New WhatsApp feature lets you message thousands of people at once

WhatsApp has unveiled a new feature called Communities which will help users to organise group chats.

The tool allows users to merge group chats under one topic, meaning updates can be shared more effectively.

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Until now, WhatsApp groups have been limited to 256 people, and users can only be added through their phone number.

How will WhatsApp Communities work?

The new tool is an expansion of groups and will enable users to organise different group chats together under a main topic, such as their children’s school or the street they live on. Community admins will then be able to share messages with everyone and have control over which groups can be included.

Inside the communities, users can have several split groups, so a community based around a school can have a chat devoted to a particular class.

However, there will be some limitations added to the feature. To tackle the spread of harmful posts, such as false stories, people will only be able to forward messages to one group at a time.

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The Meta-owned messaging app said it would start rolling out the feature slowly and as a test, but Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg said the tool was an “important evolution” and changes the way people communicate online.

In an announcement, Mr Zuckerberg said: “We built WhatsApp Communities to make it much easier to organise all your group chats and find information.

“You’ll be able to bring different groups together into one community – for example, in addition to individual groups for different classes, you might have one overall community for parents at a school with a central place for announcements and tools for admins.

“We’re going to start rolling this out slowly, but I expect this to be an important evolution for WhatsApp and online communication overall.

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“In the same way that social feeds took the basic technology behind the internet and made it so anyone could find people and content online, I think community messaging will take the basic protocols behind one-to-one messaging and extend them so you can communicate more easily with groups of people to get things done together.”

Will Communities be added to other social media apps?

A similar Community feature will also be introduced on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram in the future, Mr Zuckerberg added.

Alongside the Communities feature, WhatsApp also announced several other updates coming to group chats, including the ability to use emoji reactions in response to specific messages, and an increase in file sharing to now support up to 2GB of material and voice calls that can now support up to 32 people.

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