WhatsApp is getting an awesome new feature to tame annoying group chats

WhatsApp's new 'Read Later' mode is perfect for concentration

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

WhatsApp has proved pretty invaluable over the last year. In a world where social distancing is still essential, being able to instantly communicate with friends and loved ones has never felt more vital.

But with increased usage comes some difficulties – including the constant risk of being interrupted when trying to concentrate on something important. And that might give insights into WhatsApp’s latest incoming feature, dubbed “Read Later.” 

References to the new function have been spotted in the code for the latest beta of WhatsApp for iOS, but you would imagine it’s a feature that will be available for Android too once the company decides it’s ready for a full rollout.

Read Later seems to be a replacement for the current Archived Chats mode. While an archived chat will still bob back to the top of your active conversations list when somebody sends a message, chats marked to be read later remain archived, but get additional correspondences added to the pile for when you’re ready to jump back in. It essentially seems to be a way of muting a conversation without that little green notification icon trying to tempt you back in.

A very similar sounding feature was recently uncovered in the Android beta of WhatsApp, this time dubbed Vacation Mode. Rather than being an ‘out of office’ style update, this would mean that archived chats would not be automatically unarchived the moment somebody in a group says something. 

How much use you get out of these new modes will vary, and some will find the existing ‘mute’ function just as handy for periods when they need to knuckle down with something that requires their full attention. The difference here is that muting a conversation is a pretty blunt instrument, and only lets you silence a given chat for eight hours, a week or forever. Plus, while muting a conversation silences phone notifications concerning it, it will still appear in your chat list, possibly bumping others out of sight. 

It seems that ‘Read Later’ and ‘Vacation Mode’ may just be euphemistic terms for putting conversations you’re no longer interested in out of sight and out of mind – without the social embarrassment of having to actively leave them. But if you have a lot of WhatsApp conversations to manage, that might be the feature you’re screaming out for.