In the midst of Facebook’s highly anticipated F8 developer conference, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage to announce the latest updates to come from the social network’s universe. Not only did Zuckerberg sharing new features from the Facebook platform, but he also gave us glimpses into what we can expect from companies that now exist under the Facebook umbrella, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
On Tuesday, May 1, Zuckerberg announced that WhatsApp would soon be bringing group video calling to the popular communication app, making it possible for folks to have face-to-face conversations with multiple people at once. Previously, video calling was only available between two parties, but moving forward, we should be able to bring in groups of at least four.
As Zuckerberg noted during his keynote address, video calling is already one of the most popular features on WhatsApp. In fact, the executive said, people have already used about 2billionminutes of video calling on WhatsApp alone (and Zuckerberg apparently contributes to them, relying on the service to video chat with his young daughters when he’s on the road). With the introduction of group video calling, Facebook certainly hopes that the messaging app will become more popular. This feature, Zuckerberg said, is just the latest in the company’s aims to create “new ways for people to connect privately with close friends, groups, and businesses.”
Indeed, WhatsApp is widely valued by users around the world for its privacy and encryption practices. However, given Facebook’s own recent privacy scandals, one of the key members of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, announced that he would be leaving the company. Zuckerberg addressed this controversial decision at F8, thanking Koum for his contributions. “Jan has done an amazing job building WhatsApp,” Facebook’s CEO noted, calling Koum a “tireless advocate for privacy and encryption.” But in an effort to underscore Facebook’s dedication to user security, Zuckerberg pointed out that when the company acquired WhatsApp in 2014, it did not yet have end-to-end encryption. But now, the executive said, “one of the things that I’m most proud of is that we’ve built the largest fully encrypted communication network in the world.”
In addition to group video calling, WhatsApp will also be offering support for stickers in the months ahead, Facebook revealed later in a blog post. That means that third-party developers will soon be able to offer playful ways to communicate within the popular messaging app, something that Facebook’s own messaging app, Messenger, has offered for years.
And as for more immediate changes, WhatsApp’slatest version 2.18.51 for iOS features support for Instagram and Facebook video playback, more deeply integrating the messaging service with other Facebook services. While folks have been able to play YouTube videos in the app for quite some time, Instagram and Facebook links have previously sent folks to those respective apps, instead of allowing these videos to play natively.
The app update also features new group administrator functions — if you’re the group admin of a group, you can now revoke rights from other participants by simply selecting the user in “Group Info” and then selecting “Dismiss As Admin.” And as you can in iOS messaging, you can now change a group’s subject, as well as its icon and description by navigating over to Group Info found in the “Group Settings.”
Updated on May 7: The most recent WhatsApp update provides in-app support for Facebook and Instagram videos.