SINGAPORE: For many of us, having several work or family WhatsApp group chats for different topics is the norm.
With Communities, a new feature announced by WhatsApp on Thursday (Apr 14), these group chats can soon be consolidated under one Community for easier and more structured communication.
The Communities feature will be rolled out over the next few months in a few countries for testing. Once those tests are completed, the feature will be implemented globally.
Along with Communities, WhatsApp will also restrict the forwarding limit for messages that have already been forwarded once. This change will be progressively rolled out for all users from Apr 14.
BRINGING TOGETHER SEPARATE GROUPS
Communities on WhatsApp will enable people to “bring together separate groups under one umbrella with a structure that works for them”, stated a blog post by WhatsApp.
“That way, people can receive updates sent to the entire Community and easily organise smaller discussion groups on what matters to them.”
The launch of Communities will provide admins with new tools, such as announcement messages that can be sent to any number of groups within that Community.
Community admins can also choose which groups are part of their Community, by linking in existing groups, creating new groups or even removing groups, said Ms Jyoti Sood, product manager at WhatsApp during a briefing for reporters on Wednesday.
As Communities are “inherently private”, the company will continue protecting messages with end-to-end encryption, stated WhatsApp’s blog post.
Members of the public will not be able search for a Community, added Ms Sood.
“Once you are invited to a Community, you can see what's going on in that Community. But if you are not a member of a Community, if you are not invited to that Community, then there's no way to find that on WhatsApp unless you are already part of a group that's tied to the community.”
Ms Sood added that the company is “building support” and “working on different platforms at different times”, so Communities can also be available on WhatsApp’s desktop or web version in the future.
FORWARDING MESSAGES TO ONE GROUP AT A TIME
Currently, any message can be forwarded to up to five chats at a time.
However, under the new improvement, “any message that has already been forwarded once will only be allowed to be forwarded to one group at a time instead of five – which is (how) it is today and in the past,” said Ms Sood.
There are no changes to the forwarding limit of the initial message.
“What this does is it creates a little bit more friction. It slows them down a little bit more in the process and creates more intentionality, where they have to think, ‘Do I want to keep sending it to a second group, the third group, the fourth group?’” added Ms Sood.
“So they're still able to do it, but we're just limiting that you can only do it one group at a time.”
EMOJI RESPONSES, GROUP ADMIN ALLOWED TO DELETE MESSAGES
WhatsApp will also roll out a slate of other improvements in the coming weeks, which people can start trying even before Communities are ready.
One such improvement is the ability to include emoji responses to each message.
“Users will be able to send emoji reactions soon as a lightweight response to express their sentiment on a message instead of filling up their friend and family chats with new messages,” said Ms Sood.
Group admins will also soon be able to remove “errant or problematic messages” from everyone’s chats.
Additionally, WhatsApp will increase file sharing to support files up to 2GB, allowing people to easily collaborate on projects.
One-tap voice calling for up to 32 people will also be made available.