WhatsApp is getting new features that will let users grow their circle of friends or grow to hate their circle of friends. Dealer’s choice, really.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the planned feature, called Communities, in a Facebook post-Thursday, saying that “for a deeper level of interaction, messaging has become the center of our digital lives.” Communities roll out to some Whatsapp users as a test today and will be fully available to all users in the coming months, Zuckerberg said.
The new app feature allows users to post in select group chats dedicated to specific organizations or communities. Unlike a regular WhatsApp conversation, phone numbers won’t be accessible to everyone in a chat, and as The Verge noted in an interview with WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, all communications are encrypted save for the name of the chat and its overarching community.
The new feature is like Nextdoor, Slack, and Facebook Messenger rolled into one. Examples shown by Meta in its announcement post include multiple different chats based in the same apartment building. Another shows work-related chats for different teams under the umbrella of a humanitarian aid group. One picture showed a group of school parents, including chat rooms for those with kids in different grades.
“We think Communities will make it easier for a school principal to bring all the parents of the school together to share must-read updates and set up groups about specific classes, extracurricular activities, or volunteer needs,” the post reads.
And for anybody who has spent time on Facebook parents’ groups, you can probably expect just as much vitriol, name-calling, and misinformation as you might find on any online community where someone’s kids are involved.
“I think community messaging will take the basic protocols behind one-to-one messaging and extend them so you can communicate more easily with groups of people to get things done together,” Zuckerberg said in his Facebook post. He added that the features shown on WhatsApp will likely be transferred to Facebook and Instagram.
The post also showed that further updates will allow up to 2GB of file sharing, 32-person audio calls, added emoji reactions to individual posts, and the ability for an admin to delete posts. The new features will be rolled out over time. Neither the post nor Zuckerberg gave a full timeline for how the feature will be incorporated into existing apps or if they will allow existing group chats to become Communities chats.