WhatsApp has finally added a new feature that will allow users to make group voice and video calls. This was a feature that users had really been requesting for a while. It’s been almost three years now since the messaging app introduced the voice call feature. One year later it introduced a video option but these features were not available for groups. The voice calls, in particular, have been very popular with its 1.5 billion users. The company says that as of 2018, there were over two billion minutes of voice calls made each day through the app.
Starting this week, the new feature will allow people to add friends into calls. They will be able to do this by hitting a new add button that will appear at the top right corner of their screen. Users can add a maximum of four friends to the call. WhatsApp also said that the calls will be protected with end-to-end encryption in order to enhance overall security. End-to-end encryption for messages has always been available for WhatsApp users. However, even though it may seem like an easy thing to do, it gets way complicated when you’re talking about voice calls and video calls. But somehow the app has managed to pull this offer way ahead of apps like Telegram that have yet to figure out how to do end-to-end encryption.
For a very long time now WhatsApp has strategically partnered with WhisperSystems to include the encryption technology on its platform. However, the relationship between the two companies hit a snag in 2018 when Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, donated $50 million of his money to the Signal Foundation. Acton’s money largely came from Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp back in 2014. Signal Foundation is associated with Whisper Systems and there were a number of uncomfortable faces after the donation. It just appeared odd that a former co-founder of WhatsApp who was also at the time a member of the Facebook board was donating money to a foundation linked to the company that runs encryption on WhatsApp.
Acton has also not been on good terms with Facebook lately. At the height of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that hit Facebook early this year, Acton deleted his account and tried to lead a massive online campaign to urge others to do the same. His fellow WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum was convinced but it’s not clear how many other people took his words to heart. Acton later left his board seat at Facebook.
Although he said that his decision was inspired by his long-term desire to do things he loved outside the tech world, the privacy issues at Facebook over the last few months may have in fact made his decision easier. Despite all this, it looks like WhatsApp is surging ahead and there’s no doubt that Facebook has a long-term plan for it. The new feature to add people on video and voice calls is a big step forward, and many users are looking forward to it.