WhatsApp’s efforts to simplify groups into Communities, wouldn’t go unnoticed

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WhatsApp, by far the most popular instant messaging app globally, is adding new functionality that’ll focus groups as well as privacy and expanded calling options. Meta confirms that the Communities feature will now be available to all users globally. Alongside, WhatsApp is expanding the size of groups from the current capping of 512 users to 1024 users as part of the updated arsenal of tools and is adding the option of in-group polls.

Dressed in a green shirt which he points to, Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer of Meta says, “With Communities, admins will now have the tools to organize conversations under one umbrella. We’ve built a bunch of new features such as reactions, larger file sharing and we are now rolling out polls, 32 person calls, shareable call links to set up a group call for later and more.”

How do Communities on WhatsApp matter to you?

Communities, which Meta had first talked about in detail earlier this year. For users, there may be some respite from having to switch between many groups from time to time, by clubbing them within one Community. There will be a new Communities tab, which will be visible at the top of the chat list on WhatsApp for Android, and in the bottom navigation bar on the iPhone app.

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Existing groups can be added to Communities, as can new groups be clubbed together under the Communities that users or admins may create.

For group admins, the Communities feature will make it simpler to send important updates to all relevant groups in one go, instead of having to address each group individually. However, the ability to reach out to multiple groups within a Community, with a particular message or update as an announcement, lies with the admins for now – individual users cannot broadcast the same message across groups (they’ll still need to post the message individually in groups).

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Admins will also be able to delete messages in any group within Communities – this will be another layer of checks on messages.

WhatsApp confirms that all messages and calls, as part of Communities, continue to be end-to-end encrypted. Much like individual chats and calls. “We believe close-knit communities need a private and secure ways of connecting amongst themselves. With the new features, WhatsApp is more private and secure than our competitors,” says Zuckerberg.

Your contact details: No longer visible

In WhatsApp groups so far, contact numbers of all participants are visible in the group details section (you can find this by tapping on the group name or masthead). WhatsApp says that in Communities, contact details for users will be hidden from others who are part of the group but don’t already have the details saved in their phone’s contact lists.

On Community admins will be able to see your contacts, as will other members of a group who have your details already saved in their contacts list.

This should reduce the risk of unwanted messages from other members who you may not be in regular contact with, while also preventing the scraping of contact details which may be used for distributing spam at a later date.

More updates for groups: File transfer and calls get expanded limits

WhatsApp has also tweaked the video calling limits, and now 32 users can take part in a group video call. If you are indeed active on WhatsApp for transferring documents and files, the limit for those has now been increased to 2GB per transfer, up from 1GB earlier.

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Cutting down forwarded spam and misinformation?

WhatsApp says messages that have already been forwarded, simply also referred to as forwards, will only be forwarded to one more group at a time. This is a significant reduction of the present limits, which allow forward to up to 5 more groups. “We believe this will meaningfully reduce the spread of potentially harmful misinformation in community groups,” says WhatsApp’s Community guidelines.

There will also be no searchability of Communities and groups within Communities, on WhatsApp. You will only have access once you’re added to a group, and unlike some of WhatsApp’s rivals, there is no way to search for Communities elsewhere on the app.

Communities and other updates: the rollout timeline

Meta confirms that the new Communities as well as the updated functionality is now rolling out to all users, in all countries. Till now, Communities was available in a few countries, as WhatsApp went about tweaking it before the global release.

However, not everyone may get access to all the new functionality, at the same time. There will be a phased rollout for all active WhatsApp users, with the tech giant saying all the new features “will be available to everyone over the next few months.” In the meantime, you can keep WhatsApp on your Android phone and iPhone updated from the official application stores.




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