Facebook is about to start pushing its next Snapchat clone on a new set of 1 billion+ users.
WhatsApp is now starting to roll out its own version of Stories with an update to its Status feature. Launching now in the Netherlands and France, the feature will eventually be live in all the countries where the messaging app is available.
The feature, which the company has been experimenting with for months, is officially billed as a long overdue update to WhatsApp Status (that’s the feature that previously allowed you to set a quick “text only” status visible to your contacts within the app). But the feature is far closer to Snapchat (or Instagram) Stories than a status update.
Like the tests we previously saw, the feature lives in a new dedicated section of the app, alongside your chats and call log. There, you can update your Status with photos and video clips (and yes, emoji, doodles and text) that will be viewable to friends within the app for 24 hours after posting.
The update, which coincides with the chat app’s eighth birthday, makes WhatsApp the last of the major Facebook services to get the Snapchat treatment. (The company started with Instagram last year before adding Snapchat-like features to Messenger and the main Facebook app.)
“We’re familiar with the format, broadly,” product manager Randall Sarafa admits. But, he says, there are subtleties that make WhatsApp’s take on the feature stand out. For one, all stories Statuses are end-to-end encrypted, just like messages sent elsewhere in the app.
Behind the scenes, media sent and viewed through Status are also optimized to not suck too much data and to load on slower connections. “Our hope is that it will be as reliable as media is in chats,” Sarafa says, noting that WhatsApp users are already sending more than 3.3 billion photos a day.
Whether the revamp to Status will prove to be as big of a hit as Instagram Stories is another matter. But the company thinks now is the right time to find out. The app just passed 1.2 billion monthly active users and, at 8 years old, Sarafa says now is the time to start experimenting.
WhatsApp’s new Status feature is available in now in France and the Netherlands and will hit the UK, Spain, Israel and Saudi Arabia before a wider rollout in the coming weeks.