Meta, the company behind Facebook, has introduced a new feature for WhatsApp users called Channels. Channels allows users to follow and receive updates from other accounts in a format similar to Instagram and Twitter. The feature enables admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls through one-way broadcasts to subscribers.
The main focus of Channels is privacy. Meta aims to protect the personal information of both admins and followers, allowing users to follow a channel without their phone number being revealed to the admin or other followers. Besides, channel admins’ phone numbers and profile photos will not be shown to followers.
Unlike other social media platforms, channel updates will only be stored on Meta’s servers for up to 30 days, with plans to introduce ways to make updates disappear even faster from followers’ devices. Admins will also have the option to block screenshots and forwards from their channel. Furthermore, admins can decide who can follow their channel and whether they want their channel to be discoverable in the directory or not.
The introduction of Channels corresponds with recent changes in the social media landscape, with the perception of Twitter becoming more unruly since Elon Musk took over, aiming to restore the principle of free speech. This has led Meta to believe that there is a gap in the market for a more private and controllable version of a broadcast platform.
In a video published on Facebook, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained Channels but offered limited information about why users should choose this new feature over other platforms. The video requires login to Facebook and is not shareable.
Channels is currently only available in Colombia and Singapore, making its immediate impact limited for users in other regions. However, the introduction of Channels could be an initial step towards offering more features like WeChat, the “everything app” in China, especially after Elon Musk’s declaration of pursuing a similar goal with Twitter. This move by Meta signals a potential shift to a more feature-rich and privacy-focused social media environment.