With over 220 million active users, WhatsApp is unarguable one of the most used applications in India, being used not just for texting, but also voice and video calling, conferencing and even making transactions.

2018 has, however, been a tough year for the instant messaging platform as it came under scrutiny for the spread of fake news and misinformation.

Nevertheless, we saw a bunch of new features on the application that do make the chatting experience much better. Here are some of them:

WhatsApp stickers

Possibly the biggest feature from WhatsApp this year, stickers were also one of the top searched things on Google.

While what it does is very simple, it’s very vibrant and dynamic in doing so. Other instant messaging platforms have had this feature for quite a while, but WhatsApp made it available only recently, in October.

You can find WhatsApp stickers in an icon right next to the emoji and GIF icons in the emoji menu. You are then greeted with three tabs—one with your recent stickers, second with your favourites and the third containing all the stickers. There’s also a “plus" icon in the corner that allows you to add more stickers to WhatsApp via a sticker store.

You can also make your own WhatsApp stickers by using the guide present on WhatsApp’s blog.

This might require some amount of experience with Adobe Photoshop and basic image editing. The stickers need to have a resolution of exactly 512x512 pixels and should have a file size of less than 100kb. We are sure once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making memes in no time.

WhatsApp data collection

Data privacy has become a major concern mainly after some major tech companies were shown to compromise user data without their consent. To address this and meet EU’s data privacy guidelines, WhatsApp started offering the users the ability to download all the data that the platform has collected on them. You can see the data gathered by WhatsApp by going to Settings > Account > Request Account Info. Then you will be redirected to a page where you have to click Request Report.

WhatsApp group calling

WhatsApp calling has been around for nearly two years now, but the instant messaging app only recently launched the WhatsApp video and voice group calling feature to its users. With the help of this feature, users can make conference calls with up to four participants. WhatsApp also recently introduced a button that lets users make conference calls with the tap of a button.

WhatsApp UPI payments

The most underrated feature of this year. The feature first made its way to beta in February and has been stuck there ever since. WhatsApp users with the final build can get a taste of it through invitations sent by people currently using the feature.

The feature uses United Payments Interface to make payments instantly, be it sending, receiving or even requesting money.

Since it hasn’t received an official approval from the Reserve Bank of India, WhatsApp has restricted this feature to beta and invitations. But I personally find it extremely convenient since having a payments interface on a chat app doesn’t require installing another app. The registration process is also very straightforward, even for first time users. And not to forget the massive reach WhatsApp has in India.

Picture-in-Picture

When you click on a video link sent by someone on WhatsApp, the system instantly triggers the corresponding app to open. With the PiP feature, you can watch the videos in a box hovering over the chat window, saving you multiple taps on the recents button. The feature works with third-party video apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr . You can confirm whether the media supports PiP (or not) by looking out for a blurred version of the thumbnail as well as the platform logo. If it’s present, it means the content supports PiP.

“Forwarded" label and forwarding restrictions

WhatsApp was in the government’s radar for several incidents related to fake news and misinformation this year. To address the issue, WhatsApp put up restrictions on message forwarding like removing the quick forward button which was present right next to media messages.

Further, it also added a “forwarded" label in front every message forwarded by you or other users. While it seems like a serious action, it is still to be seen how much of an impact these features have made to curb the spread of misinformation and fake news.

Group chats

The interface of WhatsApp groups received quite a few important updates, mainly centred around group administrators and creators. WhatsApp added group descriptions and the ability to remove admins from a group. Group creators can also restrict the admins they choose

Media visibility in library

Till June, photos, videos or audio messages received on WhatsApp showed up in the library. There were a few workarounds, but not everyone wants their image gallery to be filled with good morning messages.

WhatsApp fixed this behaviour by introducing a feature that lets users define which media shows up in their media library.

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