WhatsApp’s new Channels feature lets accounts send one-way updates to followers just like Telegram

WhatsApp, a company owned by Meta, has introduced a new feature called Channels, which significantly enhances its resemblance to a social media app, according to the company’s announcement. This feature enables accounts to send one-way broadcasts to their followers, including text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls, similar to platforms like Twitter. The broadcasting accounts have control over who can follow their channel and whether it should be discoverable. Importantly, WhatsApp ensures that followers’ phone numbers are not revealed to the channel administrator or other followers.

To access channels, users can find them in a dedicated tab called Updates within the app. This tab displays both Status updates and the channels that users choose to follow, separate from their chats with family, friends, and group chats/communities. WhatsApp plans to incorporate payment services to allow creators to monetize the feature in the future.

Privacy is a key focus for WhatsApp. Channel administrator information remains private, and only the most recent 30 days of history are retained. Admins also have the ability to prevent followers from taking screenshots or forwarding messages. Although Channels do not provide end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp is exploring the possibility of implementing it for non-profit organizations, health organizations, and other privacy-sensitive entities.

It’s worth noting that Channels on WhatsApp bears similarities to a feature with the same name on its competitor, the chat app Telegram. Meta also launched Broadcast Channels on Instagram earlier this year, allowing creators to share updates with their followers in a manner similar to what WhatsApp users can now do. This feature is akin to a newsletter and may have been referred to as such during its development or may potentially be introduced separately in the future.

WhatsApp is expanding beyond its original purpose as a simple messaging app. Meta recently introduced the ability to use a single account across multiple devices, which was previously impossible and could be cumbersome when switching phones. The company has also updated group chats and introduced features such as polls and shopping.

The new Channels feature is not being widely launched initially but is starting with “leading global organizations and select organizations in Colombia and Singapore,” according to WhatsApp. It will become available to more countries and users in the following months.

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