WhatsApp Adds Message Filters to Make Itself More Usable

WhatsApp may be one of the world's most popular chat apps, but it's notoriously hard to use. Meta wants to fix that.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read
What's App logo on a smart phone

WhatsApp is hoping to make it easier to find some messages.

SOPA Images/Getty Images

WhatsApp owner Meta is updating its popular chat app with inbox filters, borrowing a useful feature from email inboxes to help keep track of the many conversations users have throughout the day.

The update, announced Tuesday, will introduce three filter buttons to the top of the app's standard list of conversations. "All," which is the default, will show all messages, with the other two options being "Unread" and "Groups." 

"We believe filters will make it easier for people to stay organized and find their most important conversations and help navigate through messages more efficiently," the company said in a statement. The free update should be available to all users "in the coming weeks," the company added.

2 billion users

The move marks another way Meta is tweaking its wildly popular WhatsApp messaging service to be more useful. The app, which counts more than 2 billion users worldwide, started as an SMS alternative for many people. Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion.

The social-networking giant has slowly added features to WhatsApp over the years, including secure messaging, video chat and the ability for businesses to communicate with customers, among others.

Read more: Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram: Here's which secure messaging app you should use

WhatsApp has faced struggles despite its popularity. Meta sued surveillance firm NSO Group in 2019 over alleged WhatsApp hacks. Less than a year later, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' phone was hacked through a WhatsApp message.

WhatsApp has been criticized over the years for being hard to use, particularly when adding contacts or switching phones. The company has recently been overhauling its app, making it appear more modern and more flexible for people who have multiple devices.

Despite WhatsApp's wide usage, and its stated privacy efforts, CNET's reviewers have cautioned against using it in place of other secure messaging apps. WhatsApp is more convenient, more widely used and prettier than competitors such as Signal and Telegram, but the company doesn't share enough of its code widely with the public, CNET reviewers said, allowing experts to audit the company's claims.