WhatsApp revamps Groups to fight Telegram

Facebook merely installed its VP of Internet.org as the new head of WhatsApp after its CEO Jan Koum left the company. And now Facebook is expanding its mission to get people into “meaningful” groups to WhatsApp. Today, WhatsApp launched a slew of new features for Groups on iOS and Android that let admins set a description for their community and choose who can change the Groups sets. Meanwhile, users will be able to get a Group catch up that proves messages they were mentioned in, and search for people in the group.

WhatsApp’s new Group descriptions

WhatsApp Group participant search

Group improvements will help WhatsApp better compete with Telegram, which has recently emerged as an insanely popular platform for chat groups, especially around cryptocurrency. Telegram has plenty of admin controls of its own, but the two apps is likely to be vying over who can make it easiest to digest these fast-moving chats forums.

” These are features are based on user petitions. We develop the product based on what our users want and require” a WhatsApp spokesperson told me when asked why it’s making this update.” There are also people coming together in groups on WhatsApp like new parents go looking for support, students coordinating study sessions, and even city leaders coordinating relief efforts after natural disasters .”

Facebook is on a quest to get 1 billion users into “meaningful” Groups and lately said it now has hit the 200 million user milestone. Groups could help people strengthen their ties with their city or niche interests, who are capable of make them feel less alone.

With Group descriptions, admins can explain the purpose and rules of a group. They show up when people check out the group and appear atop the chat window when they join. New admin controls let them limit who is allowed to alter a group’s topic, icon, and description. WhatsApp is also inducing it tougher to re-add somebody to a group they left so you can’t” Group-add-spam people “. Together, they are able make sure people find relevant groups, naturally acclimate to their culture, and don’t troll everyone.

As for users, the new Group catch up feature offers a new@ button in the bottom right of the chat window that when tapped, surfaces all your answers and mentions since you last checked. And if you want to find person specific in the Group, the new participant search on the Info page could let you turn a group chat into a private convo with someone you meet.

WhatsApp Group catch up

Now that WhatsApp has a stunning 1.5 billion users compared to 200 million on Telegram, its next stage of growth may come from deepening engagement instead of simply adding more accounts. Many people already do most of their one-on-one chatting with friends on WhatsApp, but Groups could invite tons of the amount of time spent as users participate in communities of strangers around their interests.

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Facebook undergoes a huge executive reshuffle

Facebook is undergoing one of the biggest executive reshuffles in its history, the company announced internally today, Recode reports. Mark Zuckerberg is still the king of the castle, but everything below him is taking a different shape as WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook’s core app get new leaders.

Facebook has confirmed these changes to TechCrunch.

The company has been reorganized into three main groups:” Family of Apps ,” which encompasses Instagram, Facebook’s core app, Messenger and WhatsApp;” New Platforms and Infrastructure ,” which cover AI, AR/ VR, blockchain and engineering squads; and” Central Product Services ,” which will handle ads, analytics and product management teams.

The biggest moves?

Exec Chris Cox appears to be taking the biggest power move here as he will result the new Family of Apps group.

David Marcus will notably be stepping down from his role as head of Messenger to lead an exploratory blockchain group under CTO Mike Schroepfer with Instagram’s Kevin Weil.

Chris Daniels of Facebook’s Internet.org will be taking over WhatsApp after CEO Jan Koum announced he was leaving last week.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits Facebook due to privacy intrusions

” It is time for me to move on . . . I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my autoes and playing ultimate frisbee ,” WhatsApp co-founder, CEO and Facebook board member Jan Koum wrote today. The announcement followed soon after The Washington Postreported that Koum would leave due to disagreements with Facebook management about WhatsApp user data privacy and weakened encryption. Koum obscured that motive in his note that tells,” I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on- only from the outside .”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promptly commented on Koum’s Facebook post about his deviation, writing” Jan: I will miss running so closely with you. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve teach me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and set it back in people’s hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp .” That remark further tries to downplay the idea that Facebook pushed Koum away by trying to erode encryption.

The move goes 3.5 years after WhatsApp’s acquisition, entailing Koum may have vested much of his stock and have fewer financial incentives to bide. It’s currently unclear what will happen to Koum’s Facebook board seat that WashPo says he’ll vacate, or who will replace him as WhatsApp’s CEO.

One possible nominee for the CEO role would be WhatsApp business executive Neeraj Arora, a former Google corporate developing manager who’s been with WhatsApp since 2011 — well before the Facebook acquisition. A source described him as the# 4 at WhatsApp.

Values misaligned

Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for a jaw-dropping $19 billion. But since then it’s more than tripled its user count to 1.5 billion, inducing the price to turn messaging into a one-horse race seem like a steal. But at the time, Koum and co-founder Brian Acton were assured that WhatsApp wouldn’t have to run ads or merge its data with Facebook’s. So were regulators in Europe, where WhatsApp is most popular.

A year and a half later, though, Facebook pressured WhatsApp to change its terms of service and give users’ phone numbers to its parent company. That let Facebook target those users with more precise ad, such as by letting business upload lists of phone numbers to hit those people with promotions. Facebook was eventually penalty $122 million by the European Union in 2017 — a paltry sum for a company earning more than$ 4 billion in profit per quarter.

But the perceived invasion of WhatsApp user privacy drove a wedge between Koum and the mother company well before the Cambridge Analytica scandal transgressed. A source confirms that Koum had been considering leaving for a year. Acton left Facebook in November, and has publicly supported the #DeleteFacebook movement since.

WashPo writes that Koum was also angered by Facebook executives pushing for a weakening of WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption in order to facilitate its new WhatsApp For Business program. It’s possible that letting multiple squad member states of a business all interact with its WhatsApp account could be incompatible with strong encryption. Facebook plans to finally make money off WhatsApp by offering bonus services to big companies like airlines, e-commerce sites and banks that want to conduct commerce over the chat app.

Jan Koum( Photo: TOBIAS HASE/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Koum was heavily critical of advertising in apps, once telling Forbes that” Dealing with ads is depressing . . . You don’t make anyone’s life better by making advertisements work better .” He vowed to keep them out of WhatsApp. But over the past year, Facebook has rolled out display ads in the Messenger inbox. Without Koum around, Facebook might push to expand those obtrusive ads to WhatsApp as well.

The high-profile departure arrives at a vulnerable day for Facebook, with its big F8 developer conference starting tomorrow despite Facebook simultaneously shutting down parts of its dev platform as penance for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Meanwhile, Google is trying to fix its fragmented messaging strategy, trenching apps like Allo to focus on a mobile carrier-backed alternative to SMS it’s building into Android Messages.

While the News Feed constructed Facebook rich, it also made it the villain. Messaging has become its strongest suit thanks to the dual dominance of Messenger and WhatsApp. Considering many users surely don’t even realize WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, Koum’s departure over policy fears isn’t likely to change that. But it’s one more phase in what’s becoming a thick line connecting Facebook’s business aspirations to its cavalier approach to privacy.

You can read Koum’s full post below .

It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an astounding journey with some of the best…

Posted by Jan Koum on Monday, April 30, 2018

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