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May 2, 2018

WhatsApp expands its capabilities with group video calling and stickers

by John_A

Facebook’s highly anticipated F8 developer conference is underway, with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking the stage to announce the latest updates to come from the social network’s universe. Not only is Zuckerberg sharing new features from the Facebook platform, but he’s also giving us glimpses into what we can expect from companies that now exist under the Facebook umbrella, like 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 2 billion minutes 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.

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