In 2018, WhatsApp added several new features, with group video calling and stickers being some of the most popular. The Facebook-owned company, which has the largest user base in India also faced heat over spread of misinformation on its platform that led to incident of mob violence.
The service took measures to control this by rolling out features like forwarded label, limiting forward messages to five contacts at once, suspicious link detection and more. Though several updates were released for Android and iOS over the year, we look at the most popular features from 2018.
WhatsApp Stickers were rolled out right before the Diwali festival in India, and the feature quickly got popular. Around the festivals of Diwali, Kerala Piravi and Christmas in India, several customised stickers were shared on the platform, though these stickers were from third-party developers.
In addition, apps that lets users create their own stickers and share them with contacts on WhatsApp also make Stickers more fun. Android has several apps with third-party stickers as well.
WhatsApp currently has close to 14 stickers packs of its own, which can be downloaded over an active Internet connection and used offline later. However, one can also add stickers from third-party apps on the platform from Play Store on Android. Stickers for WhatsApp is available for Android and iOS.
WhatsApp Forward limit restricted to five messages
WhatsApp curtailed the Forward limit to five contacts in India after incidents of mob violence and lynchings were reported due to spread of misinformation and fake news on WhatsApp. The feature limits forwarding of a text message, photo or video to five contacts at once. However, globally the limit for forwards is at 20 contacts.
In India, by restricting forwards to five people, WhatsApp wants to discourage people from mass forwarding that contain misinformation and curb it from spreading to larger audience. The forward limit has been applied to both Android and iOS.
WhatsApp Forwarded label
WhatsApp Forwarded label essentially labels messages that have been forwarded, thus letting users differentiate between original messages sent by contacts and messages that have simply been forwarded.
The label is aimed at making users more mindful of what they are forwarding and sharing on social media platform and controlling the spread of rumours. It also means that when a user got a message with this label, they would know that the sender had not actually created it.
WhatsApp Suspicious Link Detection
Another feature that WhatsApp released to control the spread of fake news on its platform was ‘Suspicious Link Detection’. Available for both Android and iOS, it warns users of links that potentially lead to fake or alternative website. The “suspicious link indicator” asks whether one wants to open the link or cancel. For privacy reason, the checks take place on a user’s device.
WhatsApp PiP mode
WhatsApp PiP mode released for Android and iOS lets users play videos from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram within the app itself in a small bubble. The bubble also has controls for pause/play and to view video in full screen mode.
The feature makes it easier for users to view videos inside the chat window itself instead of getting redirected to YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, etc when they click on the video link.
WhatsApp audio and video group calling
WhatsApp audio and video calls for Android and iOS were rolled out globally for Android and iOS users earlier this year. The calls are end-to-end encrypted as well and allows up to four contacts to audio or video call with each other simultaneously.
WhatsApp users can start a group audio or video calls and use ‘Add participant’ icon at the top right of the call window to add up to three more participants from their contacts list. WhatsApp group audio and video calls were anticipated for a long time before the features were finally made official.