WhatsApp may feel like it’s engaged in a perennial game of catching up to Telegram, but we can’t deny that the features it does deploy feel smartly tailored to suit WhatsApp’s ease of use and interface. WhatsApp introduced us to Communities not too long ago, but it appears the idea could benefit from a reintroduction — engineers at Meta have rolled out a change, making this evident in a recent beta build of the app.
Communities are like an umbrella organization for various groups controlled by the same entities, comparable to channels on a Discord server or Slack workspace. Each group can be about a different, but tangentially related topic, and members can choose which groups they want to participate in. This is all explained by the intro graphic in the Communities tab on WhatsApp when you aren’t a member of one yet.
The Communities tab has a new descriptor
However, in version 188.8.131.52 of the Android app, WABetaInfo finds a new message there, with WhatsApp now noting that the feature places numerous groups in a unified space, with the added benefit of a dedicated Community Announcements group for information from administrators. As participants, you can join any of the groups in the Community, but may need to wait for administrator approval if groups are configured like that.
Old vs. new Community and Community group icons in the chat list
WhatsApp is also changing how Communities and their linked group chats show up in your chat list. Until now, Communities had a squircle icon in the chat list, instead of the usual circular icon assigned to individual and group chats, while groups linked to Communities had a stacked circular icon. WABetaInfo reports that in version 184.108.40.206, you can see the squircle icon with a megaphone in the lower-right corner for the Community Announcements group. Community-linked group conversations now have the Community’s squircle icon with a small group icon tucked in the lower-right.
With this change, it is very easy to tell Community conversations apart from your personal groups — the former share the same squircle icon, while the latter have circular ones. In the same version of WhatsApp, WABetaInfo also spotted another feature in testing that lets you define an expiration date for pinned messages. This can be a great addition when the contents of a pinned message will become irrelevant after some time, like details about the next meteor shower in an astrophotography group.
WhatsApp is working on expiration timers for pinned messages
The current implementation gives you three options for message expiration — 24 hours, seven days, and 30 days, and there’s no way to set a custom expiration date yet. Thankfully, you can always unpin the message and override the timer manually, if you like.
The revised iconography and feature introduction for Communities are rolling out for beta channel users through the Google Play Store, and should be visible to even more testers in the coming days. However, pinned message timers are still in development, and there’s no telling for sure when the feature will come to beta. Together, these improvements can make it easier to disperse information in WhatsApp Communities, and groups.