Better late than never: Facebook-owned mobile messaging app WhatsApp has debuted a much-requested web app, allowing users to send and receive messages through desktops. The service is currently available across all major mobile platforms except iOS which the company says is “due to Apple platform limitations.” It is also limited to Google Chrome right now with support for more browsers expected soon.
WhatsApp says that users can open web.whatsapp.com on Google Chrome and scan the QR code through the new “WhatsApp web” option within the app to pair it with the web client. It notes that this web client will just be mirroring all conversations and messages from its mobile app, which means all the messages will continue to remain primarily on the user’s mobile phone. WhatsApp also adds that the phone needs to have an active Internet connection for the web client to work.
It seems like WhatsApp is still rolling out this service, since we weren’t able to spot the requisite WhatsApp web option on the Android app at the time of writing his article. (We checked on the latest version of WhatsApp (2.11.498) on a Nexus 4 running Android 5.0)
If you have the latest version of WhatsApp, you will see this option to use the QR code from the website. pic.twitter.com/MiaXWWiPxu
— frogu (@krazyfrog) January 21, 2015
This web client would likely make things significantly easier for companies like news organizations & education companies among others who’ve started using WhatsApp to engage their audience. In August last year, BBC World Services & Global News Apps Editor Trushar Barot had said that WhatsApp had offered the most direct engagement with their audience during BBC’s Indian Election messaging pilot, however it took them a lot more time on WhatsApp since it doesn’t have a desktop version, due to which all the editorial activities had to be done through a mobile phone.
This should also help various police departments who have started using WhatsApp to communicate with citizens and also receive complaints from them. While WhatsApp is probably the largest mobile Internet based messaging app in the country with 70 million active users as of November last year, the absence of a desktop client could’ve possibly made these organizations consider other services like WeChat and LINE which already offers desktop apps to users. Meanwhile …
— Jon Russell (@jonrussell) January 22, 2015
Cracking down on 3rd party WhatsApp apps
Interestingly, this launch comes at a time when WhatsApp is cracking down on unofficial third party apps and temporarily banning users who used these apps. Dr. Mounib Al Rifai, co-owner of the popular third party app WhatsApp Plus said on Google+ yesterday that they have received a cease and desist letter from WhatsApp and they “are obligated to remove all download links and unfortunately delete this community”.