Ahead of its eight birthday later this week, WhatsApp is introducing what is perhaps the biggest fundamental change to how people use one of its core features – WhatsApp Status. Instead of the boring ‘Hey there, I’m using WhatsApp’ that most people have by default or putting something else they rarely change, the Facebook-owned messaging app wants people to update their WhatsApp Status multiple times a day.
To encourage this, your WhatsApp Status will no longer be a boring text message – instead you get to express yourself using a short video that looks similar to Instagram Stories, which in turn was of course heavily ‘inspired’ by Snapchat’s feature of the same name. You can share photos, videos, and GIFs as your Status, which are visible to all your WhatsApp contacts by default. WhatsApp Status updates disappear after 24 hours.
WhatsApp Product Manager Randall Sarafa told Gadgets 360 that the new WhatsApp Status combines three existing features – broadcast lists, media sharing, and of course, Status.
The new WhatsApp Status implementation represents a move away from the traditional messaging app model that WhatsApp had by and large stuck to until now, and is an attempt to add more social-networking capabilities where you broadcast regular updates to your friends, who then share their comments or reactions. The one difference here is any replies that your friends send to Status updates are visible only to you, in your Chat with that friend, with a message that indicates which Status update they are replying to.
The WhatsApp UI has been updated to accommodate the new features. With video now meant to be a big part of the WhatsApp experience thanks to Status updates, the built-in camera gets a prominent icon of its own. The idea behind the change, Sarafa says, is to get users to share stuff with people “without thinking about which chat window to share it with”. So, instead of first picking a chat and then triggering the camera from there like you typically do, you are now encouraged to shoot first, and figure out the sharing options later.
As you would expect, Status gets a tab of its own, in between Chats and Calls. It’s easy to create Status messages, especially if you’ve used the aforementioned Stories feature in either Snapchat or Instagram. WhatsApp Status updates you create are visible to your contacts by default, though you can change them to My contacts except… or Only share with… as well.
Within the Status tab you will see various groups: My status, which shows your most recent WhatsApp status (you can swipe to see who’s seen your Status, similar to messages); Recent Updates, which shows new WhatsApp Status messages that your friends have created in the last 24 hours; Viewed Updates, which is self explanatory; and Muted, which lists updates from users you’ve muted. If you deleted a WhatsApp Status you’ve created, it’s deleted from the phones of all your contacts – even from ones who’ve already seen the Status.
The new WhatsApp Status feature is rolling out users in Europe to begin with, Sarafa said, with other regions in line to get the feature later. The feature will ultimately be available to all WhatsApp users on Android, iPhone, and Windows.