Channels will be available in over 150 countries in the coming weeks after initially being limited to Singapore and Colombia, WhatsApp owner Meta announced on Wednesday.
Similar to the Channels already available on Telegram and Instagram, the new feature essentially allows hosts to broadcast messages to hordes of followers at once. WhatsApp describes channels as a “private way for people to receive updates that matter to them”.
As part of the global launch, WhatsApp is adding thousands of new Channels from celebs, news publishers, creators and more. They include David Guetta, Billboard, Major League Baseball and Indian singer Diljit Dosanjh. They will join existing channels from FC Barcelon, Manchester City and a range of local services.
If you decide to follow a WhatsApp Channel, you can expect to see messages, photos, stickers, videos and polls. You’ll be able to find Channels to follow based on your interests using a new search directory.
WhatsApp is also adding features including emoji reactions, the ability for channel admins to edit posts for up to 30 days, and the option to forward posts to others on WhatsApp.
These are on top of existing controls for admins, including the option to block screenshots and forwards from their channel. They’ll also be able to decide who can follow their channel and whether they want it to be discoverable in search.
Although channels won’t be end-to-end encrypted like regular chats, they will keep some things private. For instance, following a channel won’t reveal your phone number, nor will you be able to see the numbers or profile photos of channel admins.
In addition, WhatsApp will only store channel history on its servers for up to 30 days, with disappearing messages likely to arrive at a later date.
WhatsApp has big plans for channels. Eventually, it says anyone will be able to make a Channel. While those in regions where its payments service is available – such as Brazil, India, and Singapore – will get the chance to use Channels to build businesses.