WhatsApp Channels has launched, billed as ‘A private way to follow what matter’.
Channels are a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. They are available in a new tab called Updates, which is separate from chats with family, friends, and communities. People can select what to follow from a searchable directory, and can also join a channel from an invite link.
UNICEF is already on there and its official channel has 2.7mn followers, while the World Health Organisation has 3.6mn. In the UK, football clubs are among those to have already adopted it, with Man City having 8.1mn followers, and Liverpool 6.8mn.
Channel admins’ phone number and profile photo remain private and are not shown to followers. Likewise, channel followers’ phone number also remain private and are not visible to the admin or other followers.
In its announcement of Channels, WhatsApp also said that it will only store channel history on its servers for up to 30 days and will enable updates to disappear faster than this from followers’ devices. Admins will also have the option to block screenshots and forwards from their channel, and to decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not.
WhatApp states though that: “Given the aim of Channels is to reach a wide audience, channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default. We do think there are some cases where end-to-end encrypted channels to a limited audience might make sense, such as a non profit or health organization, and we’re exploring this as a future option as well.”