WhatsApp is a messaging app with big plans. We've known since June that a new feature, WhatsApp Channels, is coming to the encrypted messaging service, Meta-owned WhatsApp announced on Wednesday that the feature soon will be available to all users in more than 150 countries.
Channels is a "one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers and polls," the social media giant said back in June. Users can utilize a searchable directory to select channels to follow and choose to follow channels for their favorite sports teams, hobbies or to receive updates from local officials.
How Channels will work on WhatsApp
Channels appear on a new tab within WhatsApp labeled Updates, separate from regular chats. Admins won't be able to add followers to their channels, so you can't be forced into receiving updates from any groups.
"Channels will aspire to be the most private broadcast messaging product available and will come with the strong privacy protections people expect from WhatsApp," Meta's statement said, noting that Channel history will be available for only 30 days, after which it will disappear automatically.
Phone numbers and profile photos of channel admins also won't be shared with followers, and following a channel won't reveal your phone number to the admin or to other followers.
Who will be on WhatsApp Channels?
A promotional video calls Channels "a private way to follow all topics you care about," displaying such topics as "carpentry tips," "traffic" and "weather."
Partners at launch will include the soccer teams FC Barcelona and Manchester City, as well as the International Rescue Committee and the World Health Organization.
"We also believe there is an opportunity to support admins with a way for them to build a business around their channel using our expanding payment services as well as the ability to promote certain channels in the directory to help increase awareness," the statement said.
When will WhatsApp Channels arrive?
Colombia and Singapore were the first to receive WhatsApp Channels back in June. Seven more countries landed the feature in July, and now 150 more countries will join in. But you may have to wait. When I tried from my Seattle home, WhatsApp told me that the Channels feature "isn't currently available for you."
For more on WhatsApp, here's how to link multiple phones to your WhatsApp account and how to edit messages you've already sent.