In the midst of Facebook’s highly anticipated F8 developer conference, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage to announce the latest updates to come from the social network’s universe. Not only did Zuckerberg share new features from the Facebook platform, but he also gave us glimpses into what we can expect from other companies that now exist under the Facebook umbrella, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
After an announcement on May 1 that WhatsApp would be getting group video calling, an update is now rolling out for the Android and iOS apps that allows users to create video calls with up to four people at once.
To start a group call, just start a usual one-on-one video call, and tap the “add participant” button in the top right of the screen to add more contacts to the call. As you might have hoped, these group video calls are encrypted with WhatsApps usual end-to-end encryption, ensuring that your communications are always secure.
Video calling is already one of the most popular features on WhatsApp. In fact, Zuckerberg said during the F8 conference that people had 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). The introduction of group video calling 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.”
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.
Shortly after the original announcement, WhatsApp’s version 2.18.51 for iOS added support for Instagram and Facebook video playback, more deeply integrating the messaging service with other Facebook services. While folks had been able to play YouTube videos in the app for quite some time, Instagram and Facebook links have previously sent folks to those respective apps, instead of allowing these videos to play natively.
The app update also featured new group administrator functions — if you’re the group admin of a group, you can now revoke rights from other participants by simply selecting the user in “Group Info” and then selecting “Dismiss As Admin.” And as you can in iOS messaging, you can now change a group’s subject, as well as its icon and description by navigating over to Group Info found in the “Group Settings.”
Updated on July 31: An update that allows for WhatsApp video calls with up to four people is now rolling out.
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