(Pocket-lint) - Meta-owned WhatsApp has announced a new feature, called Communities, which it plans to start testing in the coming months before rolling out more broadly. Here is everything you need to know.
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What are WhatsApp Communities?
In WhatsApp, you need someone’s phone number to add them, and group chats max out at 256 participants. But now, a Communities tab rolling out to a select number of groups will let thousands participate in a community that hosts multiple sub-group chats. Once you're in a community, your phone number will be hidden (except from admins and the people you’re in a sub-group with).
Zuckerberg said that Communities will focus on feeds: "In the same way that social feeds took the basic technology behind the internet and made it so anyone could find people and content online, I think community messaging will take the basic protocols behind one-to-one messaging and extend them so you can communicate more easily with groups of people to get things done together".
How do Communities work in WhatsApp?
Little is known yet, as Pocket-lint has yet to test Communities, and WhatsApp is admittedly still figuring out the details of exactly how Communities will work based on feedback from early testers. But according to WhatsApp and Zuckerberg's announcement posts about Communities, you can expect the following user experience:
With Communities, Meta said you can...
- Bring together separate groups under one umbrella
- Receive updates sent to the entire Community
- Easily organise smaller discussion groups on what matters to you
- Use powerful tools as an admin, including:
- Announcement messages that are sent to everyone
- Control over which groups can be included
WhatsApp is also rolling out new features to better support Communities, such as emoji reactions, the ability for group admins to delete messages, file sharing up to 2GB, and calling for up to 32 people.
Communities could make it easier for, say, a school principal to bring together all the parents of school students. They can share must-read updates and set up groups about specific classes, extracurricular activities, or volunteer needs. Communities will allow other types of close-knit groups - such as members of a religious congregation or even businesses - to have secure and private group conversations, too.
Are Communities private in WhatsApp?
WhatsApp said Communities are "inherently private". Also, unlike Telegram, all communications between people in a Community are encrypted, although a Community’s name and description are not encrypted.
You can read more about how Meta is approaching privacy and security for Communities here.
When will WhatsApp Communities be available?
WhatsApp will test Communities later this year in select countries.
Eventually, Communities will roll out to all users globally, allowing you to combine separate group chats "under one umbrella with a structure that works for them", explained WhatsApp in an announcement blog post. "That way people can receive updates sent to the entire Community and easily organise smaller discussion groups on what matters to them".
Are Communities coming to Facebook?
Yes. Meta is working on community features for Facebook and Messenger.