WhatsApp Launches Channels, a Telegram-Like Feature, Where You Can Follow People or Groups

WhatsApp is introducing a new Updates tab where you will find both Status and Channels that you follow.

  • WhatsApp Channels will let admins broadcast messages to their followers with one tap.
  • Users can choose what channels they want to follow and search for them via a searchable directory.
  • Channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default.

In its attempt to get closer to rival Telegram in terms of features, WhatsApp has officially announced Channels. This broadcast feature allows people and organizations to share information with their followers. Similarly, it will help users stay updated with the latest developments related to people, teams, and organizations they are interested in. The feature has been under beta testing on Android and iOS since February but is now ready for prime time.

WhatsApp Channels: What is it?

WhatsApp has described Channels as a simple, reliable, and private way to receive important updates from people and organizations. The feature is currently limited to Colombia and Singapore, where WhatsApp works with leading global voices and select organizations. It will be expanded to other countries shortly.

Another restriction is that not everyone can create a WhatsApp Channel right now. This is a privilege only for those selected by WhatsApp, but it will change in the coming months. It seems like the team wants to be cautious with the release to avoid misuse of the feature and prevent misinformation.

A channel’s admin can connect with followers by sending texts, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. Profile photos and mobile numbers of the admin and followers will stay hidden from each other to maintain privacy. WhatsApp says it will store channel history on its servers for up to 30 days. Admins can further block screenshots and forwarding of messages shared in the channel.

Admins can also choose who can follow their channel. One important thing to note is that channels will not be end-to-end encrypted by default. This is because WhatsApp believes a channel’s ultimate goal is to reach a wider audience. However, the team is considering the possibility of bringing encryption to channels.

From the followers’ perspective, it will be up to them what channels to follow. They can search for channels using a searchable directory, but only those set to public. They can also join a channel using the invite link. Since channels are one-way broadcasts, followers cannot send messages.

WhatsApp is also introducing a new Updates tab that will consolidate Status and Channels. It will be a dedicated tab for users to check status and channel updates from a single place. This new tab will live next to tabs meant for Chats, Calls, and Communities.

In other news, WhatsApp is working on letting users share HD-quality images with others. This will eliminate the need for workarounds like sharing images as documents to retain their original quality.