Tech

WhatsApp comes for Slack with debut of ‘Communities’

Screenshots of WhatsApp showing groups of people organized around topics like schools and activities.

Your apartment building’s Slack group is getting some competition.

On Thursday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s “vision” for a new WhatsApp product called Communities. A “Community” will be composed of people who are all part of the same organization or group — WhatsApp gives the example of a school or apartment building — and sub-groups for people to discuss specific topics. There will also be a mechanism for admins to send announcements to all the members.

“Communities on WhatsApp will enable people to bring together separate groups under one umbrella with a structure that works for them,” WhatsApp’s announcement of the feature reads.

It’s a bit difficult to wrap your head around in the abstract. Luckily, there’s already an example of how it will work, because Communities sounds a lot like Slack, the messaging platform that’s extremely popular in the digital workplace. There’s a set group of people who are all part of the same organization, there are sub-groups for different subjects (think Slack channels), and there’s a way for admins to make announcements. Sound familiar?

WhatsApp is also rolling out some general changes to Groups that also have a Slack-ish ring to them. Most notably, that includes emoji reactions. Praise be! But there’s also increased size for audio calls (they’ll be able to accommodate 32 users), increased file sharing size to 2 GB, and the ability for admins to delete messages. 

A screenshot of WhatsApp calling out new features available in group chats.

Ok, emoji reactions in groups is a HUGE boon.
Credit: WhatsApp

Those group changes are going live in “the coming weeks.” However, Communities will come a bit farther down the line. WhatsApp says it is testing the product and will begin rolling out the feature over the following months, but does not have a more specific timeline. 


There is something a tad uncomfortable about using the same platform for work and your personal life.

Though Slack is primarily a workplace product, people also use it for organizing friends, activities, and other groups of people. That’s because it’s just generally a convenient messaging platform, especially since group chats can be so overwhelming and unwieldy. Don’t even get us started on the chaos of getting a green bubble involved. But perhaps WhatsApp is capitalizing on the backlash to Slack that occurred during the pandemic as part of the erosion between work life and home life. There is something a tad uncomfortable about using the same platform for work and your personal life.

WhatsApp also has the advantage that messages sent through the platform are end-to-end encrypted, meaning that not even WhatsApp can see the content of messages. Slack does not have this level of security. WhatsApp has confirmed that it will extend its E2E encryption to Communities.

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