Popular messaging application, WhatsApp, has officially rolled out seven changes to the platform, including a new one announced by surprise on Thursday, November 3.
The Communities tab is a major update to how people will be able to connect on WhatsApp in the groups that matter to them. It has been rolled out globally and will be made available to everyone over the next few months.
How To Access Communities
Communities like neighbourhoods, parents at a school, and workplaces can now connect multiple groups together under one umbrella to organize group conversations on WhatsApp.
To get started, tap on the new communities tab at the top of your chats on Android and at the bottom on iOS. From there you can start a new Community from scratch or add existing groups.
Once you’re in a community, you can easily switch between available groups to get the information you need, when you need it, and admins can send important updates to everyone in the Community
“With Communities, we’re aiming to raise the bar for how organizations communicate with a level of privacy and security not found anywhere else. The alternatives available today require trusting apps or software companies with a copy of their messages – and we think they deserve the higher level of security provided by end-to-end encryption,” the platform said in its blog post.
WhatsApp added that it has been working with over 50 organizations in 15 countries to build Communities to meet their needs.
“We’re excited that the feedback we’ve heard so far is these new tools are helping groups like these better organize and achieve their goals. There’s a lot more we plan to build and we’ll keep adding features over the coming months. For now, we’re excited to get this into more people’s hands and hear your feedback too,” it added.
Groups of up to 1,024 People
The current update has seen the limit double from the previous 512 members to 1,024 members from when it began at 256 members.
The ability for users to add over 1,000 people to a WhatsApp group would be useful for enterprises or if one is using a group for broadcasting purposes. It will allow them to send a message or information to many people in one go.
In comparison, Telegram, its competitor, can accommodate groups of up to 200,000 members with support for replies, mentions and hashtags that help maintain order and keep communication in large communities efficient.
WhatsApp also unveiled a way of letting users create polls in group chats, which is a similarity to what rival messaging apps such as Telegram have.
Meta says that the feature is “a fun and effective way to make decisions in a group without spamming everyone in the chat”, a feature warranted by the huge number of participants per WhatsApp group.
Video Calls of Up To 32 People
Moreover, the new group size has also made WhatsApp increase the limit of participants in video calls to 32 people. This is from the previous limit of eight.
It will also be changing the interface and UI of the calling in order to accommodate the higher number of callers.
“We’re also introducing 32-person video calls for those times when you need to come together as a group, whether that be a family chat or something for work,” Meta said in a blog post.
Will Cathcart, WhatsApp Head Manager in Meta, revealed on Monday, September 26 that the feature will make it easy for anyone to start or join calls using a link, in what is termed as Call Links.
“Excited to introduce Call Links on WhatsApp so you can easily start or join a call using just a link. Available for both audio and video calls starting this week,” he stated.
Users will find the option to create a video link under the calls tab. Once the link is created, they can share it with friends and family to join the video call.
Beforehand, users could only add their contacts to ongoing video calls or initiate video calls from pre-made groups. With the new feature, even those not in your contacts list can join the call.
The Call Links feature will coincide with the limit of 32 people per video call, a move that will see WhatsApp compete against the likes of Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams which offer a far greater caller capacity (100 for Google and Microsoft Teams and 300 for Zoom).
Larger File Sharing
Under the new functionality, users will be able to send files up to 2GB, from the current limit of 16MB.
This was a feature common with Telegram, which allowed users to send large files ranging from documents to movies and videos, among others.
Group Admin Delete
Previously, if someone sent a message to a group by mistake, they themselves could delete it, within a limited period of time. The problem was at times it would be noticed instantly by group admins and other members, who have no powers to delete such messages.
With the new updates, group admins have the power to delete messages to groups that are offensive or may be sent erroneously.
Other changes include leaving groups silently, choosing who can see when you’re online and screenshot blocking for view once messages.