I have just been using Whatsapp for a medium sized chatroom for a month or so.

I’d summarise my views in the table below.

Pro Con
Encrypted on the wire
Distributed Admin
No threading, no pinning, no tagging
No rules based archiving/deletion
Tight integration with user’s address book.
High storage usage if using calls, video and images

The good is that it’s encrypted on the wire but not one the device. It’s real time, so better than SMS. You can use a laptop with it’s superior cut & paste to use whatsapp. I’d add as a comment than its user interface can be a bit idiosyncratic. Chatrooms can have multiple admins, which can be good, but can also be misused. (Is this the same as Facebook, which can lead to groups being hijacked.)

The lack of threading, pinning, and tagging, makes conversations hard to follow. (I suppose we could create our own tags and then search on them as text strings, but messages can’t be tagged this way be the recipients, although they can be “starred”.)¬†This can make threads very difficult to track as there will be often a couple of threads concurrent at any one time and once rooms get big the conversations become a bit unmanageable.

The inability to delete messages on the basis of time periods would be useful. I tried Snapchat and found that deletion on reading was a bit too aggressive for my needs.

Your correspondents need to be in your address book, which is reasonable in a 121 conversation, but in a multi-admin chatroom it’s harder to manage and everyone has to do it; it’s a high admin. cost.

Whatsapp stores its messages received on the phone, this includes any real-time voice messages, store and forward voice messages, videos and images, It’s why URLs may be better; I am not sure if the thumbnails are stored locally. People with old phones, large picture and/or music stores may find access to storage constrained. (It reminds me of the old usenet netiquette rules about respecting bandwidth and other people’s devices and costs.

I wonder if slack or google groups are better although Google Groups uses SMTP which is v.hard to encrypt in any usable fashion.


3 thoughts on “whatsapp

  • 28th September 2017 at 2:54 pm

    A further discussion yesterday identified that What’s App requires a smart phone (obvs), Google Groups uses email, which every internet user has to have. It’ a lower point of technical entry, although there are serious security problems with SMTP and Google’s (or even Yahoo!’s) business models and privacy.

  • 4th January 2019 at 10:36 am

    I came across this today, written by someone else, and I have redacted one phrase,

    My experience (so far) is that WhatsApp is brilliant for volunteer development, ok for volunteer recruitment and terrible for fundraising. It seems to work best when you have a group of people who have already met in person, or know they are going to meet soon, who need to keep in touch fairly regularly. Or when you need to have direct conversations with beneficiaries / service users, ….. [especially where privacy is important and] … who you think you can nurture into volunteers / donors in future.

  • 4th January 2019 at 11:39 am

    It’s harder to hijack a group than a Facebook group or Page.

    When i talk of multi-device, I suppose I mean that whatsapp can run on multiple technologies; I am not sure it can run from multiple devices, other than by uninstalling and installing on the alternate.

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