WhatsApp is released officially today Communities, a new feature that offers larger, more structured discussion groups. They are designed to help organizations, clubs, schools and other private groups communicate better and stay organized.
Communities brings a number of new features to the messaging platform, including admin controls, support for subgroups and newsgroups, 32-person voice and video in calls, greater file sharing, emoji reactions, and polls.
They can support groups of up to 1024 users and offer end-to-end encryption.
Some of the features developed for Communities, such as emoji reactions, sharing of large files (up to 2 GB) and the ability to delete messages by administrators, were already present on the WhatsApp platform before today's launch. Now, the company says polls, 32-person video calls, and larger group sizes will also be supported on WhatsApp more broadly outside of Communities.
The new feature can initially be compared to Facebook Groups as both support subgroups, file sharing, admin functionality and more. But while the Facebook Groups feature is often used by strangers who share a common interest.
WhatsApp Communities is intended to be used by members who may already be connected in the real world. Unlike Facebook, WhatsApp is based on phone numbers, which means that people participating in these chat groups already have some familiarity with each other, as they may have exchanged phone numbers or at least shared their number with someone group manager. However, phone numbers will be hidden from the wider Community and only visible to admins and others in the same subgroups as you.
This aims to balance user privacy with the need for communication. For example, you may not know every parent on your child's sports team personally, but you probably feel comfortable talking with them in a private group that may exist as a subset of the entire school community.
Moreover, unlike Facebook Groups which can be found on the platform, WhatsApp Communities are hidden. Community search and discovery will not be available and you will need to be invited to join.