It’s been eight years since WhatsApp was first launched. The messaging leader, which is considered as the true “SMS killer”, has gone through several iterations, and managed to enroll over a Billion people. That’s more than what most social networks have ever accounted for in their lifetime and marginally less than its parent company, Facebook. However, WhatsApp didn’t lose any of these users over time, nor it extended its portfolio to various other sectors such as automated bots or tried to become the unified platform.
WhatsApp prevailed primarily due to the simplicity, and barebones nature it has been able to sustain for the last decade. There are no superfluous features involved, it doesn’t kaput on slower connections, and the app has steadily evolved in order to avoid any kind of catastrophic downfalls. If you look at the current app and compare it with the one we had five years ago, not much has been overhauled except the design and a couple of major features such as calling and document sharing. All of these features they added, were highly demanded and utterly required for WhatsApp to soar above the competition and it did, exponentially.
However, things are different now for WhatsApp. It operates under Facebook, and for the past year, its actions have fomented several controversies across the globe. This was ofcourse, due to their policy alteration which allowed WhatsApp to share your contacts with Facebook so that they can do business better. Now, this is something that would have never occurred if WhatsApp followed its own path of guidelines. Co-founder Jan Koum three years ago, even wrote: “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address.” As expected, WhatsApp was either banned in numerous regions or faced continuous trials elsewhere. Facebook being Facebook, didn’t change the terms and conditions.
Fast forward to today, WhatsApp becomes the fourth platform by Facebook that receives the ability to create “Stories”. The social network giant has been ripping Snapchat off for the past year, and after its main app, Messenger, and Instagram, Facebook added Stories to WhatsApp too. Now, it was fine when Facebook was doing this on Instagram because that is actually a social network and it made sense since users were gradually preferring Stories for sharing what’s going on in their life. And it worked too, Instagram Stories now has about 150 Million users which is roughly the same as Snapchat. Good job, Facebook, but on WhatsApp? I don’t think so.
It’s obvious that Stories will be a hit on WhatsApp because there are way too many users that it can’t be. But Facebook is slowly evaporating the essence that makes WhatsApp unique. WhatsApp is known to be straightforward, and Facebook should stick to bare essentials such as video calling. Bringing every other feature to it will not only create an unnecessarily complicated environment but also, overshadow the basics. For instance, Stories will have a dedicated tab on WhatsApp replacing contacts which I think is a significant part that deserves its own space. Perhaps, there are various other concerns Facebook should be focusing on instead like adding features that will ease the process for small businesses to connect with their customers or improving the disastrous and unreliable call quality.
Facebook might be cooking something up here, but unless it realizes why different social networks or messaging apps can be successful together, there’s no way it will be able to keep up. Even a slight change in how WhatsApp works can lead to a substantial impact on its user base and bringing an entirely new concept to the homescreen will definitely have its own set of repercussions. The young audience might appreciate the addition, however, there’s a completely different side of WhatsApp that includes elders, businesses, and a whole lot more. It will be interesting to see how it pans out when everyone begins to use it in the next couple of days.