After promising at Facebook’s FB conference a few months ago that it would be coming soon, WhatsApp announced today that starting this week, users can make group voice and video calls with up to four people.
“Over the last couple years,” WhatsApp explains in a blog post today by way of introducing the new feature, “people have enjoyed making voice and video calls on WhatsApp. In fact, our users spend over 2 billion minutes on calls per day. We’re excited to announce that group calls for voice and video are coming to WhatsApp starting today.”
To start a group call, you begin with a one-on-one voice or video call, then tap the new “add participant” button in the top right corner to bring more people into the call. WhatsApp says the calls will also be end-to-end encrypted.
The messaging service today has a community of more than 1.5 billion monthly users and added voice calls a little more than three years ago, with video calls a year after that. In addition to the calls being end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp says they’ll work reliably around the world even under different network conditions, and the new feature is rolling out to both iPhone and Android versions of its app.
To the point about encryption, that’s good news considering both WhatsApp founders quit the Facebook-owned service recently ostensibly over its parent company’s track record on privacy. Brian Acton, for example, not only quit but also used a post on Twitter to encourage users to delete Facebook.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that Acton’s fellow WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum likewise quit a few months ago over a clash of philosophy with Facebook’s leadership around things like too-weak encryption. Facebook bought the pair’s app four years ago for $16 billion.
Among other new features WhatsApp has rolled out recently, meanwhile, the service has launched a message-labeling feature that stems from the company’s interest in clamping down on the spread of fake news. The label will apply to messages with content that’s been forwarded along to a user instead of content that’s been composed fresh. “This extra context,” WhatsApp explained in a blog post, “will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else.”
Facebook has been under fire for the proliferation of fake news on the platform and has made it clear it will be increasingly relying on apps outside of core Facebook — like Messenger and WhatsApp — to try and limit its spread.