Facebook has been on a roll over the past few months, releasing one update after another for the immensely popular instant messenger app WhatsApp.
While some updates have focused around security and privacy, others have added new features to WhatsApp. The latest in that queue is now rolling out globally, and could perhaps be the most radical new feature added to the app in a long time. It is called Status, and this will allow users to share photos, animated GIFs or videos overlaid with text, scribbles, doodles and even emojis which would be visible to friends you share it with, for 24 hours, before disappearing automatically.
As a user, you’ll be able to watch the Status updates posted by friends, reply to them privately and share your own posts.
If this sounds familiar to something you’ve heard before, you are probably not wrong. This is very similar to Snapchat’s Stories feature, which has been around for almost three years now. It works in the same way—a user shares a picture with overlays of text or images or emojis, and these shares disappear after a select duration. Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Facebook has integrated a Snapchat Stories-esque feature in one of its apps. Last year, the popular photo sharing social network, Instagram, also got a similar feature, which was also called Stories.
WhatsApp started testing the new Status feature last year, and is now officially adding it to the app. This will be available on Apple’s iOS, Android smartphones and Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.
The addition of Status perhaps has a lot more significance attached to it, than when Facebook added Stories to Instagram.
The first big change would be the fact that WhatsApp could now be transforming into a platform where users consume content, rather than just the activity of being a part of a group or one-to-one chat with a friend. This, in a way, would not be unlike Facebook’s newsfeed and your Instagram timeline, with similar basics of streaming content that your friends have shared. This means that WhatsApp will perhaps be less about just the utility aspect as an instant messenger, but will also involve social media aspects.
At the same time, Facebook could be putting another dagger through the heart of Snapchat. When Instagram Stories was rolled out in August last year, the average unique viewers per Snapchat Story decreased about 40%, in the period between August and November 2016, as per data released by social video analytics platform Delmondo in January this year. At the time, Instagram didn’t hold back, and highlighted Stories at the very top of the app—unmissable when you opened Instagram on your phone. Instagram Stories now has about 150 million daily users.
In all this, the money aspect shouldn’t be forgotten. Facebook may, at some point, choose to not monetise WhatsApp as a platform, but it has the basics in place to do so when it wishes. With more than 1.2 billion active users globally, as per numbers shared by research firm Statista in January, this is by far the most popular instant messenger app that people are using to communicate with friends, family and for work.
Status potentially becomes another platform for businesses to be a part of, the way they are on your Instagram timeline. It would remain un-intrusive, yet allow businesses the ability to reach millions of potential consumers at one go. At present, businesses couldn’t get through to you on what was basically a text, video and voice chat application.
Facebook, as a platform, has been garnering billions in revenue each quarter from advertisers because of the massive demographic that can be reached in one attempt, the targeted advertising options that are available to businesses and the ability to put the advertising within the Newsfeed that users scroll through, which makes it hard to miss.