WhatsApp just got another great free upgrade

WhatsApp Channels make it easier to get the information you need from the accounts you care about

WhatsApp Channels
(Image credit: WhatsApp)

One of the things I'll miss when I finally bin Twitter is the accounts that post useful information, such as the city subway, the local council, local venues and so on. So I'm liking the look of WhatsApp's new Channels feature, which you can use to subscribe to accounts doing exactly the same kind of thing. 

If you're a WhatsApp Channel subscriber, you'll be able to get the latest updates whenever they're published, and the app won't be sharing your contact details with the channel owner. Similarly, the channel owner's personal details won't be shared with subscribers. And the whole thing is private, so your friends and colleagues won't be able to see what you've subscribed to.

What are WhatsApp channels for?

The channels are designed for anyone who needs to broadcast information publicly or privately. I can think of lots of examples: scout groups keeping parents informed of events or when the kids will be back from camp; public transport services warning of delays or outages; football accounts sharing crucial news... it's pretty much limitless.

WhatsApp enables the channel owner to have their channel publicly findable via the directory or kept private, and for extra security you can also enable end-to-end messaging so that if your channel gets intercepted, nobody can see what you've been posting. 

One feature that's not here yet but WhatsApp is working on is monetisation. "There is an opportunity to support admins with a way for them to build a business around their channel using our expanding payment services," WhatsApp says, "as well as the ability to promote certain channels in the directory to help increase awareness." So you'll be able to advertise your channel to others and charge subscriptions or one-off payments in the not too distant future. 

This is really interesting, I think. Elon Musk has talked constantly of trying to turn Twitter into "X", the "everything app": one app to cover everything from staying in touch with friends and family to doing your shopping, banking and more. But while Musk is talking about it, WhatsApp is actually building it. The everything app already exists in China in the form of WeChat; it looks like WhatsApp is close to offering something very similar over here.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).