WhatsApp has pushed out numerous tweaks and improvements in recent months, and there's a new one to know about: the Communities feature that works in a similar way to public servers on Discord or Slack, which can then be split up into smaller groups as needed.
As per the official blog post announcing the news, Communities will “enable people to bring together separate groups under one umbrella to better organize conversations”. The update is being rolled out now and will take a few weeks to reach everyone.
The idea is that the feature will make it easier for non-profit organizations, local clubs, schools and other groups to communicate within their groups – these communities might be used by school heads to share important announcements and updates, for example.
Even more new features
WhatsApp is introducing a bunch of other new features for group chats too, whether or not they're part of Communities: voice calls for up to 32 users, upgraded file sharing capacities (up to 2GB), and the ability for admins to delete messages that aren't appropriate for the group.
We're also going to get emoji reactions to messages – the same reactions you've probably become used to in every other chat platform out there, including Discord, Slack, and indeed Facebook Messenger.
It sounds as though at least some of these features will be released to beta users first before everyone gets access to them, so don't panic if you can't see them straight away. For more details on what's involved, see the official blog post.
Analysis: Meta wants all of your chats, all of the time
Meta chief Mark Zuckberg is no stranger to ripping off the best features of other apps – or indeed apps in their entirety. Take the stories feature of Snapchat, for example: once Zuckerberg realized how popular the format was, it was rushed into Instagram and Facebook as quickly as possible.
Instagram and Facebook have since tried their best to copy TikTok and piggyback on its success, though these efforts aren't getting much traction for the time being. Don't forget both Instagram and WhatsApp were bought and swallowed up by Facebook as they were starting to take away its market share, whereas Snapchat famously rebuffed Facebook's advances.
With that in mind, WhatsApp's introduction of features familiar from Discord and Slack shouldn't really come as any surprise. Zuckerberg himself says Communities is “an important evolution for WhatsApp and online communication overall”, spoken like someone who has used these other products that WhatsApp is competing with and see how intuitive they can be.
As Slack has been with us for eight years at this point, WhatsApp is actually quite slow off the mark, but the intention is clear – to make sure you spend as little time as possible in apps that aren't made by Meta. As with every other tech giant out there, Meta is keen to lock you into its products as tightly as possible.