WhatsApp’s new Communities features offers additional features to enrich private conversations across groups

The news: WhatsApp has announced Communities, the next significant evolution of its platform. The feature is meant to allow users to organize and integrate existing group chats into a larger collective.

  • Features of Communities include file sharing, 32-person group calls, and emoji reactions, not to mention admin tools and moderation controls.
  • These groups aim to “bundle up” a number of related chat threads related to the same topic—for parents of elementary schoolers or other affinity-based groups, for example.
  • The new function will first be tested in a small number of communities to gather input before rollout to the general public. Some of the new Communities features, such as reactions, file-sharing, and 32-person calls, will be available sooner.

Compare and contrast: The feature may draw parallels to Facebook Groups, the more private community on Facebook which now has 1.8 billion monthly members, per recent public data (both WhatsApp and Facebook are owned by Meta).

  • But WhatsApp Communities are designed to focus on particularly private and personal groups like those in which members are already connected in other ways, such as in the real world, as opposed to Facebook Groups, which are frequently massive.
  • Unlike Facebook Groups, WhatsApp Communities are not publicly discoverable; to join the groups, you must first be invited.

Why it matters: Telegram has been in the news lately due to its prominence as a communications tool during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The fact that the Communities announcement touted WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption is likely a swipe against Telegram, which does not offer that encryption by default.

  • Other private messaging services, including iMessage and Signal, have made noticeable inroads into WhatsApp’s dominance in a number of markets.
  • Communities is also meant to lean into the trend of internet users seeking more private communities apart from more open networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and others.