Earlier this month, WhatsApp rolled out their new feature, Channels, a one-way broadcast tool that houses updates from creators, organizations, celebrities and brands.

If you, like us, regularly toggle between the tabs of WhatsApp, you would surely have noticed that the Status tab is no longer called so. The rechristening of the tab to “Updates”, tapping on which leads you to Channels, did not happen overnight! In fact, Channels has now kicked off in over 180 countries including the UAE, succeeding its preliminary launch in Singapore and Columbia in the month of June.

According to WhatsApp’s parent company, Meta, the wider rollout was to occur only after building, learning and adapting the experience in specific markets. Following the success of Channel’s pilot test, users of 9 countries gained access to the tool within a month, and finally, September 2023 paved the way for the grand launch of the feature on a global scale. Through text, photos, videos, stickers and polls, Channels will focus on broadcasting information rather than sparking conversations. Users can gain access to a channel via invitation links sent in chats, e-mail or content shared online. Meta described their newest extension as “a simple, reliable and private way to receive important updates from people and organisations, right within WhatsApp”.

The one-to-many broadcasting tool aspires to be touted as the most private broadcast service available, outshining a similar feature of its competitor, Telegram. Earlier this year, WhatsApp’s sibling, Instagram introduced a feature akin to Channels called Broadcast Channels with the objective of reaching a broader set of audience.
Through Channels, the social juggernaut, Meta, is walking the extra mile in upholding user privacy by protecting the contact details of both the admins and followers of channels. While one can view the total number of followers of a channel, unlike other social media platforms, the following/follower details of a channel are not visible. The tool has also introduced provisions for admins to block screenshots and forwarding of messages from their channel and evaluate the eligibility of the users who can follow them. They are also offered the flexibility to edit their updates for up to a month. While channel history will not be sticking around forever, messages will have a lifespan of 30 days on Meta’s server. What’s more on the privacy front? Admins are able to decide whether their channels need to be discoverable in the directory or not.

Scrolling down Channel’s searchable directory lets you discover your favourite brands, celebrities, influencers, thought leaders, hobbies, passions and updates from local authorities. Amongst the A-listers who have hopped onto the Channels bandwagon are rapper Bad Bunny, David Guetta, Katrina Kaif, companies like Netflix, and sports teams like the Indian Cricket Team, Liverpool FC, Real Madrid and MLB.Users can filter channels based on countries and sift through channels that are new, most active, and popular. With the addition of Channels, your go-to-messaging app has just unlocked a novel and secure way for creators to engage with their followers. To cut to the chase, the app has now positioned itself as a platform for users to wolf down granular content updates and stay on top of things that they care about. Though followers aren’t offered the provision of replying or sending messages in a public channel, they can tap and hold a message to react with an emoji reaction, just the way they would in a regular WhatsApp chat.

2023, indeed, seems to be the ”Year of Updates” for WhatsApp, with Meta announcing the “edit within 15 minutes” option in May, followed by the Chat Lock feature, offering its users the capability to secure private messages by adding an additional layer of security. With the app’s user base exceeding two billion users, WhatsApp is all set to usher in a new era of content engagement in the digital world, with zero compromise on privacy.