WhatsApp introduces cuckoos to nests

Image: Bpokrivka- Flickr
Ingrid Fadelli

The messaging app’s snappy, new ‘Status’ feature looks remarkably familiar

WhatsApp introduced a new feature that allows users to share a 24-hour ‘status’ with their contacts, which can include pictures with captions, emojis, GIFs and more. Does this ring a bell?

Of course it does, as the very same feature was first introduced by SnapChat, and has since been picked up by other messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

The huge popularity of SnapChat’s media-sharing concept appears to have triggered a contagious trend in ‘Stories-like’ features. Ironically (or maybe not), even the design and style of WhatsApp’s Statuses closely resembles that of SnapChat, as do Facebook Messenger and Instagram Stories.

Call it what you will, Stories, Statuses, moments or whatever else, the actual feature is pretty much the same, the only variations being specific filters and options that users can add to the pictures or videos they share. Oh, and WhatsApp’s Status feature is end-to-end encrypted!

How does WhatsApp Status work?

Using the feature is simple. You just open WhatsApp and press on the ‘Status’ tab.

If you wish to create a new status, press on ‘My Status’, and you will be able to take a photo, record a video or upload a media file that already exists on your phone. Once you are satisfied with your picture, you can customize it to your liking by adding captions, drawings, emojis, GIFs or whatever else you like. Finally, you press on ‘Send’ to make the status viewable by your contacts.

If you post a Status by accident and wish to delete it, tap on My Status at the top of the screen and then tap on the bin icon. To send it directly to a specific friend as a message, tap on the icon with an arrow (right next to the delete icon).

Of course, you might have some people in your contact list that you do not wish to share cute pictures of your dog or your latest culinary creations with (particularly seeing as WhatsApp contacts include all your phone contacts who have the app installed). Some users, of course, might want take advantage of the feature while being a shade more cautious.

Have to remember to block every auntie, uncle and distant relative before you start using this whatsapp status thing smh

If that is the case, luckily WhatsApp allows you to edit your Privacy Settings and choose who can see your status. To edit the Settings go to the ‘Status’ tab, press on ‘Privacy’, and then manually select the contacts you wish to share your latest memories with.

Why is WhatsApp adding this new feature?

In a blog post presenting WhatsApp Status, WhatsApp CEO and co-founder Jan Koum justified the company’s new departure by saying that WhatsApp is actually ‘going back to its roots’.

Originally, WhatsApp was developed to be an application that lets others know what you’re up to through text-only statuses (Available, Busy, At School, At work, At the Movies…and so on). Yup, that looks like spin!

“Even after we added messaging in the summer of 2009, we kept the basic “text only” status functionality in WhatsApp,” said Koum. “Every year, when Brian and I would plan projects to work on, we always talked about improving and evolving this original “text only” status feature.”

According to Koum, the new Status tool, introduced on WhatsApp’s 8th birthday, on February 24, it is an updated version of the old text-only status that characterized the messaging app.

Koum added: “Just like eight years ago when we first started WhatsApp, this new and improved status feature will let you keep your friends who use WhatsApp easily updated in a fun and simple way.”

Are you convinced? It might seem like a strange coincidence that the new feature is so similar to Stories and is being introduced after SnapChat’s media-sharing trend became ‘the next hot thing’.

Moreover, anything that extends user engagement is a commercial and brand-familiarity no-brainer. So, assuming no legal infringement, few would really blame the company. After all, the principle behind Stories has proven to be so awesomely popular – SnapChat’s huge success was mainly due its genius idea of turning messaging apps into ways of passively consuming content.

And, as more and more people use SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook ‘Stories’ to share parts of their day with their contacts, why should WhatsApp stand and watch instead of introducing something similar?

A wider perspective might also be that 2017 is already shaping up to be the year where everyone looks for a way to swipe right on everyone else’s act.

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