WhatsApp may inevitably have an AI chatbot on the way, but a feature we’re actually more interested in has just popped up in the beta version of its Android app: a newsletter tool.
The inbound feature, currently called Newsletters, was noticed by WABetaInfo (opens in new tab) in WhatsApp’s latest Android beta (version 220.127.116.11, to be exact) and suggests that the messaging app is about to adopt the popular news format that traditionally lives in our email inboxes.
As the early previews show (in the image above), the Newsletter feature will be quite prominent in WhatsApp’s Status tab. Here you can “keep up to date with topics that matter to you” and follow new newsletters by clicking the plus icon and entering a username.
So how exactly do newsletters fit into WhatsApp’s privacy features and end-to-end encryption? According to WABetaInfo, they will effectively be out of the latter — your personal messages will continue to have the usual level of security, but newsletters will hide or mask the phone numbers of anyone who creates or subscribes to them.
As the early screenshots show, newsletters will simply live in a separate (and optional) section of your Status tab. The ones you subscribe to appear to appear chronologically, without any ads or algorithmic interference (at least to begin with).
What is not yet clear is exactly what kind of newsletters will appear on WhatsApp and who expects to create them. Due to the popularity of WhatsApp groups, it seems likely that they will be a useful way to get updates from local organizations, sports groups or official sources such as city councils.
But unlike WhatsApp’s Communities feature, which arrived in November 2022 and capped at 5,000 members, the Newsletter tool doesn’t seem to have any restrictions on the total number of subscribers. That means it could also potentially be used by brands and Substack makers as an additional outlet to reach fans who want regular updates on certain topics.
This all remains speculation until we see a more developed version of the feature, but given the popularity of traditional email newsletters, we’d like to keep an eye on it. And it would only cement WhatsApp’s position as one of the best encrypted messaging apps for Android.
Analysis: WhatsApp turns into Discord
WhatsApp clearly wants to build on its ubiquity with features that extend its appeal beyond messaging — and Newsletters is an intriguing move that goes well beyond the recent Communities feature.
As we’ve argued before, WhatsApp communities work in a similar way to public servers on Discord and Slack, in that they allow people to have conversations within wider communities (in other words, groups of groups), including local clubs, organizations, and schools.
But Newsletters turn out to work very differently and could make WhatsApp more of a publishing platform. The anonymity of the feature (no subscriber or creator phone numbers are shared) means it’s truly a broadcast medium, with no messaging or interaction, which is currently the hallmark of WhatsApp.
It looks like newsletters will also be a completely private tool, with WABetaInfo stating that no one can see who follows you. Your subscription options also don’t depend on who’s on your contact list – unlike traditional email newsletters.
While some marketers have used Discord servers to create thriving communities, some might consider WhatsApp’s inbound newsletters a strong alternative, especially since the app has more than two billion active monthly users (opens in new tab). There is currently no timeline for the feature to launch, but we look forward to seeing it in a future version of the app soon.