Whatsapp gets ‘Channels’ for broadcasting messages and other content

Whatsapp has been rolling out additional features in a rather quick release cycle, with the latest and yet again more telegram-esque feature being ‘Channels’. As they function on any other social media platform, Channels are a way for people and organisations to broadcast text, photos, videos, stickers, polls and other forms of content.

The launch of ‘Channels’ comes right on the heels of a similar feature launch on Meta’s Instagram.

These channels will be available in a new tab called Updates – where you’ll find Status and channels you choose to follow – separate from your chats with family, friends, and communities.

To help users select channels to follow, Whatsapp is building a searchable directory where you can find your hobbies, sports teams, updates from local officials, and more. You can also get to a channel from invite links sent in chats, e-mail, or posted online.

Whatsapp is going big on data protection and privacy with Channels as well, something that has still kept the IM platform more popular than the rest. Personal information of both admins and followers of a channel will remain encrypted. As a channel admin, your phone number and profile photo won’t be shown to followers. Likewise, following a channel won’t reveal your phone number to the admin or other followers. Who you decide to follow is your choice and it’s private.

Additionally, Whatsapp will only store channel history on its servers for up to 30 days. Later on, it will add ways to make updates disappear even faster from follower’s devices. Admins will also have the option to block screenshots and forwards from their channel.

With regards to admin controls, it is possible for Channel admins to decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not. Given the aim of Channels is to reach a wide audience, channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default.

From the looks of it, these Channels could later also get the ability to monetise their content, since Whatsapp would enable payment services as well.

As of now, Whatsapp is piloting ‘Channels’ with a select group of organisations in Singapore and Columbia. The feature will be brought in to more countries soon, along with the ability for anyone to create a channel over the coming months.

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