This past May at the Facebook F8 developer conference, WhatsApp confirmed that it would be rolling out voice and video group calling later this year. Fast forward to now — the company says those features are finally live.
Video and voice calling for groups are now available for all WhatsApp users across the globe, be it on Android or iOS. The feature supports calls with up to four people simultaneously, no matter where those people might be.
Moreover, WhatsApp says it has applied some fancy-schmancy engineering to make the feature work even under shoddy internet connections. Also, as with everything that's done within WhatsApp, group calls are protected with end-to-end encryption, meaning no other part will be privy to users' conversation except the participants.
"Over the last couple years, people have enjoyed making voice and video calls on WhatsApp. In fact, our users spend over 2 billion minutes on calls per day," the Facebook-owned company announced in a blog post.
How To Start Group Calls In WhatsApp
To make group calls, simply start a one-on-one voice or video calls and tap the new "add participant" button located in the top right corner to add more friends to the conversation.
Compared with FaceTime, WhatsApp's video calling feature is a tad bit limited — Apple's video conferencing platform is poised to get group calling this fall, and it'll be able to support up to 32 participants in just one session, a far cry from WhatsApp's four. However, it's not every day that a user needs to talk to that many people, so four would probably be just fine.
What This Means For WhatsApp
In any case, the addition gives WhatsApp an answer to rivals who have long offered multi-user video calls, such as Skype. It's long overdue, too — WhatsApp now boasts nearly 2 billion monthly users, and them not being able to engage in group voice and video calls seems very neanderthal. Many of those users treat WhatsApp as their primary messaging platform, too, be it for personal or work reasons, so not having the feature probably impacts their productivity greatly.
Adding the feature also seems part of a strategy that's becoming more apparent not just with Facebook, but other major Silicon Valley companies as well. Google, for starters, recently updated Search to show improved results for nearby events, which means people might be less likely to open other apps for, say, checking out upcoming concerts in the neighborhood. While WhatsApp is far from attaining WeChat-levels of multipurpose function, it's clear it wants to get to that point, albeit slowly.