WhatsApp has introduced its new feature called “Channels” in Singapore and Colombia, presenting it as a private one-way broadcast tool that can be followed discreetly.
The feature is accessible through the Updates tab on the messaging app, enabling users to view Status and the channels they choose to follow separately from their regular chats.
Currently, users from Singapore and Colombia can only follow the WhatsApp channels through invite links provided by channel administrators.
The admins’ control who can follow their channel but cannot forcibly add followers, maintaining user choice.
WhatsApp is working on a search directory that will help users find relevant channels, and it is expected to be available within the next few weeks.
Privacy is a priority in Channels. Phone numbers and profile photos of channel admins will remain private to their followers, and followers’ phone numbers will not be disclosed to admins or other followers. WhatsApp emphasizes that the following channels remain private at users’ discretion.
WhatsApp Channels support various content formats such as text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. Updates will be stored for up to 30 days before they are removed. Additionally, channel admins can block screenshots and prevent messages from being forwarded within their channels.
The launch of WhatsApp Channels in Singapore and Colombia has attracted local and global organizations. Some notable examples include the World Health Organization, FC Barcelona, the Singapore Heart Foundation, and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. Organizations must submit a request to set up a channel, but WhatsApp plans to allow anyone, including individuals, to create their channels in the future.
Unlike regular messages, channels do not have end-to-end encryption by default, as they are intended for broadcasting. However, WhatsApp is considering providing limited encryption for certain channels with a restricted audience, such as non-profit organizations or healthcare service providers.
WhatsApp has further plans to expand Channels to more global markets in the upcoming months and introduce additional features. The company is keen on gathering feedback from Singapore to enhance user experience in other countries.
Singapore was chosen as the initial launch market due to its active adoption of the payments feature last month, enabling users to pay local merchants directly through the app.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta (the parent company of WhatsApp), stated that Channels is designed to be the most private communication method, focusing on user privacy. Messages are not stored on the app, and channel admins’ phone numbers are not displayed.
The Singapore Heart Foundation sees potential in using Channels to raise awareness of its programs in the country, and learnings from this launch will be incorporated into future rollouts, with more functionalities planned. These additions include the ability to react to messages and various administrative functions, like automatically removing channel updates after a certain time and choosing discoverability options for channels.
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