It seems that WhatsApp once again took inspiration from rival Telegram for its new feature called WhatsApp Channels.
This feature allows users to privately follow people and organizations that they want to receive updates from, be it Manchester City or FC Barcelona.
Like on Twitter, users can subscribe to channels and receive the updates, but unlike in-person chats on WhatsApp, they cannot reply to them.
WhatsApp Channels is similar to Telegram Channels, introduced in 2015, which allows administrators to send messages to users who have opted in to receive them.
It follows news that WhatsApp developers are working to bring animated emojis to the platform just like animated emojis on Telegram.
Channels allows users to privately follow people and organizations they want to receive updates from, including football teams FC Barcelona and Manchester City
Since Telegram already has animated emojis, WhatsApp was accused by some users on Twitter of “stealing” the idea.
What are WhatsApp Channels?
Channels is a new feature on WhatsApp that allows users to receive updates from people and organizations.
Just like on Twitter, users can subscribe to a particular channel based on their interests – be it UFC or FC Barcelona.
WhatsApp Channels is similar to Telegram Channels, added in 2015.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, which owns WhatsApp, announced the new Channels feature in a message on his Facebook page on Thursday, though he made no mention of the existing Channels feature on Telegram.
“Today we’re announcing WhatsApp Channels – a private way to follow people and organizations that matter to you, right within WhatsApp,” Zuckerberg said.
“We build channels to be the most personal way to communicate.”
Zuckerberg said Channels is rolling out to users in Singapore and Colombia first, but users around the world will get it “later this year.”
Channels appear under a new tab called ‘Updates’ on the WhatsApp, alongside ‘Chats’, ‘Calls’ and ‘Communities’, which launched last year.
WhatsApp is partnering with select organizations in Colombia and Singapore, including the Singapore Heart Foundation and fact-checker Colombia Check, to launch the tool.
Other global launch partners include the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as Drone Racing League, martial arts company UFC, and soccer teams FC Barcelona and Manchester City.
WhatsApp Channels allow users to privately follow people and organizations from whom they want to receive updates, such as FC Barcelona football team
Zuckerberg said users will be able to find “all the channels you want to follow” over time once the feature rolls out.
WhatsApp is also building a “searchable directory” where users can find hobbies, sports teams, updates from local officials, and more.
Unlike in-person chats on WhatsApp, Channels are a “one-way broadcasting tool,” so if users receive an update through Channels, they won’t be able to respond to it.
Channel admins — which can be business owners or employees of the specific channel — push the updates to anyone who’s opted in to receive them, whether text, photos, videos, stickers, or polls.
For privacy reasons, the channel admin’s phone number and profile picture are not shared with people receiving the updates.
Likewise, following a channel won’t reveal your phone number to the admin or other followers, Zuckerberg said.
WhatsApp also allows admins to decide who can follow their channel and whether they want it visible in the directory or not.
WhatsApp channel messages are only kept for 30 days before being deleted, though WhatsApp will “add ways to make updates disappear from followers’ devices even faster.”
Introduced in 2015, Telegram Channels allow administrators to send messages to users who have chosen to receive them (pictured)
Also unlike in-person chats, channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default – this is the first time this has happened on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook in 2014 for about billion, touts end-to-end encryption as an essential security standard for private chats.
End-to-end encryption ensures that only the two participants in a chat can read messages, and no one in between – not even the company that owns the service.
WhatsApp said in a statement: “Given the goal of Channels is to reach a wide audience, Channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default.
“We think there are some cases where end-to-end encrypted channels could make sense for a limited audience, such as a nonprofit or health organization, and we’re also exploring this as a future option.
“Of course, the core of how people use WhatsApp remains private messaging between friends, family and communities, and that will always be our number one priority.”
BEST WHATSAPP ALTERNATIVES
If you’re considering uninstalling WhatsApp, you’ll be happy to hear that there are several alternative apps you can choose from:
With over 400 million users, Telegram is one of the most popular WhatsApp alternatives.
Although it is very similar to WhatsApp, it is distinguished by the fact that it offers the possibility to set messages to self-destruct after a certain amount of time, without leaving a trace.
Telegram also offers end-to-end encryption.
However, as a WhatsApp spokesperson pointed out, Telegram “doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default, so it’s not necessarily more secure than WhatsApp.”
Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps, thanks to being open source.
This means that the code for the app is publicly available for viewing, making it nearly impossible for the app’s creators to sneak in backdoors that would allow governments or hackers to spy on your messages.
If you’re using an iPhone, consider simply switching to iMessage, Apple’s own messaging app.
The app has some impressive features, including no character limits, the ability to send photos and videos, and of course Apple’s animated emoji feature, Animoji.
Unfortunately, iMessage is only available for iPhone users, so you’ll struggle to communicate with anyone using an Android device.
4. Google Messages
Google’s answer to iMessage is Google Messages, a messaging service for Android.
The app replaces your default SMS app and integrates with all of Google’s apps and services, making it easy to share images or use the Google Assistant.
5. Facebook messenger
If you were put off using WhatsApp because of its data sharing with Facebook, Facebook Messenger may not be the best option for you.
However, the app offers some useful features, including games, secret conversations, and video calls.