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WhatsApp updates – screenshot blocking, paid subscriptions, and more

WhatsApp updates – screenshot blocking, paid subscriptions, and more
Image: Eyestetix Studio / Unsplash

The messaging platform implemented a number of significant updates, with more coming still.

WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging as well as video and voice-calling app, with about 2 billion users, announced some changes on the platform’s blog in August 2022. 

First, View Once, a service launched on the app in August 2021, that allows users to send videos and images that disappear after they’ve been viewed once by the recipient. Now, the platform is “enabling screenshot blocking for View Once messages for an added layer of protection”, although the function is still in testing. Along with the blocking of screenshots by recipients of View Once messages, the platform also announced two additional privacy updates.

Image via WhatsApp blog

Finally, you can quietly exit your neighbourhood WhatsApp group 

WhatsApp announced they would roll out an update for users to be able to leave groups silently, so that “instead of notifying the full group when you are leaving, only the admins will be notified”. Then, they are offering greater control over which contacts will be able to see when a user is online. 

These two updates were eventually rolled out to all users at the end of September. Previously, users were limited to choosing whether “everyone” or “nobody” could see whether they were online. With the latest update they can choose to limit online visibility to their entire contact list or to omit some contacts from being able to view their online status. 

Blocking screenshots (well, almost)

The app has also begun rolling out a beta test of its screenshot blocking feature. As reported by WABetaInfo, a website that informs its readers about WhatsApp updates, “some beta testers are no longer able to take a screenshot to view once images, and screen recordings to view once videos”. 

An attempt at a screenshot simply returns a blacked-out image. However, as this only applies to images and videos, recipients can still take a screenshot of the text. Additionally, users are warned that the system is not foolproof as recipients may still use a secondary device to take a picture of the screen of the primary device.

Image: WABetaInfo

Make the circle bigger, but not too big

After launching the ability to increase the maximum number of participants in a WhatsApp group from 256 to 512 in June 2022, the messaging platform is increasing the number once again. 

As of October 2022, an undefined number of beta testers will be able to add up 1,024 participants in a WhatsApp group. As with other features that are still in beta testing, Meta is yet to announce when this feature will be rolled out to all users. 

Premium subscription for business accounts

Since Meta, then still known as Facebook, acquired WhatsApp for a reported $22-billion in 2014, the company has been dogged by questions as to how they would make the platform profitable without in-app advertising or charging users for the service. 

On 27 July 2022, during Meta’s second-quarter 2022 results conference call, former Meta chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg pointed to business-related products as the area where the messaging platform has great potential for profitability: “Business messaging is an area where we see big potential. We estimate that one billion users are messaging with a business each week across WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. 

“Click-to-Message is already a multibillion-dollar business for us, and we continue to see strong double-digit, year-over-year growth… So that means the click-to-messaging ads become the perfect opportunity. They help us move people from discovery to a direct relationship with a business in a world where we’re trying to do more with less data, they give businesses and consumers a direct connection, so it’s much easier to measure ROI. And so we’re investing heavily,” she said, explaining Meta’s strategy which allows users to click on ads to message businesses directly on WhatsApp and Meta’s other messaging platforms. 

Business accounts are charged per conversation; the first 1,000 conversations of every month are free, making the service effectively free for smaller businesses that do not have more than 1,000 monthly conversations with customers. Building on the company’s strategy to monetise the messaging platform through business messaging, the company has begun rolling out WhatsApp Premium, a paid subscription service for businesses.

The service is still in beta for a select number of business accounts, WABetainfo reports. It is currently not, and will not be, available for regular customer accounts. Eligible business accounts will find a “WhatsApp Premium” option in the settings menu to opt into the paid subscription, which varies by country. 

They will then have access to two advanced features, the first being a custom link that lets customers view the business’s landing page as well as start a direct conversation with the business. This is to make it easier for customers to contact a business via WhatsApp with having to type in their phone number.

Second, businesses on the paid plan will be able to link up to 10 devices to the account, so that various people within the business are able to manage conversations with customers from the account. On the plan, accounts will also be able to make a video call with up to 32 participants. Since the plan is still in beta, Meta has not yet announced a launch date. DM/ML

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