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WhatsApp Killer New Update: Just A Perfect Timing for its Users.

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Despite privacy issues with its parent Facebook, WhatsApp continues as the most trusted secure messaging platform on the planet. 2 billion users exchange end-to-end encrypted messages in ever-increasing numbers. And as I’ve said before, the platform’s willingness to fend off U.S. government pressure remains the greatest defense against backdoors being mandated in encrypted messaging.

Beyond messaging, WhatsApp’s encryption extends to voice and video calls as well. As the platform explains, “just like your messages, WhatsApp calls are end-to-end encrypted so WhatsApp and third parties can’t listen to them.” As we all rely ever more on video calls to replace face-to-face meet-ups, this is a big deal.

The issue for users right now is the limit on the number of people who can join in a video call—currently just four. But that’s about to change. As discovered by the ever vigilant beta code detectives at WABetaInfo, the number of callers is about to increase. The code to expand video calling is buried in both the beta iOS and Android apps, so it’s a change for everyone, but only if all callers have the latest version of the app installed once it’s released.

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We don’t know how many callers will be enabled yet—a small shift to six or eight, or a more fundamental change that might allow larger, existing groups to participate in video calls. That would seriously shake up the market.

WhatsApp is also adding a call header to remind everyone that those calls are end-to-end encrypted. The timing of this change is no coincidence. Video calling usage has skyrocketed. Zoom has been the main beneficiary, but others in the space, including Microsoft with Teams and Skype as well as Facebook with its Messenger app and Portal are rushing to expand their offerings.

Realistically, WhatsApp will not threaten the corporate market for video meetings, which is now a fight between Zoom and Microsoft albeit others are skirting the edges. Security has played a major part in this. As reported by my colleague Kate O’Flaherty, Zoom’s lack of genuine encryption as well as slips ups in sending data via China, plus its questionable privacy policy have opened the door for others.

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WhatsApp’s long-awaited iPad app is still expected—eventually. This again will expand its usability. The formal enterprise market, though, will remain a step too far for WhatsApp. But the numbers of family hook-ups and spontaneous video chats between friends and colleagues increases weekly. This is wide open for WhatsApp with its ease of use and the fact that all those groups are likely set up on its platform already. This should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who does not currently offer end-to-end encrypted video calls.

 

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