApp groups has always been the fact that every group member’s number is available to view every member in the group. So in the event that you are to join a group with shady characters, your number can be harvested for whatever purpose without your knowledge or consent.
With Channels, WhatsApp states that your phone number will be completely hidden from everyone including the Channel’s owner unless they already have your contact saved in their contacts list. It would be nice to also have this in groups and communities.
With these features, WhatsApp is slowly evolving from being just an instant messaging app to being a DM-first social media platform.