WhatsApp Channels — the Meta-owned messaging service’s latest feature aimed at increasing engagement on the platform — is rolling out to users in India and several other countries. Designed as a one-way broadcast tool, these channels allow users to share updates with a large number of users on WhatsApp. At the moment, users can search from a directory to find a channel created by their favourite content creator, business, or celebrity. Members will be able to react to messages sent by the channel owner.
The Meta-owned messaging service announced on Wednesday that WhatsApp Channels are rolling out to users in 150 countries, including India. The feature, which was spotted in development earlier this year, should be available to all users in the coming weeks. Meta Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the news on his own channel, and users can join the official WhatsApp Channel to get updates about the platform. Instagram already supports a similar feature and rival platform Telegram also allows users to join one-way broadcast channels.
WhatsApp Channels are displayed in a new tab that will show up on iOS and Android smartphones called Updates. This tab will include both WhatsApp Status messages as well as the new WhatsApp Channels feature. Users can also access an enhanced director that are filtered based on their country and see channels that are popular based on follower count, most active, and new on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Channels can be joined by users who have a valid invite link. In order to protect user privacy, the app will not disclose the phone number of the user who created the channel. Members will not be able to see others who have joined the same channel, and their phone numbers will remain hidden from the channel owner.
Messages sent via WhatsApp Channels will be displayed for a period of 30 days, according to the company. Channel members can react to messages that are shared, but they cannot respond to them. Messages that are broadcast in a channel aren’t protected by end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp says that all other forms of communication like direct messages, group chats, calls, status messages, and attachments will continue to be protected by end-to-end encryption.
In order to popularise the feature and drive engagement of the new WhatsApp Channels feature, Meta has partnered with the Indian Cricket team and celebrities like Diljit Dosanjh, Neha Kakkar, and Katrina Kaif who have all created channels on the app. WhatsApp said will allow any user to create a channel in the coming months.