Think you can mute a WhatsApp group? Think again

20 Sep 2016

A new tweak rolled out by WhatsApp allows users to nudge those who have muted groups, somewhat rendering the mute tool obsolete.

WhatsApp’s service appeals due to its aesthetics and ease-of-use. One of the simplest instant messaging tools, the fact that it’s free and widespread makes for an appealing way to communicate.

Good for one-on-one communications or broader group chats, users can stay in conversations they have but a mild interest in by muting them, opting out of constant alerts.

Future Human


That’s not quite true, though, with users able to directly notify those group chat members who thought they had faded into the background.

Now, rather than avoiding alerts for every single update, users can be reeled in if someone types in @ ahead of their name.

This doesn’t appear to be a feature of the desktop application, but the Android and iOS apps have it. When @ is typed, a menu of all members of the group appears. Choose who you want to alert and they get a notification, just as if they had never muted the group.

If you have notifications turned off entirely on WhatsApp, this new tweak makes no difference.

It’s a peculiar tool to include for mere chat purposes but, given the impending introduction of tailored advertisements partnered to users’ Facebook accounts, perhaps this is geared more towards that.

Two years ago, Facebook spent big, buying WhatsApp, the instant messaging app, for $19bn. At the time, people feared there would be major changes to the latter’s clean, easy and fast service. However, very little changed.

That was until last month when plans to tie users of WhatsApp with their Facebook profiles (if any existed) changed things.

“By connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them,” said the company in a blog post.

With the ability to prompt people back into muted conversations, perhaps this is a way to make sure more advertising actually reaches its destination.

Or, it could just be a way of users catching the eye of friends who have long since muted a conversation.

It does not appear to be on everyone’s phones just yet, so updates are likely trickling out.

WhatsApp image via qoppi/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic