Despite being the largest messaging application globally, with over one billion users, WhatsApp has for all those years been mobile based. However, this is now set to change after WhatsApp announced the launch of their premier desktop app, which is targeting Mac Os 10.9 and up and Windows 8 platforms.
The desktop app will sync with user’s WhatsApp account on their mobile devices. After installation, the user will use the WhatsApp on the mobile device, to scan a QR code. The feature to scan the QR is found under, Settings> WhatsApp web. When the code is recognized by the mobile WhatsApp app, then the user will be authenticated, and all data in the mobile WhatsApp app will be synced to the desktop. In this process significant amount of data will be transmitted, but depending on the usage. That’s why the company is recommending using Wi-Fi during connection.
This desktop app has no major difference from the mobile version. The user will access all their contacts as they are on their mobile device, and will enjoy all functions supported by the mobile version. The user will be able to send messages and send images. Voice dictation will be supported as well.
Earlier on, WhatsApp was availed on desktop using WhatsApp web, a web client. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, launched this service in 2015, which after the launch was only available to Windows phones and Android phone users. Later, it introduced support for iOS smartphones.
The new desktop app launched on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, will offer native support. This means the users will now be able to use the keyboard shortcuts as well as opening messages in different windows, a feature which was not available on the WhatsApp web.
Initially, there has been other desktop apps, which were released by different developers, and were used as browser’s plugins wrappers, for example, ChitChat. However, WhatsApp desktop app is the premier app being released by WhatsApp.
The release of WhatsApp app, also introduces a new competition platform, as it now joins Facebook Messenger, which Facebook had released its standalone application for desktop use. Others include Skype and Telegram. The interesting part is that Facebook Messenger is WhatsApp app’s cousin, as it is owned by Facebook. The release of this app is definitely to help the increase company growth and open new frontiers of its use. On February this year, WhatsApp released data indicating they had hit the 1 billion users mark using the messaging app daily. Other data released showed that 42 billion messages were being sent daily while 1.6 billion photos were shared daily. Additionally, there were 1 billion groups created, 53 supported languages and 250 million videos were shared daily. With this announcement coming barely 3 months later, it is possible there has been growth over those months.
Currently, the popularity of chat apps is growing enormously especially by businesses. Their popularity can be attributed to the ease of use and efficiency. This would mean the entry of WhatsApp desktop app would increase their popularity both by individual and businesses.
While Slack major application is in businesses to facilitate workplace communication, WhatsApp app is popular as a platform to chat with friends and family, while the group texting feature by WhatsApp is being widely used even in businesses. The use of WhatsApp groups in the business setting has been mainly chatting groups by workmates, teams, and even management. There have also been businesses, which have been using WhatsApp web client platform, to communicate with their clients, for example, Diamond Ring Retailer in London. Therefore, the entry of this desktop app may see increased business use, especially in formal communications.
In the business application, Slack has an edge over the newly released WhatsApp desktop app, as it doesn’t allow personal communication, since the use is restricted in the business setting. This is because; use of WhatsApp app in business will likely encourage personal communications between users as WhatsApp is accessible to people who are not in the business.
The high penetration of smartphone in different countries around the world has supported the increase in numbers of users using this platform. In South Africa, more than 78% of mobile Internet users are using WhatsApp daily. Other countries where over 70% of mobile Internet users are using WhatsApp include Malaysia, Argentina, Singapore, Hong Kong, Spain, and India. In Brazil alone WhatsApp users are over 93 million people.
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WhatsApp is releasing this desktop app the same time they are facing legal issues in Brazil concerning the access of user’s data. In Brazil, WhatsApp services have been stopped twice, where also an order of imprisoning an executive in WhatsApp was released. This was after the company refused to cooperate with authority orders. The government wanted access to encrypted messages in its drug trafficking investigations.