WhatsApp launches “channels” for private, one-way broadcasts

Photo credit: Meta

WhatsApp is adding a new feature called Channels that gives people and organizations the ability to send updates.

“We’re creating channels in a new tab called Updates – that’s where you’ll find status and the channels you want to follow – separate from chats with family, friends and communities,” reads the press release announcing the new feature. Channels are one-way broadcast tools that allow admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls to those who follow the channel.

WhatsApp also creates a searchable channel directory so users can follow their favorite sports teams, get updates from local officials, and more. Invites from other members of the channel provide another unique way to participate in messaging. What are channels and how do they work?

It is meant to be a private broadcasting service for everyone who has something to tell everyone. As a channel admin, your phone number and profile photo will not be visible to followers. And following a channel doesn’t mean that the admins of that channel know your phone number. WhatsApp saves channel history for 30 days before deleting it. This is an excellent way to communicate timely updates to users. Finally, WhatsApp says channel admin owners can sign up for the searchable directory.

The service is start in Colombia and Singapore currently as a limited test, but will likely roll out to the rest of the WhatsApp community in the coming months. WhatsApp is developing the feature with businesses in mind, focusing on leveraging its advanced payment services and the ability to promote channels in the directory to drive awareness. The move comes as WhatsApp parent company Meta is trying to capitalize on the chaos surrounding Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

Meta is working on a Twitter competitor that is expected to be released this summer. The app is based on Instagram and will be integrated with ActivityPub, a decentralized social media protocol that’s emerging (Mastodon & lemmy). Chris Cox, Meta’s chief product officer, calls these efforts the “company’s response on Twitter.”