Until now, WhatsApp has remained true to its heritage as a messaging application. The option to send GIFs, images, and videos in chats added to its functionality as a communications software and its 'Calls' feature only furthered it. But the Facebook-owned company is beginning its transformation into a more social media-esque software with the launch of the new 'Status' feature.
The new WhatsApp Status feature allows users to share pictures, videos, and GIFs with their contacts, which will disappear after 24 hours. Sounds familiar? It should. The feature is an exact clone of Instagram Stories, which in turn emulated Snapchat's feature of the same name. Unlike the other two features though, the new WhatsApp Status will incorporate the same end-to-end encryption enjoyed by the app's traditional messages.
‘Status’ will receive its own tab, located between the ‘Calls’ and ‘Chats’ tabs, in the WhatsApp UI. Within it, users will be able to view their contacts' recent status updates and the replies they've received on their own status. Users also have the option to tweak their privacy settings to make their status visible only to specific people; and by deleting their status, users can remove it from their contacts' phones, regardless of whether they've already viewed it or not.
WhatsApp has initiated the roll-out of the new status feature in Europe and it will soon be made available to WhatsApp users on iOS, Android, and Windows platforms across the world.
WhatsApp Status, despite being the founding principle behind the app, is arguably the most inconsequential feature of the messaging platform. While certain users constantly update it with the same frequency they post Facebook status updates, a large number either select one of the default statuses like ‘Hey there, I'm using WhatsApp’ or ‘Available’, while others set it once and forget about it for a while. But the company, which will celebrate its eighth birthday on February 24, wants to change this.
Mark Zuckerberg has announced his vision of a video-first social media strategy and the recent revamping of Facebook and its subsidiaries reflects this paradigm-shift. Facebook Live and Instagram Stories have been a runaway hit and the Instagram feature, in particular, has stolen a large chunk of Snapchat's user base. A similar feature on WhatsApp — which, with a user base of over a billion, dwarves both Instagram and Snapchat in number of daily users — will probably spell doom for the company that came up with the idea in the first place.
The new WhatsApp Status feature also opens a new opportunity for its parent-company Facebook to increase revenue through advertising, which hit $5.7 billion in the first half of 2016. But the fact that WhatsApp is a no-nonsense messaging app, devoid of unnecessary frills, is its biggest appeal. How the new Status feature, which will predictably open the marketing and advertising floodgates, will play out with its users remains to be seen.