WhatsApp, one of the most popular mobile messaging apps, has just announced that it is also coming to your desktop, thanks to a Chrome web client.
Rather than making a desktop app, WhatsApp Web is simply a web client, so everything is still managed by your phone, but mirrored on your desktop. That means your phone needs to have a data connection for it to work - this isn't a replacement for the service you have on your smartphone.
It's quite a change for the messaging service, meaning those who are normally tied to a desk will be able to message with ease. You'll be able to use your normal keyboard, rather than having to reach for, unlock, and tap away on your phone each time you get a message.
What devices will WhatsApp Web work with?
You'll have to be using Google's Chrome browser on your computer to get WhatsApp Web, and the company points out that iOS users will miss out, because of "Apple platform limitations". If you use WhatsApp on the iPhone, that means that, currently, you won't be able to use WhatsApp Web.
If you're using WhatsApp on Android, BlackBerry or BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone or Nokia S60, you'll be able to sync things up with your desktop and get messaging.
Other browsers aren't supported either, so Safari, IE or Firefox users can't use the service.
How do I get connected to WhatsApp Web?
To get WhatsApp Web to work you'll need the latest version of the app. It's worth heading to your app store and checking for updates, as we found that on Android it hadn't automatically updated.
Once you have the latest version of the WhatsApp, you'll find a new option in the menu for WhatsApp Web. Tap this menu option and you'll be taken to the WhatsApp control area on your phone.
Then head over to https://web.whatsapp.com/ in your Chrome browser on your computer. You'll be presented with a QR code to scan from within WhatsApp. Scanning this QR code will log you into that browser and your messages will appear exactly as they are on your phone.
What functions does WhatsApp Web offer?
WhatsApp Web mirrors the functions of the phone app in your browser window.
You'll get all your conversations, exactly as they are presented on your phone, with your message history, including any other media, like pictures. You can then send messages in exactly the same way as you would normally through you browser - those messages are synced with your phone, so both appear the same.
You can also send pictures and voice from WhatsApp Web. If you want to use the camera you'll have to grant it permission, but otherwise it's just like uploading an image anywhere else.
If you delete messages from your phone, they will delete in the browser also, but there's no way of deleting messages from the WhatsApp Web client - you'll have to do that on your phone.
What extras are there for desktop users?
You can enable desktop notifications including sounds, so you'll know when you have a new message. If you don't want them they can be disabled, or you can suspend them for a time period - if you're in a meeting for example.
You'll also be able to download pictures to your computer.
What about privacy?
Naturally, some will be concerned about privacy when using WhatsApp on a computer: you don't want to be WhatsRaped and have someone messaging on your behalf, or reading through your messages.
There's a "keep me signed in" option when you setup WhatsApp Web. If you uncheck this box, you'll be signed out after about 5 minutes of inactivity in your browser and you'll have to scan the browser again to gain access.
If you opt to remain signed in, then simply closing the tab won't sign you out. You can close the browser tab, but then re-open it to access all your messages again without signing in. If you're on a shared computer or at work, you probably don't want to use this option.
When you're in WhatsApp Web there's a "log out" option in the menu. Click this to sign out and you'll return to the WhatsApp Web home page and need to scan to sign in again.
There's also another place you can check the status of your WhatsApp Web connections, and that's in the app on your phone. Under the "WhatsApp Web" menu option you'll be able to see where else you're logged in, with the handy option to "log out from all computers" from your phone.