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What You Need to Know About WhatsApp Channels

WhatsApp Channels

Yesterday, WhatsApp expanded its Channels feature to 7 more countries including Kenya. But what exactly are WhatsApp Channels? How do you start one and where can you see them? I will try and answer these questions and more in this article. 

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What are WhatsApp Channels?

WhatsApp Channels have been around for a few weeks. It provides WhatsApp users with a way to receive important updates from people or organizations. WhatsApp Channels are a broadcast feature that Channel admins can use to send text, photos, videos etc. Only Channel admins can send out broadcasts and this provides some structure to the whole system

For WhatsApp users, following a channel means they receive updates when they are posted. WhatsApp has included Channels in a separate tab called ‘Updates’ which also has the Status shared by your contacts. The good news is that Channels are separete chats. Channels act as a place to get updates on topics or hobbies you are interested in without mixing that up with your chats. They are different from WhatsApp broadcasts that you send or receive from your contacts. 

When you open a Channel, the format and messages look exactly like a normal WhatsApp chat. You can only view what is posted and cannot post anything yourself. They feel like Telegram Channels or groups. 

How to Access WhatsApp Channels

At this point, you may be asking , How do I access channels on WhatsApp? On WhatsApp, just navigate to the ‘Updates’ tab (this is where the ‘Status’ tab was before. Scroll all the way to the end of the Status posted by your friends and you will see a number of Channels you can follow. 

If you follow a WhatsApp Channel, the UI changes a bit as the Status posted by your contacts appear in a horizontal alignment just like they do on Instagram while the Channels you follow appear right below that. 

There are not that many Channels available and finding what you want is a bit hard but WhatsApp says it is working on that. The company said, “we’re building a searchable directory where you can find your hobbies, sports teams, updates from local officials, and more. You can also get to a channel from invite links sent in chats, e-mail, or posted online.”

Channel admins can decide who follows their channels and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not. Admins will not be able to add you to their Channels like they do for WhatsApp Groups, you have to explicitly follow a Channel yourself. 

WhatsApp also says that Channel updates will not stick around forever. The company said, “We don’t believe Channel updates should have to stick around forever. So we’ll only store channel history on our servers for up to 30 days and we’ll add ways to make updates disappear even faster from follower’s devices. Admins will also have the option to block screenshots and forwards from their channel.”

Privacy and Security

Just like Telegram Channels, Channel admins can stay private as their phone number and profile photo is not shown to the Channel followers. Those following the Channel have their privacy protected and their phone number is not visible to the admin or other followers. 

Things get a bit murky when it comes to the channels themselves as WhatsApp says they are not end-to-end encrypted by default. This may not sit well with some people who have preferred using WhatsApp over the years partly because of end-to-end encryption. To address this,. WhatsApp says, “We do think there are some cases where end-to-end encrypted channels to a limited audience might make sense, such as a non profit or health organization, and we’re exploring this as a future option as well.” Keep in mind that this is still not an option. It is something the company may or may not explore probably depending on the backlash they get. 

Business Use-cases

Businesses and organizations can use this feature to reach a bigger audience. This may not work for all businesses as Channels feel impersonal which is not that ideal for WhatsApp. Channels feel like Instagram or Facebook pages but not necessarily a feature you would want on WhatsApp.  In my opinion, they work better for organizations or government agencies that need to broadcast some message from time to time and not for businesses that want to post updates everyday. 

Even with that said, businesses can use Channels to offer exclusive discounts to WhatsApp users.  To reach more people, Channel admins will be able to promote certain channels in the directory to help increase awareness. This is where I see WhatsApp make a lot of money. 

How to Create A WhatsApp Channel

  • To create a channel, go to WhatsApp Web  and tap on the Channels icon 
  • Tap on Create Channel
  • Accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy then proceed. 
  • Add your Channel Name and proceed. Channel names can be changed later .
  • Add Channel description and icon for your potential followers to know what it is all about. 
  • Tap on Create Channel.

Read: Finally! WhatsApp Allows You to Access One Account on Multiple Devices

About author

Editor at TechArena. I cover all things technology and review new gadgets as I get them. You can reach me on email: kaluka@techarena.co.ke
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