The feature has been under development for some time as the next big iteration for the WhatsApp platform,
Meant to capitalize on the app’s existing end-to-end encryption as well as users’ growing desire to join private communities outside of larger social platforms, like Facebook.
In particular, Communities could present a challenge to other messaging apps like Telegram — which has recently become a prominent player in communications related to the Russia-Ukraine war
“It’s been clear for a while that the way we communicate online is changing,” wrote Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg
“Most of us use social networks and feeds to discover interesting content and stay updated. But for a deeper level of interaction, messaging has become the center of our digital lives. It’s more intimate and private, and with encryption it’s more secure too.”
“When you’re interacting with people on WhatsApp, there’s a necessary comfort with exchanging your phone number with them. So that points towards communities where you know these people in real life,”
The new feature is not live today. It’s initially being launched into a limited test with select communities to gain further feedback ahead of a public rollout
WhatsApp has not said when the feature will reach the wider public, but notes some of Communities’ new functionality — like reactions, file-sharing, and 32-person calls — will roll out sooner.