WhatsApp has officially launched Communities, a new feature that facilitates larger, more organized discussion groups.

Communities are designed to help companies, clubs, educational institutions and other organizations better communicate and stay organized. The group environments support admin management, sub-groups and notification groups, 32-person video calls, file sharing and polling features.

Communities can accommodate up to 1024 members while providing end-to-end encrypted communications for all.

Some of Communities’ features have already found their way to the WhatsApp platform before its debut, including emojis, large-file sharing (up to 2GB) and the ability to moderate messages. Newer features like polling, 32-person video calls and larger group sizes will be enabled on WhatsApp outside of Communities.

The differences between Communities and Groups

The new solution is comparable to Facebook Groups, as both tools feature sub-groups, file transfers, admin capabilities and more.

However, while Facebook Groups are frequently used by strangers who share a similar interest, WhatsApp Communities are intended to be used by people who are already linked in the real world.

Additionally, unlike Facebook, WhatsApp is phone number-based. People need to exchange numbers to be added to a group.

Worries about moderation

The introduction of Communities may pressure popular applications for private and large group discussions, including Telegram, Signal, iMessage, Band, GroupMe, TalkingPoints and Remind.

Facebook Groups have facilitated malicious activity in the past, such as the spreading of health and electoral disinformation, feeding the embers that led to incidents like the January 6 Capitol riot. There are fears that Communities may facilitate the same.

WhatsApp’s counter-measures appear to be limited. All communications are encrypted end-to-end, meaning WhatsApp can’t review the messages of a Community to determine whether action needs to be taken. Instead, the organization will moderate based on public information about Communities, including names, descriptions and user reports.