WhatsApp launches Channels feature for broadcast messages


Meta (formerly Facebook) is introducing a new messaging feature called Channels on WhatsApp, similar to the recent update on Instagram. This move aims to provide more conversational avenues for its 2 billion users and generate revenue in the future.

On WhatsApp, Channel messages will appear in a new tab called Updates, distinguishing it from Instagram’s approach of channel announcements through direct messages. Meta’s focus on WhatsApp is to facilitate channels for entities such as NGOs, medical research institutions, and fact-checking bodies, rather than individual creators.

Admins will be able to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls on these channels, but it will be a one-way conversation, preventing users from replying to the messages.

While users can join channels through invite links, WhatsApp is also developing a directory where users can find channels related to hobbies, sports teams, and local officials. Meta plans to introduce tools for admins to control discoverability for their channels.

Channels will initially be launched in select markets, including Colombia and Singapore, with early adopters such as the Singapore Heart Foundation and Colombia Check, a fact-checking organization. Prominent international partners, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the World Health Organization (WHO), FC Barcelona, and Manchester City, are also onboard. Meta intends to expand the availability of Channels to more countries over time, with the goal of enabling any user to establish their own channel.

Meta is considering various possibilities for this feature, including the option to remove end-to-end encryption for large channels to expand the audience. The company is also exploring monetization opportunities, including payment services for businesses within Channels and promotional capabilities in the directory. WhatsApp has recently introduced merchant payment features within the app in Brazil and Singapore.

Channels represent WhatsApp’s effort to facilitate large-group conversations following the introduction of Communities last year. Communities provided a space for clubs, schools, and residential complexes to have centralized discussions. With Channels, WhatsApp aims to become the preferred platform for organizations and authorities to issue updates and alerts to its vast user base.