WhatsApp launches new Communities feature, promises enhanced safety

Meta might be in trouble: the numbers are unimpressive, and Mark Zuckerberg’s vision fails to convince. But it’s moving on – the new Communities feature for WhatsApp, announced earlier in the year, is finally making its way to users around the world.

Communities officially launched on Thursday, and the new tool allows users to organize several group chats under a single general topic.

“Communities like neighborhoods, parents at a school, and workplaces can now connect multiple groups together under one umbrella to organize group conversations on WhatsApp,” the platform said.

The new feature was announced by Meta’s CEO Zuckerberg earlier this year and has been in testing since. It is now public, along with some other new characteristics – 32-person voice and video calls, larger file sharing, and polls.

WhatsApp also said the maximum size of a group will now be 1,024 users. It is currently 512, after being gradually increased over time, though rival Telegram allows groups of up to 200,000 people.

In fact, Communities may initially seem a lot like Facebook Groups – but are actually quite different. Unlike Facebook, WhatsApp is phone number-based, meaning people in Communities might not be total strangers simply sharing a common interest – the idea is to connect members who may already be connected in the real world.

Besides, while Facebook Groups can be discovered on the social network, Communities are hidden, requiring an invitation to join. Furthermore, content on Communities has end-to-end encryption and enhanced safety.

“With Communities, we’re aiming to raise the bar for how organizations communicate with a level of privacy and security not found anywhere else,” WhatsApp announced.

“The alternatives available today require trusting apps or software companies with a copy of their messages – and we think they deserve the higher level of security provided by end-to-end encryption.”

WhatsApp has always claimed that end-to-end encryption, crucial to protecting personal conversations, is a default privacy guarantee on the platform. It announced several new features on the privacy front back in August.

For example, from now on, users can leave groups silently, with only admins being notified. WhatsAppers are now also able to choose who can see when they’re online.

The platform, used massively by activists in countries ruled by repressive regimes, has further decided to improve the already popular View Once feature – it’s a rather safe way to share photos or videos that don’t require a permanent digital record.

Now, WhatsApp is enabling screenshot blocking for View Once messages – this is another layer of protection.

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