WhatsApp takes the fight to Zoom with app update

WhatsApp bites back by finally bringing a much-demanded feature to its desktop client

(Image credit: Getty)

WhatsApp has hastily reconvened to plot out a crisis response to the mass exodus of users from its platform. The result? An update that will look to bring much-needed video calling to its desktop interface. 

It's a damascene moment for the embattled tech giant, as it looks to save face and appease its dwindling userbase by adding new features. Older WhatsApp desktop beta versions had a somewhat patchy calling ability; now, new information suggests that a certain number of beta users will now get a more secure and stable update to enable video calling. This means out with the buggy old versions and in with a rock-solid update.

All being well, it should then trickle down to the public version of the WhatsApp desktop client soon. This would mean a desktop interface version of WhatsApp with much greater resources to keep you in touch with friends and family. 

WhatsApp, of course, is clamoring to fix the damage caused by recent – and very badly received – announcements, around changes to its privacy policy. T3 has reported at length on the surge in users heading to apps like Signal and Telegram, seeking better privacy protections, and well out of sight of the watchful eye of Facebook.

Needless to say, WhatsApp has offered video calling functionality for a long time on iOS and Android, but WhatsApp’s desktop client – despite long-running speculation of incoming video calling updates – hasn't received such a feature. If you like your Android devices, then take a peek at T3's best Android phones; here, we've compiled a list of the top Android handsets, so you don't ever need to worry about WhatsApp's desktop setup. 

The update will be gradually rolled out to let beta users make and receive traditional mobile calls from the desktop client, popping up in a separate window in much the same way as FaceTime does. What this tells us is that WhatsApp is addressing some of the gaping functionality holes in its platform. It’s a simple feature that has been a notable omission for a long time, so it's an easy win with the mounting privacy issues affecting the service.

WhatsApp is quite different from other messaging titans, though: inextricably linked to your mobile number, your digits are an integral part of the Facebook-owned company's data collection, and it will probably mean that WhatsApp’s desktop client will still require a phone number to use the new feature. This will likely be true in the beta stage and if it gets a wider public rollout later down the line. 

This could be a hard sell for WhatsApp in the current trust debacle; more pressingly, perhaps, T3 has reported on several other messaging alternatives that are more privacy-centric, even offering existing desktop applications that come with fully-fledged video calling functionality.

All of this comes against the backdrop of major players such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet, which are all making significant gains in their platforms' users, as the pandemic shifts our working life to a more remote set-up. 

Microsoft Teams, a collaborative workspace has been upping the ante for some time, announcing a feature to boost the user experience on its platforms. T3 covered this story in detail – it mostly speaks to the ongoing struggle between communications platforms trying to one-up each other to capitalize on the pandemic's uprooting of our working lives.  

It's still early days to see if WhatsApp can rekindle its fanbase; certainly, it's taken a major pummeling. As January rolls into February, it'll be interesting to see if there really is evidence of a paradigm shift in the apps people use to talk to each other, or if it was a fleetingly panicked response to a bolt of privacy news, and people will shortly return to the status quo. Food for thought. 

Source: WABetaInfo

Luke Wilson

Luke is a former news writer at T3 who covered all things tech at T3. Disc golf enthusiast, keen jogger, and fond of all things outdoors (when not indoors messing around with gadgets), Luke wrote about a wide-array of subjects for T3.com, including Android Auto, WhatsApp, Sky, Virgin Media, Amazon Kindle, Windows 11, Chromebooks, iPhones and much more, too.