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The Journey Through The years: 15 years of WhatsApp



Before all the glamour of communities, disappearing messages, and even simple status updates, Whatsapp was just a simple messaging app. This was way back when Brian Acron and Jan Koum (the co-founders) still ran it before they sold it to Facebook (now Meta) for a whopping $19 billion back in 2014. Still, underneath all the tricks and treats, WhatsApp remains a messaging platform –and one of the most popular ones at that.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the ways that WhatsApp has changed over its 15 years of existence.

Casting back to 2009, when Android smartphones were just on the rise and social media was exploding in popularity, WhatsApp was just beginning its journey as a simple status display app. Most of us were not familiar with the app then, but its primary aim was to display statuses in a phone’s contacts menu. This was different from the multimedia statuses that we have now but was a simple text status telling if a person was on a call or at work or others (like the “About” we have now).

Later that year, when Apple introduced push notifications, it was updated so that people would be notified when users changed their status. To Koum’s surprise, he noticed that users used the feature to update people with snarky status updates that functioned as a form of instant messaging. A few months later, Whatsapp 2.0 emerged as a messenger with its users growing to about 250,000 people, gaining photo-sending capabilities that year and Andriod OS compatibility the next year.

Things remained steady with minor updates in security and an added group chat feature in 2011 until a few years later in 2013 when they rolled out the voice message feature (which has easily become a fan favorite with WhatsApp stating in 2022 that they get 7 billion voice messages sent daily.)

At the time the voice message feature rolled out, its users had grown to about 200 million, giving them due reason to focus on developing user experience. The next year, after Facebook acquired it, updates continued rapidly from then.

The immediate next goodies were the implementation of Read Receipts –the blue tick. As you can imagine, that caused quite an uproar because it was not optional then (remember the awkwardness of not opening messages?).Within a week, however, it was updated, giving the option of toggling it off or on. Two years later in 2015, the WhatsApp community received another world-shaking update, voice calls. This changed the calling game completely in most of the world, allowing people to spend more time on calls for an infinitesimally small cost in comparison.

What would WhatsApp be like without voice calls? Of course, Gen Zers and Gen Alphaers may have never used that feature, but the
Millennials definitely know what I’m talking about.

And like clockwork, in 2016, WhatsApp added more updates, from document sharing (PDF), to proper end-to-end encryption (unlike the one proven vulnerable in 2014), to video calls between two accounts. Another huge change that made WhatsApp the way we love it is the introduction of status updates as we know it. This was in February 2017 during their eighth anniversary. Before that, you had to go through the hassle of changing your “about” section every time you want people to know what you’re up to.

The next year, WhatsApp released a dedicated app for SMEs called WhatsApp Business, and both apps got more cool features, from allowing multiple joinings on voice calls and video calls to allowing the deletion of messages. However, the fact that the deleting feature announced every deleted message came as an unpleasant shock to most users, especially since its counterpart messengers simply unsent the messages with no trace.

From then till now, we’ve gotten disappearing messages, hoards of privacy settings that allow you to control almost everything from your last seen to your read receipts to your profile picture, and the dark mode (which doesn’t just look cool but also saves your device battery). More recent updates have included channels, communities, message edits, and HD media sharing making the WhatsApp of today look like a different app from what it was 15 years ago.

Some WhatsApp features you may have missed

1. Meta AI: If you’re using the latest version of WhatsApp (iOS, Android) then you’d have access to Meta’s new intelligence assistant that is capable of following instructions and solving problems, among many other things.

2. Privacy Updates: If you’ve been using WhatsApp for a while, you may not be privy to some of the new privacy features that the current WhatsApp gives you. Right now, you can change the people who see your status updates, your last seen, your online status, and even your profile picture. Gone are the days when you had to desist from saving people’s contacts just because you did not want them to have access to your profile picture.

3. Listing Format: This one is easily noticeable, but I’ll add it here because it’s cool. WhatsApp now automatically applies a list format when you try to list things in the text box. It’s simple but it makes such a difference.

4. Other text formats: While italics, strikethrough, and bolded words have always been

there, there have been some new additions like monospace, quotes, and inline code that can
make your text pop.

  • To quote text, place an angle bracket and a space before the
    text (> Text)
  • To monospace, enclose the text in 6 backticks with three in
    front and three behind it. (“`Text“`)
  • For inline code, enclose it in one backtick. (`Text`)

5. Video messages: Yes this is different from recording a video and sending it. Video messages
come in small circles that stay in the chat and can’t open up. You can get this by pressing and holding your camera button on the chat box.

With what we’ve seen so far, it’s exciting to imagine the future WhatsApp has in store for us, especially as technology improves. There are some rumors about upcoming features like offline sharing, which will allow users to share videos and photos offline, and WhatsApp payment features (like WeChat ) for secure and fast payments.

Of course, these could just be rumors, but you can bet that WhatsApp has something cooking up its sleeves. Whatever it is, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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