WhatsApp has launched a new feature, Channels, that looks to be an attempt to take on Twitter in the social media game.
In a new blog post, WhatsApp describes Channels as “a simple, reliable, and private way to receive important updates from people and organizations, right within WhatsApp”.
If that sounds an awful lot like WhatsApp – and by extension parent company Meta/Facebook – directly attempting to provide a replacement for Twitter, or at least a certain function of Twitter, you could be on to something.
There’ll be a new tab in the WhatsApp app known as Updates, which will separate your followed channels from your regular chats with family and friends. From here you’ll be able to receive one-way broadcasts from the people or organisations that you follow.
It’s the ‘one-way’ nature of Channels that really sets it apart from the toxic cesspit that is Twitter these days. When you send out an update to your followers, there’ll be no back and forth commenting. It’s simply a way for a single person or organisation to disseminate information (text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls) to a large number of people at once.
Finding channels will be achieved by a searchable directory, or you can receive a direct invite in chats, email, or via a website link.
Discretion seems to be the name of the game here. No phone numbers or profile pictures will be exchanged when you follow a channel. Meanwhile, channel history will only stick around for 30 days max, with options to make that even shorter, and channel admins will be able to block screenshots and forwards. This should lay to rest the familiar spectre of old posts coming back to haunt posters.
Admins will also have control over who is allowed to follow them, and can decide whether their channel is discoverable.
WhatsApp Channels will be rolling out in Colombia and Singapore at first as the company tests its capabilities, with more countries promised over the coming months.