• January 26, 2023

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New features for WhatsApp have just been announced by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. These include features which will mean a quiet exit is suddenly possible. Here are the changes.

Exit group chats… discreetly

You know how it is, you’re in a group chat. It’s been fun but, honestly, you’ve had enough. Maybe one or two people are dominating the conversation or it’s taken a turn for the terminally tedious.

Right now, when you’re done, you exit the chat and everybody sees that you’ve left. It’s announced to everyone and can be something of a badge of dishonor, leaving those behind wondering what they did wrong, perhaps.

The etiquette of the digital world can be so tricky, sometimes.

Soon, as Zuckerberg explained, you’ll be able to “exit group chats without notifying everyone”. There’s something appropriate about the app that allowed people to connect with superlative ease now letting you surreptitiously disconnect.

This is a definite improvement and it means you can take your leave without causing offence or raising eyebrows. Sure, some people will notice you’ve gone—the ones who have the decency to recognize your contributions to the conversation to be as eloquent and pithy as Oscar Wilde—but they won’t know exactly when.

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The group admins will know, but nobody else.

Who can see you online

This update will mean you can choose exactly who’ll be able to see you while you’re online.

In other words, you’ll be able to conceal your presence from others. This is another privacy-focused update, which will aim to show that WhatsApp is going to, as Zuckerberg puts it, “keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversations.”

Imagine, an online chat in the twenty-first century that’s as private as an analog, in-real-life conversation. Oh my, that’s progress.

Actually, it probably is.

You can choose between everyone seeing you, nobody and the enticing option of “My contacts except…” So much is implied in those dot-dot-dots. Which contacts will you hide from, and what does that tell you about them? Or you?

Screenshot blocking

This is another good step forward. WhatsApp has developers View Once messages which, as the name makes clear, can’t be looked at over and over. Their ephemeral quality is limited, however, by the fact that you could, if you were sneaky enough to do this, take a screenshot of that message.

The new setting will stop a contact from doing a screenshot, in the way, Snapchat does, so you’re presented with a message saying that a screenshot is “blocked for additional privacy”.

While it doesn’t rule out every way of saving an image (you could use another phone to snap the screen of the first one that way) it may make some people think twice before employing this underhand maneuver.

Today’s news is the latest in the changes that are coming to WhatsApp in the coming weeks, adding to the yesterday’s announcement that you can delete messages up to two days after they were sent.

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