How to access newly launched WhatsApp channels feature

WhatsApp Screengrab.

WhatsApp has launched the new channels feature in nine countries across the world to expand its market and give users alternative aspects.

Kenya is among three African countries where the new feature has been rolled out, as announced by the Meta-owned company on Tuesday, July 25.

Other countries include; Egypt, Morocco, Malaysia, Singapore, Ukraine, Peru, Colombia, and Chile.

“Never miss a WhatsApp update again. Remember if channels aren’t available in your country yet you can join the waitlist to be notified when it launches,” WhatsApp noted. 

According to the Meta-owned platform, the new feature enables users to receive updates from people or organisations they choose to follow.

How to get to the channels feature on WhatsApp

To access the new feature, one has to download the WhatsApp application or update the application for those who already have it.

The channels are built in a new tab named updates where one gets channels of his or her interest in a separate column.

A click on updates unveils a number of channel icons verified with a green budge and a white tick inside each icon.

 A welcome line “Stay updated on topics that matter to you. Find channels to follow below” directs one to the preferred channels of interest.

In Kenya, there are a number of organisations that have started using the feature for instance, Kenya Airways, various United Nations organisations, Julisha.Info, and some football clubs.

Once you express interest, the channel displays a brief message about the kind of information to expect.

It also shows the number of followers a particular channel has and the date on which it was created.

One has to press the button on the top right ‘follow’ to notify the group admin of an interested follower who will then accept the request to invite a follower.

While using the feature, channel admins can use it as a broadcast tool to share text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls by sending invite links to prospective followers.

In a WhatsApp blog, the company said the channels will also ensure the protection of the private information of both the admin and followers.

“As a channel admin, your phone number and profile photo won’t be shown to followers. Likewise, following a channel won’t reveal your phone number to the admin or other followers. Who you decide to follow is your choice and it’s private,” WhatsApp noted.

Other followers are not able to see your user name or contact and the admin can only see your phone number if he/she has your contacts saved.

Additionally, admins can also decide on who can follow their channel and whether they want their channels to be discoverable among the list of other channels.

The message history for the channel updates will be stored for a period of 30 days and updates shall disappear faster on the followers’ device.

One of the restrictions on the feature is that admins can block someone from taking screenshots or forwarding channels from their channel.

End-to-end encryption is applicable on some channels because the feature aims at reaching a wide audience.

“We do think there are some cases where end-to-end encrypted channels to a limited audience might make sense, such as a nonprofit or health organisation, and we’re exploring this as a future option as well,” said WhatsApp.

The channel feature now adds to the list of other social media applications like Telegram that had introduced it to broadcast public messages to large audiences.