WhatsApp has announced a new Communities feature, which is designed to provide additional functionality for your group chats in the app, and includes a range of new features including file sharing, emoji reactions, group audio calls and more.
???? We're excited to announce a new feature rolling out later this year called Communities!— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) April 14, 2022
With Communities, you'll be able to bring related groups together in a way that helps you organize meaningful connections easily and privately. pic.twitter.com/eatAZQCmc3
As you can see in the video, WhatsApp has a fairly idealized vision for how Communities can help to benefit various groups, with local communities, for example, able to stay in touch via various elements within the broader Community structure.
As explained by WhatsApp:
“Parents at a school, local clubs, and even small workplaces now rely on WhatsApp as their primary way of keeping people up to date. These groups need private ways of communicating that are distinct from social media but provide more tools to facilitate real-time conversations than e-mail or broadcast only channels.”
WhatsApp Communities aims to fill that need, with overarching Communities that can then include a range of smaller, more niche chats.
As you can see in this example, each WhatsApp Community will include a description of what the Community is for, as well as a menu of sub-groups within that Community that members can choose to join. That could enable all news ways of using the app to connect, while also facilitating new forms of discovery, which could actually be a really valuable way to stay in touch.
And it’s all encrypted, so you can feel safe about engaging in whatever conversations you choose, without that information being shared publicly, or even outside each specific chat.
As noted, WhatsApp has also added some new tricks and tools to help enhance that connection.
32 person audio chats could be a good way to enhance connection and engagement, with people able to drop in at any time, while WhatsApp is also adding a range of admin tools, including moderation controls, to help manage each chat.
We’re excited to announce that reactions are coming to WhatsApp starting with ????❤️???????????????? and with all emojis and skin-tones to come. pic.twitter.com/086JnVS5Ey— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) April 14, 2022
Love them or hate them, Reactions have become a more habitual way for people to engage in chats, and as such, it makes sense for WhatsApp to also incorporate Reactions into its Community response tools.
In terms of safety, WhatsApp will maintain its limits on message forwarding, so Communities aren’t spammed with rubbish (a major risk), while Communities will also not be searchable in the app. You’ll need to be invited by somebody that you know, which limits the potential for misuse of the option.
“To limit noise and overload, only Community admins will be able to send messages to all Community members - this is called the announcement group for the community. We will initially support community announcements for several thousands of users. Community members can chat in the smaller groups that admins have created or approved. We plan incremental increases to group sizes as we bring more controls to admins and users.”
Community admins will also have the ability to unlink groups from the Community, and remove individual members from the Community entirely if they choose.
It seems like a pretty good package, with various additions that will certainly make WhatsApp group chats more valuable, and facilitate more connection in the app.
It could actually be a great way to expand your knowledge of related groups and chats, which could help you find more like-minded people, and enhance your in-app experience in a range of ways.
Of course, the flip side of any broad-scale connective option is that it will also facilitate linkage for potentially harmful groups and communities, who will now be able to more readily connect in fully encrypted – i.e. hidden – communities.
That’s a side effect of mass connection, but the positive benefits likely outweigh the negatives – although that won’t matter once the first stories start rolling out connecting harmful movements to expanded WhatsApp group chats.
It’s difficult to measure, then, how this addition will be viewed, but it does seem like there are various tools and options in place that will provide more options for community engagement, which could yield major benefits.