WhatsApp is launching communities, a feature that will bring together separate groups under one umbrella with a structure that works for them. That way people can receive updates sent to the entire Community and easily organize smaller discussion groups on what matters to them.
WhatsApp communities will rival Telegram, iMessage and Signal which are already prominent players in the sector. The feature will work similarly to Facebook groups including the ability to host subgroups for different projects among private groups.
Communities will also contain powerful new tools for admins, including announcement messages that are sent to everyone and control over which groups can be included. To get started with Communities, admins will either link a pre-existing group chat to the new feature or create a new group from scratch and add contributors. WhatsApp is also banking on the already large number of group chats that will easily make the transition to the more structured.
We are not sure how many participants the groups will accommodate but chances are they will be much bigger that the current 257 maximum.
“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 feature has been under development for some time as the next big iteration for the WhatsApp platform. It will back on the app’s existing end-to-end encryption as well as users’ growing desire to join close-knit groups.
“While other apps are building chats for hundreds of thousands of people, we’re choosing to focus on supporting the groups that are part of our daily lives. It’s early days for Communities on WhatsApp and building the new features to support them will be a major focus of ours for the year to come. We can’t wait to get Communities in people’s hands and are looking forward to people’s feedback.”
In Communities, users will also be able to see the phone numbers of the other participants in the sub-groups with them, or when they engage with each other one-on-one. This makes the product feel more personal than Facebook Groups.
WhatsApp is also working on new features to offer users a seamless experience whether or not they are part of a Community. the features will help people share in new ways and reduce overload in larger chats.
In the coming weeks, WhatsApp is bringing Emoji reactions, admin delete options for errant messages or content that is no longer relevant and file sharing for up to 2gigabytes.
WhatsApp is also bringing large voice call options that will support up to 32 participants at a go. These features are rolling out in the coming weeks so people can start trying them out even before Communities are ready.