The Verge reports.
But what is a channel, really? It’s a Twitter feed, minus all the metrics and reply guys. WhatsApp has clearly noticed all the governments, transit agencies, brands, and others looking for a new (and non-Twitter) place to share their most important updates, and sees Channels as a drop-in replacement.
The main difference between Channels and ordinary WhatsApp messages is that nobody can reply, making it a potentially clutter-free way to get updated, whether it’s a severe weather warning from the national weather service, or the latest news from your favorite sports team. Broadcast messages will also appear in a separate Updates tab, to distinguish them from your chats.
The company may be responding in part to Twitter’s new API pricing, which has already proven problematic for emergency messages from some government agencies. Musk did subsequently reverse the policy, but details remain unclear.
WhatsApp says messages won’t use end-to-end encryption, as the goal here is to make it easy to spread information, but there will be a number of privacy features.
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.
We’ll only store channel history on our servers for up to 30 days and we’ll 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.
Lastly, we’ll make it possible for admins to decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not.
Right now, Channels is in extremely limited testing, but that should change in the next few months.
To kick off Channels, we’re excited to work with leading global voices and select organizations in Colombia and Singapore, where Channels will first be available, to build, learn, and adapt the experience. We’ll bring Channels to more countries and the ability for anyone to create a channel over the coming months.
Once it does expand, it sounds like the company plans to make it available for more informal use, as it will support photos, videos, stickers, and polls.
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