Could WhatsApp be the next social media giant?

The story of WhatsApp’s founders, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, reads like a modern epic.

After getting rejected by Facebook for engineering jobs in 2009, the pair founded WhatsApp — then sold it to Facebook for $21.8B 5 years later.

By mid-2018, both founders had left the company, citing disputes with Zuck over his plans to monetize their global messaging behemoth.

Since their departure…

… Zuck has struggled to make WhatsApp a revenue generator. The original plan was to turn it into an advertising gold mine, but the app’s focus on privacy made data collection difficult, forcing Zuck and Co. to abandon the strategy.

But recent news suggests Meta brass is finally ready to embrace that same focus on privacy.

According to TechCrunch, WhatsApp is planning to launch a Communities feature utilizing the app’s end-to-end encryption.

Much like Facebook Groups, the feature will allow all types of organizations to create a digital space for members to interact. But there are some big differences:

  • Unlike Groups, Communities are invite-only and not searchable
  • While Groups are often made up of many strangers with a shared interest, Community members can see one another’s phone numbers, making for a more intimate experience

The feature will also include admin and moderation tools to combat spam and misinformation.

The move…

… could help Meta remain relevant in a social media landscape shifting toward privacy. Twitter, Snap, and Meta’s own Instagram, have all launched features that allow users to distinguish posts for “close friends.”

It also adds WhatsApp to the list of messenger apps offering community functionality, including Telegram, Signal, and Discord, the community-focused chat upstart that Microsoft tried to acquire for $10B last year.

So would WhatsApp’s founders approve of Zuck’s newest ambitions for their baby? It’s unclear.

Brian Acton’s last tweet was in 2018 when he encouraged people to “#deletefacebook.” If he feels similarly about WhatsApp, we’ll likely find out soon.

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