WhatsApp Channels, a new private broadcast service, has been launched globally by Meta allowing users to follow organisations, sports teams, artists, and thought leaders within the social media platform.

The company announced that following an initial start in ten countries it is now expanding to over 150 countries globally. The service will be separate from chats and will offer a “private way to receive updates that matter” to the individual user, the company said. It is a move that taps into a wider cross-industry trend of offering customers more personalised services. It is also means both organisations and individuals will have another avenue to grow their personal brands by being able to connect directly with their audience.

Channels works as a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls.The tool can be found in a new tab called Updates on WhatsApp where the users see Status and channels they choose to follow, separate from chats with family, friends, and communities. Channels that the user chooses to follow will not be visible to other followers, Meta said.

The company added that the global expansion of the service will include a number of updates. In the coming months, it said is also planning to make it possible for anyone to create a channel.

In addition, Meta pointed to the Indian cricket team, which has simultaneously added its own WhatsApp Channel, as the country’s population and its diaspora gear up for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said: “The Indian Cricket Team is thrilled to partner with WhatsApp on the launch of Channels. We kick-off our partnership with WhatsApp with the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 which is set to begin in October. We will leverage Channels to generate excitement and support as India gets ready to host the marquee event after a decade-long wait. With WhatsApp Channels, fans will be aware of important and accurate information and news around match schedules, timings, scorecards etc.”

What are the new features?

Enhanced Directory: Users can now find channels to follow that are automatically filtered based on their country. Channels can also now be viewed that are new, most active, and popular based on number of followers.

Reactions: Users can react using emojis to give feedback and see a count of total reactions. The reaction will not be shown to followers, however.

Editing: Admins will soon be able to make changes to their Updates for up to 30 days, when we automatically delete them from our servers.

Forwarding: When a user follows an Update to chats or groups it will include a link back to the channel so people can find out more.