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Meta plans to debut a new broadcast feature called Channels for its WhatsApp messaging service.
The social networking giant said Thursday that the new Channels feature is similar to a “private broadcast service” in which people and organizations can send messages and updates to followers that are separate from the kinds of interpersonal communications that happen between users. on WhatsApp.
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Admins who control a WhatsApp channel will be able to send text, photos, videos, stickers and polls to their followers who will not be able to reply to messages. Channel admins will not be allowed to add followers to their channels, which will retain messages for 30 days before being deleted.
Unlike more conventional WhatsApp messaging, the channels will not use end-to-end encryption so they can “reach a broad audience,” WhatsApp said in a blog post. WhatsApp added that end-to-end encrypted channels may eventually debut in the future for groups like nonprofits or healthcare organizations that want their communications to be more secure.
WhatsApp users will eventually be able to find channels they want to join in a searchable directory. They will be able to access the channels they follow through a new ‘Updates’ tab. WhatsApp said the tab will be “separated from your chats with family, friends and communities.”
WhatsApp said it is working with various groups such as the Singapore Heart Foundation and NGO Colombia Check as part of its plans to debut channels in Colombia and Singapore before a wider rollout in other countries later this year.
WhatsApp plans to eventually allow anyone to create a WhatsApp channel, in addition to its current launch partners, which also include the International Rescue Committee and the World Health Organization.
Meta, when it was known as Facebook, acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that WhatsApp will be the “next chapter” for the social networking company, representing an opportunity for Meta to build a lucrative business similar to Instagram and Facebook’s main app.
Although Meta derives most of its billions of dollars in annual sales from online advertising, it has so far avoided adding ads to WhatsApp, similar to Facebook and Instagram. Instead, Meta is pushing business messaging features as a way to monetize WhatsApp, hoping to offer more compelling ways for companies to engage with users.
In fact, Meta said in the blog post that the company believes “there is an opportunity to support admins with a way to build a business around their channel using our expanding payment services, as well as the ability to promote certain channels in the directory to help increase awareness.”
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