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Meta plans to debut a new broadcasting feature called Channels for its WhatsApp messaging service.
The social networking giant said Thursday that the new Channels feature is akin to a “private broadcasting service”[ads1]; where people and organizations can send messages and updates to followers that are separate from the kind of interpersonal communication that happens between WhatsApp users.
Admins monitoring a WhatsApp channel will be able to send text, images, videos, stickers and polls to their followers, who will not be able to reply to the messages. The channel admins will not be allowed to add followers to their channels, which will store messages for 30 days before deleting them.
Unlike more conventional WhatsApp messages, 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 could 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 via a new “Updates” tab. WhatsApp said the tab would be “separate from your chats with family, friends and community.”
WhatsApp said it is working with various groups such as the Singapore Heart Foundation and Colombia Check nonprofit as part of its plans to debut channels in Colombia and Singapore before a wider launch in other countries later this year.
WhatsApp plans to eventually let anyone create a WhatsApp channel, in addition to its current launch partners that also include the International Rescue Committee and the World Health Organization.
Meta, then known as Facebook, bought 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, and represents an opportunity for Meta to build a lucrative business similar to Instagram and its core Facebook 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 like Facebook and Instagram. Instead, Meta has been pushing business messaging features as a way to monetize WhatsApp, hoping to offer more compelling ways for businesses to engage with users.
In fact, Meta said in the blog post that the company believes “there is an opportunity to support administrators with a way for them to build a business around their channel using our extended payment services, as well as the ability to promote certain channels in the catalog to help increase consciousness.”
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