WhatsApp Begins Rolling Out Emoji Reactions, 2GB File Transfers, Plus ‘Communities’ for Schools and Clubs

Even with higher limits, Meta is doubling down on its promise that everything will stay private and secure.
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In addition to some nice enhancements for voice messages that we covered earlier this week, WhatsApp is now beginning the rollout of its promised Communities feature, introducing emoji reactions, allowing larger files to be shared, and more.

Meta, which owns WhatsApp, teased some of these enhancements on its blog last month when it announced Communities on WhatsApp. The goal, it said, was to allow organizations like schools and clubs to use the social messaging service more effectively.

For example, Communities would allow a school principal to communicate with all parents while also setting up sub-groups about specific classes or activities under the same umbrella.

To make the new features even more useful, WhatsApp also said it would be bringing several other enhancements to the platform, both inside the new Communities and for normal group chats as well.

Perhaps the most significant of these is a feature that users of other chat platforms have already enjoyed for a while: emoji reactions. Even Meta’s own Facebook Messenger has long supported reactions, and of course, Apple’s iMessage handles this in its own way with Tapbacks.

However, this conspicuous omission for WhatsApp fans has now been resolved. With the latest version of the app, you’ll be able to react with the standard set: Thumbs Up 👍, Red Heart ❤️, Face with Tears of Joy 😂, Face with Open Mouth 😮, Crying Face 😢, and Folded Hands 🙏. WhatsApp says it plans to add “an even broader range of expressions in the future.”

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Meta says it ultimately plans to support reactions with the entire catalog of emoji and skin tones, although they probably won’t all arrive at once.

Larger Files and Bigger Groups

While the emoji reactions will likely be the most exciting feature for many folks, Meta is also increasing some of the service’s limitations:

  1. You’ll now be able to send files within WhatsApp up to 2GB in size. That’s a massive increase over the 100MB limit, which hasn’t changed since file-sharing first arrived in 2017. Meta hopes it will help small businesses and school groups collaborate more efficiently.
  2. You can now add up to 512 people to a group. That doubles the previous limit of 256, and again it’s directed at making the service more useful for larger communities.
  3. You’ll soon be able to make one-tap voice calls with up to 32 people. This change doesn’t appear to have made it into this week’s update, but Meta says it’s coming as part of the overall Communities feature “for those times when talking live is better than chatting.”

Even with these higher limits, Meta is doubling down on its promise that everything will remain private and secure. Messages and files will be protected using end-to-end encryption, so nobody — not even folks at WhatsApp — can peek in on your chats.

The new Communities feature will also hide phone numbers from other members of the larger Community; it will only be visible to the Community admins and others you’re in a specific group with. For example, in a school community of parents, phone numbers would be shared in chats for specific classes, clubs, or extracurricular activities. However, those in other class groups wouldn’t get access to that information.

When’s It Coming?

Although Meta said that the new features are available in the current version of WhatsApp, they’re being rolled out more slowly from the back end, so you may not see them right away.

It’s also unclear what will happen in cases where one person has the new features available before others in the same chat. So, if others don’t appear to be seeing your emoji reactions, that’s probably why.

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