November 15, 2023
Meta Platforms-owned instant messaging and VoIP service WhatsApp has updated its Voice Chat feature for mobile so it can now host group calls of up to 128 participants. Voice chats allow WhatsApp users to instantly talk live with members of a group chat while still being able to message within the group. The new feature, which is being compared to a Discord server, is being rolled out globally. The idea is to have the Voice Chat be less disruptive than group calling, which rings-in all group members. Voice chats can be quietly started with an in-chat bubble users tap to join. The updated version will have end-to-end encryption by default.
“The feature lets you talk about things with whoever can join, while allowing you to keep messaging those who can’t,” writes TechCrunch, adding that “you can quickly unmute, hang up or message the group without having to leave the voice chat by clicking on the call controls at the top of the chat.”
TechCrunch says Voice Chat on WhatsApp essentially functions “the same as similar features on Discord, Telegram and Slack. Meta has been testing the new feature since at least August, according to media reports.
The feature is being introduced in the coming weeks, starting with groups that have 33 participants or more. “Presumably, groups with fewer than 33 users haven’t been prioritized because they can use WhatsApp’s existing group voice calls feature,” The Verge writes.
Previously, it was possible to have a group voice call on WhatsApp with a maximum of 32 participants. The new Voice Chat also works differently in that all members aren’t automatically rung in when the meeting starts. Instead, they’ll receive a push notification and tap to join, The Verge explains, adding that Voice Chat will roll out on iOS and Android.
WhatsApp says the new feature “is ‘only available on your primary device’ and calls will automatically end the moment everyone leaves,” writes TechRadar, which points out that the company is silent on whether the feature will come to desktops.
“The platform has yet to make a formal announcement of the changes through its usual avenues although details can be found on its Help Center support website,” TechRadar adds.
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