WhatsApp Communities: The ‘next generation of private messaging’?

14 Apr 2022

WhatsApp Communities. Image: WhatsApp

Mark Zuckerberg has shared details of WhatsApp Communities and other features such as reactions and larger file sharing coming soon.

WhatsApp is now testing a new Communities feature, which aims to significantly improve group chats on one of the world’s most popular messaging apps.

Launched today (14 April) through a slow roll-out, WhatsApp Communities is essentially a ‘group of groups’ that will help users organise all their group chats and find information quicker.

For example, school principals could create WhatsApp communities for parents to access information from the individual class groups present within those communities. Neighbourhoods could also have their own communities to discuss happenings on their streets.

Four smartphone screens displaying different WhatsApp communities.

What Communities will look like. Image: WhatsApp

“Our messaging services are built around one-to-one text messaging – and that will stay the core of what we do,” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of WhatsApp’s parent company Meta, shared in a Facebook post. “But we’ve also been working on building out the next generation of private messaging.”

Zuckerberg said that Communities will represent a natural evolution of WhatsApp from a way to connect with close friends and family to a place where users can stay in touch with “all of the different communities in your life” while still ensuring privacy and security through encryption.

Admins on Communities will also have a set of tools at their disposal, including announcements for everyone, control over which groups can be included and which messages can be deleted.

Emoji reactions and 2GB file-sharing

A whole host of other new features such as reactions and larger file sharing capabilities are also on their way according to the Facebook founder who recently told employees to ‘move fast’ and ‘live in the future’ as Meta becomes an increasingly ‘distributed’ company.

Emoji reactions to individual messages in group chats, similar to those on Facebook, will be rolled out as part of this ‘evolution’ of WhatsApp, and files as large as 2GB can be shared with others on the platform. Voice calls, too, are getting an upgrade – with the maximum limit extended to 32 participants at a time.

“In the same way that social feeds took the basic technology behind the internet and made it so anyone could find people and content online, I think community messaging will take the basic protocols behind one-to-one messaging and extend them so you can communicate more easily with groups of people to get things done together,” Zuckerberg wrote.

While Communities will only be available as a new feature on WhatsApp for now, Zuckerberg said that similar messaging features are being developed for Messenger, Facebook and Instagram as well.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic