WORLD | Jun 8, 2023

Whatsapp introduces new ‘Channels’ feature for NGOs, research institutions and fact-checking bodies

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Whatsapp logo is seen in this illustration. (File Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Meta, the parent company of popular social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, is expanding its reach by introducing a broadcast-based messaging feature called Channels on WhatsApp.

On WhatsApp, ‘Channels’ messages will appear in a new tab called ‘Updates’, distinguishing it from Meta’s approach on Instagram, where channel announcements are communicated through direct messages. The focus on WhatsApp is to facilitate channels for use by organizations such as NGOs, medical research institutions, and fact-checking bodies rather than individual creators.

Admins of WhatsApp Channels have the ability to send various types of content including text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. However, these conversations will be one-way, meaning users will not be able to reply to the messages they receive.

A smartphone with a displayed WhatsApp logo is placed on a computer motherboard in this illustration. (File Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

While users can join channels via invite links, WhatsApp is also developing a directory to help users discover and join different channels related to hobbies, sports teams, and local officials. Meta has stated that it will introduce tools for admins to control the discoverability of their channels if they prefer more privacy.

This move comes shortly after a similar update was rolled out to Instagram as Meta aims to provide more conversational avenues to its massive user base of 2 billion people. In addition to enhancing user engagement, the company also has plans to monetize this feature in the future.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Channels as “a private way to follow people and organizations that matter to you, right within WhatsApp.” He emphasized that user privacy is a priority, stating that channel admins’ phone numbers will not be visible to followers and that following a channel will not be revealed to the admin or other channel followers. Messages sent on Channels will be automatically deleted after 30 days, and Meta will not retain any record of them.

The launch of Channels is initially taking place in select markets, namely Colombia and Singapore. Early adopters of the feature include the Singapore Heart Foundation and Colombia Check, a fact-checking organization. Notably, prominent international partners such as the International Rescue Committee, the World Health Organization, and renowned sports teams like FC Barcelona and Manchester City are also involved in the rollout. Meta plans to gradually expand the availability of the Channels feature to more countries over the coming months, with the ultimate goal of allowing any user to establish their own channel.

Meta is considering various possibilities for the feature, including the potential removal of end-to-end encryption for large channels in order to expand the audience reach. The company is also exploring ways to generate revenue from Channels, such as incorporating payment services for businesses and providing promotional opportunities within the directory. WhatsApp has already introduced in-app payment capabilities in Brazil and Singapore, enabling users to easily pay merchants.


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